Route: Santa Rosa Traverse (CA)

California, US
49.2 mi

Nickademus Hollon posted the route:

"The remote Santa Rosa Mountains crawl up from the northwestern shores of the Salton Sea and stretch out 42 miles northwest before tapering off at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains near Palm Springs. From east to west the ungainly ridgeline extends from sea level to high points at Villager Peak (5,755ft), Rabbit Peak (6,666ft), Dawn’s/ Lorenzens Peak (6,582ft), Toro Peak (8,717ft) and finally Santa Rosa Peak (8,073ft), before ending at 4,000ft at Highway 74.

Toro Peak’s western side has been graded and radio towers now claim the ranges highest point, but step just a few miles east of the ridge and you’re in uncharted territory. The last people to pass over the jagged rocks were likely Cahuilla Indians some hundreds of years ago. Various online sources and a small log book I found atop Dawn’s Peak reported scattered attempts of one-and-a-half half to three-day west-east traverses of the range. To my knowledge no one had ever completed the range from east to west in one single-day push. A total distance of 41.8 miles? It had to be possible."

Hollon & Robert Hunt completed this route in 19h59m16s on 5/23/2015.  Hollon recorded the following splits:

Highway S-22 (sea level) to Villager (5,755ft). Total miles: 7.0, Time: 2:49:00
Villager Peak (5,755ft) to Rabbit Peak (6,666ft). Total miles: 11.0, Time: 4:22:30
Rabbit Peak (6,666ft) to Dawn’s Peak (6,582ft). Total miles: 17.4, Time: 8:52:37
Dawn’s Peak (6,582ft) to Toro Peak (8,717ft). Total miles: 30.0, Time: 16:41:40
Toro Peak (8,717ft to Santa Rosa Mountain (8,073ft). Total miles: 34.2, Time: 17:57:16
Santa Rosa Mountain (8,073ft) to Highway 74 (4,600ft). Total miles: 41.8, Time: 19:59:16

Hunt added this: "Through years of research, the previous FKT appears to be three days & might have used water caches." And posted a complete trip report, pictures, and gps data here.

Later (12/26/2016) an anonymous poster pointed out that the proposed route falls short of a full Traverse of the Santa Rosa Range:

The Santa Rosa Crest originates at Travelers Peak and ends at Santa Rosa Mountain. Starting your traverse from the ridge to Villager cuts off several miles and several thousand feet of gain from traversing the entire geological crest of the Santa Rosa Mountains.

Hunt then returned with Brett Maune to do the complete traverse 3/29-30/2018 - see Hunt's comment below.  The FKT route is for the full traverse.


Although I have climbed several of the peaks mentioned by the anonymous poster, I've always considered them to be merely high points of the badlands at the SE terminus of the Santa Rosa's but upon linking them during a subsequent exploratory run, it became apparent that the poster is correct. I have never heard nor read of anybody completing a traverse of the Santa Rosa's that includes these peaks. On March 29-30, 2018, me (Robert Hunt) and Brett Maune traversed the entire Santa Rosa Crest from Hwy S-22/Travelers (Palm) Peak to Santa Rosa Mtn/Hwy 74 (Pines to Palms Hwy) in 23 hours and 33 minutes. This was a self-supported effort, using water that I had previously stashed on Villager, Dawns, and Toro. The start time was 10:37 p.m. 3/29/18 for a total of 18.6k vert over 49.1 miles. The splits are as follows: Travelers (Palm)---1:14 Pyramid--------------2:48 Rosa Point----------4:15 Mile High------------5:25 Villager---------------6:50 Rabbit----------------9:11 Dawns--------------13:10 Toro------------------20:26 Santa Rosa Mtn--21:38 Hwy 74--------------23:33… A trip report is intended but still slowly emerging from my pile of notes. --Robert Hunt

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I had an amazing time last weekend (10/23-24/20) shooting for the time on this route as a section of my larger route called the CV Sea To Summit. It was an attempt to connect our area's low point at the Salton Sea (230ft below sea level) to San Jacinto peak (10,833ft) in about 85 miles and 29k vert. I started at the bank of the sea in Salton City at 1am, ran across the Travertine jeep road to the S-22 until it reached the Calcite Mine Road (where my version of the Santa Rosa Traverse began). I was on pace with Robert and Brett's pace through the SRT for 7 of the 9 peaks. It was on the top of Dawn's Peak that I realized that i lost my phone charging cable with only 15% battery left. I did have an InReach Mini so I wasn't in danger, but my phone's Gaia app had the location of my next water drop 6 miles ahead. 6 miles. No problem, right? Not exactly. That ridge between Rabbit and Toro (on which I was still positioned right in the middle) is extremely thick with scrub oak, manzanita, various cactus, etc and absolutely no path. With the sun going down, I figured my FKT attempt for the SRT portion was stuffed but I could at least work towards finishing my OKT attempt of the CV S2S (if I could find my water). In hindsight, I should have placed that water at Dawn's Peak instead of 6 miles toward Toro (I was pushing for time during the drop), and I paid for it dearly. Fighting dehydration already even with water, I then sucked my last drop out with about 4 miles left and the light in the sky completely gone. I was too dry to swallow food of any substantive amount of food and I bonked immediately. The only thing I could do at that point was slow my pace and move forward. Well, kind of forward. Again, it's so thick on that ridge that you're basically a mouse in a maze of prickly things that stand so high, you can't see over to help you find that gallon of cheese. Once every hour or so I would turn the phone on just long enough to check Gaia to make sure I was heading in the right direction. Thankfully, so far so good, but my battery life was dropping quickly. About 5 hours after running out of water and with 2% left on my phone, I thankfully found the huge boulder my gallon jug was sitting under. It took a little time to hydrate and eat and figure out whether I stay under the rock for a few hours till I regain energy or just start the last 2k of climbing and 3 miles back into the maze to get to the forestry road (and what to do from there). As I was putting my running vest back on, I saw two headlamps pop over the ridge above me. Those beautiful beams of light belonged to my friends Nate Van Malsen and Nate Mach. They were tracking me and knew I was struggling and came up to see if I needed anything. It was about 1230am when they found me. Yeah, good friends. We all marched back through the brush back to the car laughing...well...most of the way. I wanted adventure, and I got it. After, Nate dropped me off at my house around 530am, I was in the state of mind like "never again", but after sleeping on it...

I think Ill be back.

Thanks Robert and Brett for all your help and inspiration along the way!