Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Skiing Snow Creek with Bobby, May 16th

I apologize in advance for the lack of photos of Bobby, but he was the one taking most of the shots with his brand new Nikon D5000.

It all started with a one sentence email from Bobby that said "I have an idea." The email had the following picture attached and I immediately knew what my Sunday was going to entail. Turns out that picture is of the North face of San Jacinto Peak, and more specifically, the Snow Creek drainage.

Snow creek offers continous skiing from the summit at 10,800' to about 5500' this time of year. To be honest, I had no clue that we had 5000 vertical feet of skiing in southern California, especially in May.

Here is the kicker...you park your car at the bottom of Snow Creek at 1720'. That means another 4000' vertical feet and about 5 miles of hiking/scrambling/downclimbing after the skiing is over. To add to the misery, the last mile before the car is controlled by the Desert Water Authority and they stictly forbid you to cross their land. This means you have to climb another 1000' up to a ridge to the east of the DWA land and then hike down the ridge to get back to the car.

This shot gives you a better idea of what we were up against. It was taken from the car and the shaded mound in the forground, including the drainages on both sides, is the DWA land. The East ridge is just out of the picture on the left.
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So after borrowing Trine's splitboard/shovel/probe/backpack/just about all the rest of her gear (she had to work on Sunday), Bobby picked me up at 4:45 am and we made the 2 hour drive to the base of Snow Creek. The plan was to take a taxi from there to the Palm Springs Tram, but not before snapping to obligitory pointing finger shot.
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I have to admit its nice to be able to go from 2600' to 8500' in about 12 mins, all while enjoying the view from an air conditioned tram. It took us about 1/2 mile of hiking from the top of the tram before we reached snow, although it wasnt skinnable quite yet.
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Even once we did start to skin, we ran into a few areas that required a little of this.
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After another mile of on-again, off-again skinning, and we finally hit the continuous snow and started the ascent for real.
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I struggled while trying get an edge in while traversing the slope.
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Once we reached the summit ridge, the skis came back off and it was a boot pack to the top.
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A quick stop at the emergency hut just below the summit revealed that some kind soul had packed in, and then left behind a 6-pack of brews for others to enjoy. Unfortunately we had a long day ahead of us so we didn't partake.
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One of the most amazing things about San Jacinto Peak is that it drops off quickly all the way to the desert floor.
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You can actually make out our car from the summit. Where the small black road intersects the larger grey road is where our chariot awaits, 9000'+ below us.
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After having to explain how a splitboard worked to every climber on the summit and grabbing a quick bite to eat, we found an entrance that required no down climbing about 100 yards down the summit ridge to the west. It is the chute that originates from a small notch on lookers right of the peak in this shot.
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This is me about 50 yards after dropping in. The snow was a little firm up top, but still easy enough to get an edge in.
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The snow quickly gave way to nice corn and another 3000' of skiing was enjoyed!
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Here is the view looking up from the first major intersection.
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and the up track left from the "desert to summit" climbers (brave souls) from the weekend before.
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We had been warned about snow bridges and found this at about 6400'.
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The last 1000' feet or so started to get a bit wet and we were encountering increasing amounts of avy debris as we descended.
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Which finally led to the boards coming off at about 6000'.
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Here is the view looking back up the drainage from where we had to take off the boards.
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Just below the point where we took the boards off came the Chockstone, which, just like the name implies, is a huge boulder that wedged itself in a skinny spot in the drainage. Earlier in the year they say the entire thing is covered in snow and you can literally ski right down it without a problem. This wasn't the condition for us and we were forced to circumnavigate the stone. Here is the view from the top
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and the side (note the size comparison with bobby standing on the top)
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I don't think Bobby or I really expected that we would have to scramble, climb and down-climb in our boots, but that is exactly what happened.
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I have to say that I am impressed at how well my Malamutes performed while climbing and even Bobby was not that uncomfortable in his Zzero 4's.
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Here is a view from the bottom of the down-climb. We ended up coming down on lookers right, just left of the far right set of trees. It took us an hour and half to travel about 100 yards.
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There was only a few hundred yards of snow below the Chockstone, so we transitioned out of our ski/snowboard boots into our tennis shoes. Turns out Bobby left his gaiters at home...something he would soon to regret.
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There is no established trail, but we enjoyed the next 1000' feet of boulder hoping down the canyon as we passed several beautiful waterfalls.
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Unfortunately, big boulders and mountain streams gave way to high desert flora and fauna, complete with thorns, barbs and even a rattlesnake (now there is something I never thought I would encounter with my snowboard on my back). As you can see, the bushwacking got a bit tough.
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When planning our adventure, we had read about "the tunnel", but didn't fully comprehend what it entailed. This is me entering the tunnel, which is created by a host of unfriendly shrubs. It is about 200 yards long about 5 feet tall (we are both 6 foot) and resulted in lots of scrapes to any exposed skin.
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We didn't take many more pictures during the rest of the descent as we were both getting pretty tired. I think the look on my face says it all.
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But we did make it back to car about an hour after sunset. Two large Cokes helped us with the drive back to San Diego.

Remember that Bobby forgot his gaiters? His legs paid the price!
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The trip, although exhausting, was well worth it. I have no doubt we will try it again next year.

1 comment:

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