snowstorm C2C

General Palm Springs area.

snowstorm C2C

Postby eric1234 » Sun Dec 16, 2012 10:16 pm

It was Friday night and the first real snow of the season had just hit the San Jacintos. My original plan was was to do a snowshoe trip with a group on Saturday to San Jacinto Peak. I suddenly thought of approaching from Skyline. The winter conditions on skyline would make it much more adventurous than the summer approach. NOAA indicated a little snow in the forecast until 10am, which was not bad. I called Sung to see if she wanted to go. She decided to try it out. A few hours later, Greg said he wanted to come too. This made the same group that did C2C2C together a few weeks earlier.

The rain was coming down in buckets on the way to the museum from San Diego. Even as we came through Gorgonio Pass, a steady rain was tapping against the windshield. As we pulled into the museum parking lot and met up with Greg, the rain decreased into a few sprinkles. The temperature was not bad, indicated as 48F on the car thermometer. We started hiking around 2:15am. After 15 minutes on the trail, it was getting too hot and I had to delayer. Sung was not used to carrying so much weight which slowed her down. Greg and I volunteered to carry her stuff, but she wanted to do this entirely on her own.

The city lights were reflecting off the clouds, which looked like they were flowing off the tops of the mountains like a waterfall. The clouds were steadily making their way over the mountains in small bursts. They got continually more dense as we made our way up the mountain. A few drops of rain fell here and there, but nothing strong enough to get us drenched. As we got to the 4,000ft mark, a dense cloud moved in and engulfed us. I was very careful to make sure we were still on the trail, as we couldn't use landmarks to navigate.

At 4,500 ft the isolated sprinkles had turned into a steady drizzle, which was growing heavier. The drizzle turned into sleet at 4,900ft and finally snow at 5,000ft. The ground at 5,000ft was covered with a very thin film of snow. The trail was still clearly visible. Flat rock had a light dusting.

flat rock
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The amount of snow on the ground really started to increase above flat rock. There were about 2-3 inches on the ground at the 7,000ft mark. Snow was falling heavily. Routefinding was not an issue, as the indent of the trail was clearly visible under the snow and I used certain rocks and trees I remembered from previous climbs as landmarks. There was also a faint indent of footprints in the snow, indicating that someone had been on Skyline the previous day. The footprints were quickly being obscured by the accumulation of falling snow. Sung started growing tired. She was sure she could make it but was not sure she could make it to the tram in time (we were planned to meet up with the rest of the group at the tram at 8:30am). We slowed our pace saying that we'll get there when we get there, and we'll catch up with the group if we're late. Snow on the ground was 5 inches at 7,400ft. Greg and I took turns breaking trail.

7,000ft
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momentary clearing
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There was 6-7 inches of snow on the traverse, with isolated drifts of 10 inches. Snow was still falling heavily and the clouds were growing thicker. I was very surprised that wind was only 15mph at most. I had tied snowshoes on my pack in the way that the ends were sticking out horizontally. Every time I went between a narrow area of brush, the snowshoes would snap the branches forward and I would get a face full of snow.

starting on the traverse
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coffmans crag
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The switchbacks above Coffmans crag had ~7 inches of snow with isolated pockets of 11 inches
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As we got closer to the entrance into Long Valley, we saw the sky clearing up ahead. When we got to Long Valley, it had completely cleared. I looked back down Skyline and was astonished to see that it was still cloudy and snowing heavily 50ft below us. It looked like the weather was staying below 8,000ft the whole time, and it hadn't snowed above 8,000ft since the previous day. As we were walking over to the tram, the snow on the ground was only half as much as the snow on Skyline.

entrance to Long Valley
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lots of hoar frost on the higher peaks
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We got to the ranger station at 9:25am and left at 9:45am after getting water and permits. We headed off towards the Sid Davis trail. The snowshoe group was supposedly 1hr15min ahead of us. After a quarter mile on the Sid Davis trail, I split up with the group in order to go ahead and tell the snowshoe group that we had made it up Skyline and were headed up to San J. Greg stayed with Sung.

