july 12-13, San Gorgonio Mtn and Jepson Peak

7/15/05
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Posted by kam on 7/14/05 12:46am
southern California  8).  it's one of the last places you'd expect to find snow in the summer.  and if you ask the locals, the reply is usually, "are you crazy?! there's no snow here.  you should go surf, dude!"

but not this year.  luckily, the entire state was blessed with an above-average snowpack this past season, and as a result, snow remains up high.  how high? around 10000 ft.  and how much? well, there's enough, relatively speaking.

i arrived last week to visit my family in Riverside, and will spend the entire month of July here.  not having my July turns yet, i had to think of something.  then suddenly i remembered San Gorgonio Mountain, the highest mountain in southern California.  San G is part of the San Bernardino Mountain Range (desert mountains), and it tops out at 11,499 ft.  it's about an hour from Riverside.  when the smog clears, the entire San Bernadino Range commands the valley's attention.  even though i lived in So. Cal. for many years, i never considered visiting San G., but then again i wasn't into torturing myself back then.  before i shoulder my pack up the mountain, i did a quick Google search to find out more.

what an interesting mountain.  basically, there are two approaches: one from the north (South Fork Trail) and one from the south (Vivian Creek Trail).  i figured there would be more snow on the north side, so i picked the South Fork Trail.  besides, approaching from the north would give me a chance to examine what i would be skiing.  the drawback, however, is the South Fork Trail is 22 miles roundtrip, compared to 14 miles via the Vivian Creek Trail.  well, i guess that's the price one has to pay for quality turns.  and before i finally made up my mind to go ski, i went for a quick drive up HWY38 to see if i could get a glimpse of the mountain, and snow.  sure enough, i spotted the white stuff way up high on the north side -- one patch that looked long enough to fit my 180cm skis!

i have no friends, in So. Cal. that ski, the kind of skiing that i enjoy.  my trusting companions from the PNW would think i was crazy if i asked them to fly out. but luckily, i have family.  they will do anything for/with me  ;D.  my cousin Kam (AKA Little Kam) was excited to go.  besides, it was a good excuse for him to test out another pair of his homemade skis.

originally, our plan was to do it in one day.  how stupid it that. after we factored in the distance, the elevation gain, and temperature, we decided to take two days.  it's really hot here. the temperature in the valley hovers around 100-degrees.  in the mountains, it's at most 10-15 degrees cooler.  but one good thing about this area is the weather is mostly stable -- clear blue skies and hot  8).

on Tuesday (7/12), we left Riverside at 2:30pm, and an hour later we grabbed a permit from the rangers station just outside of Mentone off HWY38.  we left the trailhead (~6900 ft.) at 4:42pm and started the sweat-fest toward Dry Lake (~9000 ft., ~6 miles from TH), our campsite.  half a mile before the lake, i spotted a potential line to ski off Jepson Peak (11,205 ft.), San G's neighbor. the line looked exciting (and boy was it...read on).  when we arrived at the lake, it was suprisingly full (it's usually not so as the name implies).  by 7:50pm, our tent was up and we started fighting the bugs.  there were bugs everywhere, annoying biting flies, mosquitos, big flying thingies with machine guns and nunchucks.  despite the bugs, we had a great view of San Gorgonio Mountain and Jepson Peak from the lake.

the next morning, we left camp at 6:34am for San G.  the approach to the summit was straightforward, schwacking a bit through some shurbs.  it was a pleasant approach, by comparison.  we crossed snow here and there, and after frequent breaks, we found ourselves reading the entries in the summit register by 9:45am.  we were the only two up there monkeying around. after 40-minutes of lollygagging, i peered over the NNE side of San G. and found a skiable line.  Little Kam decided to wait and watch as i skied.  surprisingly, on relatively low-angle terrain, there were tons and tons of super-deep suncups -- some of the biggest i've seen.  the cups weren't much of a problem on steeper aspects, and i found a pretty nice line.  the snow was tasty, and good corn for the most part.  after the ski, i climbed back up to meet Little Kam and we traversed west along a ridge to Jepson Peak.  from the top, we spotted more enormous suncups along the ridge, but we found a relatively wide chute with continuous snow down its north side.  instead of skiing the center of the chute, we dropped in from below the summit and traversed to the high side (skier's left).  below, Little Kam makes his entry into the north side of Jepson:



