San Diego Peaks List History

The first two people to extensively climb peaks in San Diego County were two members of the Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter Desert Peaks Section: Gordon Macleod and Wes Shelberg. In the early 1970’s, Gordon climbed most of the peaks in the Anza-Borrego desert. Wes soon followed and climbed many additional peaks in the Anza-Borrego desert in the 1980’s. Both Gordon and Wes were solo hikers but helped pave the way for future climbers to follow. In June of 1987, friends from the San Diego Bicycle Club, Hannah North and Russ Weber used Cleveland National Forest maps to form a list of San Diego county peaks they wished to climb. Life soon got in the way and the two friends moved, but not before they each had climbed half the peaks on their list. Avid San Diego area outdoorsman Paul Freiman happened along and he completed this original list not long after Hannah and Russ’s departure. Paul eventually eliminated 35 of these peaks due to insignificance or trespassing/access issues. He then started the San Diego Peaks Club in March 1991 when he added 20 more peaks to the list, forming a total of 117 peaks. By early 1998, a total of 8 climbers had completed this SDPC list.

During the summer of 1998, San Diego Sierra Club activist Skip Forsht contacted Paul to gain permission to use the SDPC list as a basis for a new San Diego Sierra Club County Peak list. Skip then consulted with long-time area climbers Richard Carey, Al Holden, and Sue Holloway. Their suggestions, along with Paul Freiman’s insights, enabled Skip to divide the peaks into four quadrants and select an even number of 100 peaks to ensure that future climbers would be exposed to a suitable representation of all areas of the county. Skip presented this new San Diego Sierra Club County Peaks List to the chapter Outings Committee meeting on July 20, 1998 where it was approved and posted on the club website. It was, and is intended, to encourage leaders to offer more adventurous hikes. Thanks to Skip’s persistent and timely efforts in the mid to late 1990’s, the County Peaks List got exposed to a greater number of climbers via the relatively new medium of the internet.

Along with the afore-mentioned list finishers and founders, many additional people helped pave a path for hiking and climbing in San Diego County. Among the more prolific climbers were Jim Sugg and Al Holden. Jim led over 1000 trips for the San Diego Sierra Club. Jim always incorporated a lot of cross-country travel in his trips throughout the 1980’s. Paul Freiman credits Al Holden with starting the age of exploration in the San Diego Sierra Club. Al came along at a time when the San Diego Sierra Club didn’t encourage much in the way of cross-country hiking. Not deterred, in 1991 Al began to schedule weekly cross-county hikes with a group of faithful climbers who came to be known as the Monday Maniacs. Area climbers Jerry Higgins and Loren Mitts then listed all 148 benchmarks in Anza-Borrego State Park. This list inspired a loosely organized group called the Borrego Benchmark Club (BBC), which heightened the interest of many climbers. San Diego area adventurer and experienced climber Richard Carey further expanded area climbing opportunities by compiling a list of 259 San Diego County Peaks and Benchmarks available for viewing at the link located in the information section sited above. With the combination of Paul Freiman’s efforts to establish the San Diego Peaks Club in 1991, Al Holden’s persistence to schedule strong, all-day activities off trail, and Skip Forsht’s timely introduction of the list to the internet, these visionaries helped pave the way for all future climbers to successfully follow.

The future looks bright for the San Diego Sierra Club County Peaks List, as renewed interest is bringing about exciting changes. Feedback and input from many of the area’s finest and most experienced climbers has added depth and character to the information contained herein. List finisher Shane Smith has worked in close conjunction with Skip Forsht in establishing a list finisher page on the current website. In addition, as a testament to the lure of the San Diego County Peaks list, prolific northern California area based climber Bob Burd is currently in pursuit of climbing all the mountains on the list. Bob has been a pioneer in establishing unequalled documentation of his climbs; all the while summiting at a pace that few can match. Due to his efforts and his outstanding website, climbers who follow in his footsteps have the luxury of more information when planning San Diego County peak list trips. Bob’s website is located in the climbing information section cited above. Today, the San Diego Sierra Club’s County peak list, coupled with the invaluable information of many of the areas finest climbers, along with the Monday Maniacs hiking group, provides ample opportunity for new hikers to venture into and explore the wonderful county of San Diego.