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

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