he made some great turns on his new skis.  after a photo or two, i followed his lead but traversed a bit higher and more skier's left.  the snow was significantly softer than before, but very nice.  after about 300 vf., the terrain eased off to about 35-degrees.  those turns felt great, and then suddenly out of nowhere i caught an edge and went down.  instantaneously, i started to slide and pick up speed.  my Whippet did nothing.  though the runout was good, there were a couple piles of boulders melted through the snow that posed a problem.  within seconds i slid over the first and got air.  immediately behind the first was a second pile.  somehow in the process of going over the first, i was able to change my trajectory slighty (by spazzing like a scared chicken) to avoid the second.  i slid about 30-feet more and was stopped by a two-feet deep suncup, uninjured, but twisted up like a pretzel and slightly shaken.  raking over the rocks put a tear in my pack, ripped one daisy chain, and inflicted some damage to one ski, but it was nothing serious.  it could have been worse.  i'm glad the runout was relatively clean and thank goodness for those suncups.  it's amazing what the right conditions can do. i'm humbled, more so than before, by this experience.

after picking up my biscuits, we skied as far as possible and managed about 1500 vf. of skiing out of that run.  near the bottom, however, the cups were everywhere, and linking turns was difficult.  Little Kam fell into a deep one.  but not bad for July in So. Cal.  before the slog back to the TH, we took a nice lunch break to prepare.  by 5:00pm, we were at the truck and it felt like 90-degrees.  overall, we had a great time and we'll continue to visit this area for more skiing.  i think the snow is going to hold for about 3 more weeks, so if you're in the neighborhood, go get it!

more photos

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This one is a good candidate for that "Got Suncups?" thread on TTips . . .

This one is a good candidate for that "Got Suncups?" thread on TTips . . .


I agree.  I hope you'll cross-post (and save me the trouble).

I'm noticing that all those California suncups look pristine and white, almost luminescent.  By comparison, ours are dismal and grungy, and I don't know what to make of this phenomenon.  On the other hand, I skied near Coleman Pinnacle last weekend and found many 1000+ foot lines with absolutely no suncups whatsoever.  This seems entirely preferable despite the volcanic grey-colored snow.

Thanks for the report from a faraway, exotic land.  Did you get any shots of the local inhabitants in their exotic local costumes?

Yikes! Glad your tumble didn't have more serious consequences.

That's what you get for skiing when you should be surfing!  ;)

Very nice photos. Those suncups are insane!

Nice work (and torture points) on July turns Dr. Kamel; glad you didn't end-up being plucked like a chicken on that fall  ;)
Good to know you still managed to find some bush schwacking (and skiing) in the desert.  8)

Great report Kamster.  I'm certainly glad you didn't stub your Kameltoe on that fall.

Kam.
As always, lovely photos. Great trip for true hot summer, sun summer turns. Glad you are all in one piece after your tumble.

Mark:  i agree, those suncups are 'prettier' than the ones in the NW.  i remember sometime ago there was a discussion on TAY about suncups and why they form.  can someone refresh my memory?  Amar, didn't you do some research on the subject?

Ron, Cass, Jess, Paul, etc:  yes, i'm glad my toe is in one piece.  here's the damage done to one of my skis...ripped off at the base!.  good thing i'm friends with the maker...i'll get a new pair soon.  it was better to have the ski's topsheet rip off than my own.  now back to stitching up my pack...


Great trip.

I started out learning to snowboard at Bear Mtn over in Big Bear. While I lived down there, I always wanted to do the north side of San G. I have an old copy of Transworld Snowboarding which has an article of about San G as well as backcountry riding around Mt Baldy (another LA area mtn with some steeps).

Anyways, for anyone else considering San G., you  might be interested in this website:

http://www.sgwa.org/

It has current trail conditions, a message forum and photos...

Heh. I think I will pretty much pencil in Kam and Ko. as the one(s) I'm expecting to come up with the best "you went WHERE?..." summer ski report for all future years.

I've hiked up SanG probably three times, but never even considered hauling skis up there; frankly, while I lived in SoCal the idea of turns-all-year seemed pretty hopeless, even with the eastern sierra reasonably close at hand. Hell, even January turns were a challenge. But in defense of SoCal skiing I can say that a powder day at Mt Baldy on the rare days it was open was as good as any powder day anywhere, what a great little backyard mountain.

