Friday, February 24, 2012

Charlton Peak & Little Charlton Peak

Ellen and I had our sights set on some snowshoeing in the northern region of the San Gorgonio Wilderness. We had been up to Anderson Peak and found good snowshoeing at the 9100' mark two weeks prior. In this below average snow year, we were excited to hear it had actually snowed, so we came up with a plan.
Alarm clock went off at 0315 and I was out the door at 0345 from my house in Simi Valley. Ellen, Sally and I would scheduled to meet at the Mill Creek Ranger Station at 0530. Its always a long haul for me to get to the Gorgonio or San Jacinto wilderness. The Southern Sierra is about the same distance. We met up on time and shuttled off for the South Fork trail head. The road was clear of snow and ice the entire way. Temperature was nice at 35 degrees. We started off at 0630 and took our first break at 0635 :o. Time for micro spikes, the snowshoed trail was icy. We would be in micro spikes or snowshoes the entire day from here.
We made it to South Fork Meadow in an hour and a half. The snow was getting deeper and softer so we donned the snowshoes. Ellen led us through the moraine field up Christmas Tree Hill. We were aiming for a nice gully between Charlton Peak and Little Charlton Peak. We did find this gully, just not on the way up. We stayed too far to the east and missed our turnoff. At 9500' I took over the trail breaking duties and took us up the Little Draw (a nice steep gully between Little Charlton and Jepson Peak). The nice thing about this route are the views east as you gain elevation. The north chutes of Gorgonio and Jepson are impressive. Lots of ideas for future climbs. The strange thing this year is the snow level. There is good coverage on the north of Gorgonio to about 10,800', then it is bare. It looks like fierce wind has kept the tops of the chutes, ridges and gullies clear of snow, but plenty of snow below???
Our climb up the Little Draw was tough. The snow was deep and heavy. Breaking trail was work, every time I stepped out a huge pile of heavy snow would clump onto the top of my snowshoes. I had to shake off the snow every couple of steps. In some places the snow was so loose and heavy that my attempts at upward movement would create a huge sluff/depression in the snow and I would go nowhere. I was starting to look for exposed rock and chaparral to climb onto to make travel easier. A couple of places were down right tough, no other way to put it. It was nice to top out at 10,400' at the Jepson/Little Charlton saddle. We were at the Dry Lake View campsite. The snow on the ridge was in great shape, nice and firm, much easier to travel on. We made it up to Little Charlton in no time. The views opened up to Gorgonio and Jepson to the east, Charlton and Big Bear to the north and Anderson and San Bernardino to the west.
We climbed up to Charlton in great conditions and took a nice long lunch break. There was a decent north wind, but nothing too bad. On the way down we took the saddle we originally wanted to climb. The snow here was in much better shape then the Little Draw. We had a very pleasant down climb back to South Fork Meadows. We took off the snowshoes and put the micro spikes back on. The trail was nice and firm all the way back to the car. Overall a great day in the mountains. Final stats: 12.8 Miles, +4400' of gain.
Topo Map & Profile

All Packed & Ready To Go


Sally Taking In The Views

San Gorgonio's Northeast Ridge

Getting Steeper

Thumbs Up At The Saddle

Sally At The Saddle

San Gorgonio From Little Charlton

Myself On The Way To Charlton Peak

Cornice On West Side Of Ridge

Myself On Charlton Peak

Coming Down The Gully Between Charlton & Little Charlton

Afternoon Light From Poopout Hill

Snow Stops At 10,800', Very Strange

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mt. San Jacinto, Jean Peak & Miller Peak

February 18, 2012: Got to do some more snowshoeing up on Mt. San Jacinto over the weekend. So far this season, the snow has been minimal. In a good winter, you can snowshoe almost directly to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto in only 3.0 miles. The summer trail is 5.5 miles one way, so the snow direct route is just that, direct. There is considerable chapparal blocking a direct attack during the summer hiking season. This year the snow has yet to cover up the chapparal, so snowshoeing must be done on the summer trail.

I got word that there "might" be enough snow coverage to allow a direct line snowshoe to the summit. I woke up very early and drove out to Palm Springs to take the first tram up to Long Valley at 8:00 am. I met up with my friends Ellen and Cindy. There was also a hiking group that would be snowshoeing up. In total, there would be fifteen people shoeing through the wilderness.

The weather was great to start the day. Clear, no wind and 35 degrees. We were able to take the winter route to about 9,400'. Somebody had broke a nice path through the snow to this point. Once out of the forest cover, I could see that the chapparal was not completely covered. We would not be able to go direct to the summit, too much brush showing or brush just under the snow. Plan B was to take a shot at the Jean Peak/Mt. San Jacinto saddle. There was less brush this way, but no broken trail. A few of us would take turns breaking the trail for the group up to the saddle at 10,400'. The snow was soft and deep in places. Up to about four feet.

Once at the saddle, I decided to bag Jean Peak (10,670'). I led the trail breaking to the summit rocks. I had to crawl my way to the actual high point, but I did it. First time on Jean. Great views in all directions. Marion Peak to the southwest, San Jacinto and San Gorgonio to the north, Round Valley to the east and Mt. Baldy to the west. The snowshoe to Mt. San Jacinto was straightforward on the south ridge. Summited Mt. San Jacinto, then headed east to Miller Peak for a trifecta of peaks.

The snowshoe back to the tram was uneventful. Overall a great day in the mountains. Hopefully it will snow some more this winter and I can get back out to take the true direct route to the summit.

Mt. San Jacinto From The North

Long Valley Scene

Not Enough Snow Coverage To Take Direct Route

Topping Out At The Jean Saddle

Marion Mountain

Miller Peak

Frozen Boot :)

On The Summit Of Mt. San Jacinto Looking North To Mt. San Gorgonio

B&W Conversion

Great Day In The Mountains

Miller Peak Summit Block

Steep North Face

Miller Peak

Cornell Peak

GPS Track, 7.5 Miles, +3,000'

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Anderson Peak, Mt. Baldy, West Baldy & Mt. Harwood

Back into the mountains.....

January 31, 2012: Hiked up to Mt. Baldy via Bear Ridge, then down Register Ridge to Manker Flat. 10.3 Miles and 6,300' of gain. In a "normal" year, this would be a serious snow undertaking, but this year it was a simple summer hike, no snow.

GPS Track

On Top Of West Baldy

Mt. Baldy

Looking Towards Mt. Baldy From Mt. Harwood

Very Dry Year

February 5, 2012: Anderson Peak, 11.5 Miles, +4,300'. Got to dust off the snowshoes for a wonderful Super Bowl Sunday climb to Anderson Peak. Started up the Forsee Creek Trail and was greeted with ice at 7500'. From there until 9100' it was microspikes, then it was finally time to don the snowshoes. Great conditions up the North Ridge/Bowl to the summit area. Great little hike.

GPS Track

At The Trailhead, Very Chilly

Time For Miscrospikes

Snow, Glorious Snow

Love This Side Of The Gorgonio Wilderness

On The Summit Of Anderson Peak Elev. 10,840'

Mt. San Gorgonio