Courtesy of Carly Kyle
The top of the summit is 10,804 feet in thin air, at a brisk 45 degrees.
For psychology senior Carly Kyle, the trip offers more than that.
“We’re trekking up, and at first it’s kind of easy, but as you get steeper and steeper it gets into switchbacks, and it gets really cold because you’re so far up,” Kyle said. “The views are breathtaking.”
The trip begins at the base of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and mounts its climb by tram, traveling upwards until it stops at 8,516 feet. Here people step off the tram, and while visitors may sightsee, the summit trip attendees will begin a two-and-a-half mile hike to their base camp.
“People can trek from the bottom, but it takes three or four days and we don’t have that much time on an adventure,” Kyle said. “Still, just seeing the changes, feeling the pressure, needing to pop your ears, and then finally getting to the summit—this past trip was cloudy, but I can imagine on a clear day it would be stunning.”
After reaching base camp, they set up camp there and then trek up the next day without their packs as a day trip, and the following morning they attempt to ascend to the top.
Kyle joined Aztec Adventures when she was a junior. Anyone can sign up for the trips, including people from the San Diego area around San Diego State. As long as they’re 18 or older, they’ll be taught the basics of the different activities that are offered: rock climbing, backpacking, hiking, camping, or paddling.
Each semester, the program hosts training for new employees along with classes designed to teach anyone the basics. Gear and supplies are also provided on each trip.
“If it’s a camping trip, we provide all of the sleeping bags, tents, rain gear, tarps, ground pads and cooking supplies,” Kyle said.
They also provide large 15-seater vans to transport back and forth.
“We just ask that you bring your personal supplies and yourself,” Kyle said. “We’ll provide everything else.”
The summit trip requires bringing dehydrated and pre-made bags for food.
“You tear off the seal, take out the little pack and then pour hot water in it and let it sit,” Kyle said. “It has to sit for about 45 minutes depending on the elevation, but we have mac and cheese, curry, pasta and pretty much anything you could possibly want.”
Everything is mostly plant- and vegetable-based. Sometimes for breakfast, sausage will be served, but everything is still in those dehydrated packs, Kyle said.
Antonio Mejia, mechanical engineering junior with a minor in recreational tourism management, has been with Aztec Adventures since this past summer. Kyle led this past semester’s trip up to the summit, and Meija will be co-leading this trip alongside another team member.
“It’s honestly been the best experience for me in college,” Mejia said. “Being a part of Aztec Adventures has opened up my world to so many new people and new experiences.”
For Mejia, his favorite trip was backpacking in Sequoia National Park. It was his first trip with Aztec Adventures.
“I’m sharing all of my experience in the outdoors with all of these people on these trips, some who have never camped before,” Mejia said. “Even though I have experience backpacking, I didn’t know what to expect on that trip, and interacting with the group.”
Mejia has been backpacking all his life. “Main thing with backpacking is leave-no-trace principles, which means when you go out in nature and camp somewhere, you need to leave it in a better condition than when you showed up,” he said. “This means camping in spots that have already been camped on. You can tell when you’re in a grassy field and you know where past tents have been set up.”
Anyone can attend. “We’ve had a 40-year-old navy veteran join our trips before, to football players from Grossmont college. You really just never know who you’re going to meet, and the connections you’ll make,” Mejia said.
The trip leaves Friday, May 3 and will return May 5. The cost is $359. Information about different adventures, and register for Aztec Adventure trips on the Aztec Recreation website.
Aztec Adventures also offers classes that teach the basics of camping, backpacking and hiking, and wilderness first aid.
“We teach about where you can and can’t have fires, picking up any trash you see on the trail, how to travel off trail, and to leave what you find,” Mejia said. “With backpacking, you want to be as lightweight as possible, so we teach how to pack in a way that it sits well on your back, how to use trekking poles, and we also teach some navigation.”
The trips vary depending on what you’re into. After a trip is over, most people want to know when the next one is, Kyle said.
“It’s crazy what leaving SDSU for a weekend can do for your mental health,” Mejia said. “Having a weekend out in nature without your phone, without technology and the stress of being a student, it really clears your mind and feels good coming back.”