The Vivian Ck. side despite having 1000'+ gain is at least an hour shorter up or down and pretty much equally scenic but I'm sure you saw that it would have been a bad call far as trying to reach the snow on North sides where the snow lingers. I've hiked the South fork way also, once as a day hike and once as a marathon where I went up Dry Lake side and over the summit and down the Dollar Lake side, something like a 25 mile day. It's a great hike really, I love the Zen garden way the twisty trees grow out of the shattered rock there. And those are great swimming lakes. It used to be hard to get the day permits if you were a late riser like me, they had some ridiculously low cutoff number like ~30 for the whole trail - did you have any problems?

Am guessing that super-sized Kups are a feature of skiing here as evidenced by someone else's tay-style TR.

Wow Kam,  that's really impressive and great photos as well.





well played, Toe.  When you get back, we've got the place to go for August...

there were tons and tons of super-deep suncups -- some of the biggest i've seen.  

could these be southern california's definition of "sucker holes"??  :D  shwacking through them must have been awesome!!

i'm glad you didn't "rip it down to the base" like the topsheet on your ski...yikes.  i wonder...what does a 'professor kam' look like on top of a so cal mountain?? ;)

Anyways, for anyone else considering San G., you  might be interested in this website:

http://www.sgwa.org/

It has current trail conditions, a message forum and photos...

thanks for the link, Scole!  it's really informative, and i found some nice photos.  btw, i think this is the couloir on Jepson that we skied: http://www.sgwa.org/gallery/jepson4.htm.  when we were in high school (Fontana HS), my brother Pat and i would ditch school on Fridays to ski at Big Bear or Snow Summit.  the school would call Friday evenings to report our absence.  we anticipated the calls, of course, and my younger sister would cover for us.  somehow my parents never found out.  we were such bad boys.

...But in defense of SoCal skiing I can say that a powder day at Mt Baldy on the rare days it was open was as good as any powder day anywhere, what a great little backyard mountain.

i concur, wolfs!  i love Baldy, and when they get snow, the terrain is fantastic.

...they had some ridiculously low cutoff number like ~30 for the whole trail - did you have any problems?

our mid-week trip didn't seem to be a problem.  i would imagine that it's more crowded during the weekends.  we didn't see very many people up there.

well played, Toe.  When you get back, we've got the place to go for August...

hmm... if i can't use these, i don't want to go ;D

Kam, glad you didn't get swallowed up by one of those giant sun cups on your fall and came out with only a broken topsheet.  Nice photos, glad you had a good time. Gotta love those "Kup Skis"  ;D.

How's the edge control? 8) Nice Kam, high five!

How's the edge control? 8)


well, better than being on a beachball.  it's the perfect reverse sidecut ski, i think -- 360-degrees of nonstop action.

Nice specialized equipment! If they don't work out for the cups after all, you can always use them to audition for some really really off Broadway production of "Stomp".




Uhh Dude, You got the bindings mounted backwards! You got the heels pointing towards the tips instead of the tails.
Once you get that fixed, I'd say they outta work.

Uhh Dude, You got the bindings mounted backwards! You got the heels pointing towards the tips instead of the tails. Once you get that fixed, I'd say they outta work.

i know. that's how you ski 'em.  backwards.  besides, they are twin tips... ;D

I know, how 'bout "Kam's OmniTips"?

Great report!  This report was personally very interesting to me as I grew up in Yucaipa, in the shadow of San Gorgonio and about a 30 min drive from the trailheads.  I've climbed San G countless times but never skied it.  It's something I've always wanted to do  when I head south to visit my folks.  But the difficulty of hauling all my gear and the fact that I don't know anyone in the area that backcountry skis has always stopped me.  You picked a great year to do this!  It's almost unheard of to have this much snow so late in the season.  As you probably know March/April is usually the most reliable snow.  If you want to do this again sometime and want a PNW skier to go along give me a ring!




Uhh Dude, You got the bindings mounted backwards! You got the heels pointing towards the tips instead of the tails.
Once you get that fixed, I'd say they outta work.


Do these come in an AT version?

Aaron


Do these come in an AT version?

Aaron: yes, i think we can manage that, but the cost will be higher.... AT tax you know.. ;)

Kam-  missed this one... Great TR.  Used to live in OC for many years and enjoyed going here:

http://angeles.sierraclub.org/lodges/sanantonioskihut.html

The hut at Mt Baldy (Mt San Antonio) is pretty easy to get to and they allow non-members to stay overnight for a few dollars.  You may have already been there, but if not I highly recommend it if you're in the area.  The hut has an interesting history and there's usually several local skiers that'll help make for a lively night before the next day's ski.  

Reply to this TR

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july-12-13-san-gorgonio-mtn-and-jepson-peak
kam
2005-07-14 07:46:59