The Sid Davis trail was pretty easygoing. The snowshoe group had left an obvious indent in the snow.

just after Tamarack Valley
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I met up with Serena and Eric about half a mile after Tamarack Valley. They said that the rest of the group was about 30 minutes ahead and headed up Jean Peak.

base of Jean Peak
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climbing up
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view of the clouds we climbed out of- probably still snowing down there
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Pretty soon I heard voices from above. I looked up and saw the group of ~15 people. I met up with them at the saddle between Jean and San Jacinto as they were putting on their snowshoes. It turned out that they had taken off their snowshoes at the base of Jean and post holed all the way up. After 15 minutes we turned left towards Jean. It suddenly grew very cold as the wind picked up. The wind chill factor was probably around 5F. Everyone was getting hit by little pellets of snow that blew off the trees.

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The views from Jean Peak were amazing. The sun glittered on the trees that were blasted with hoar frost. The valleys surrounding the mountains were filled with clouds at the ~7,000ft level.

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We stayed about 20 minutes on the summit and then headed off towards San Jacinto. The views on the ridge were some of the best I had ever seen in those mountains. As we were coming back down Jean, we ran into Greg and Sung. Greg decided to quickly tag Jean and catch up to us at San Jacinto. San Jacinto Peak was very cold. The wind chill factor was in the negatives. Everyone wanted to just touch the summit and get off the mountain quick. Heres how the summit experience went:

Mihai: "Ok lets take the summit shot. Lets see- camera on the tripod, tripod on the pole. Nope. The pole is not staying. Lets put the pole in this crack and put the camera back on it and see if the pole stays upright. Hang on, this will take a few moments. Nope. The pole still keeps falling over. Alright, screw the pole. Lets put the camera on a rock and get the picture that way. Nope. The rock is coated with ice. The camera keeps slipping off. Lets try--- "
Everyone else: "HURRY UP MIHAI. I WANT TO GET OFF THIS MOUNTAIN. ITS TOO F***** COLD!!!!"

San Gorgonio
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just below San J
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top of San J
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We descended San J and went into the hut to get away from the cold. I hesitated at first because I didnt want to take off my snowshoes and put them back on a few moments later, but eventually I gave in as I saw how warm the inside of the hut was. We descended partway down Ellen's shortcut to Miller saddle before cutting over to the main trail and cutting down the switchbacks on our snowshoes.
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Last edited by eric1234 on Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby lesper4 » Mon Dec 17, 2012 2:03 am

Beautiful pictures, it must have been a fun and extreme day!

My sister and I hiked Timber Mountain today during the small storm. We brought our snow shoes hoping to use them for the first time but no one else has them at the trail head so we left them in the car. After leaving Ice house saddle, off trail and breaking ours own it it was obvious we should have had them. 12"-18" of mostly untouched powder at the peak. No blue sky like you had though.

My question is how do you traverse a vertical slope in snow shoes? We had our microspikes for help.
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Re: snowstorm C2C

Postby HH8 » Mon Dec 17, 2012 6:26 am

eric1234 wrote:Image


How clear where the clouds gap. Love the snow/desert contrast you captured here.
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Postby Hikin_Jim » Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:25 am

Wow! Freaking beautiful photos. Heck of an extreme hike. Skyline in shorts in the snow! You guys are nuts. :lol:

I think you picked your day well though. As things melt during the day and re-freeze at night, that route is going to become really dangerous unless one really knows what one is doing.

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Postby Ellen » Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:45 pm

Howdy Eric,

Congratulations again on a great acheivement. In addition to being an accomplished mountaineer, you also write good trip reports 8)

You absolutely captured the group sentiment at the top of San Jacinto :lol:

It was fun chatting with you about the Sierra Challenge over dinner.

Howdy Lesper4 :)

Thanks for the update on Icehouse. I've heard it's a wonderful snowshoe up to the saddle when there's adequate snow.

I've traversed some pretty steep slopes with MSR Lightning Ascents. On the climb up, using the elevators gives additional purchase. Yhe only time I've been up Timber in the snow, we went directly up the ridge rather than deal with the icy trail.

Do you know if the road to Manker is clear? Don't want to deal with chains.

Miles of smiles,
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Postby Hikin_Jim » Mon Dec 17, 2012 3:39 pm

Ellen,

I was up at Manker (Joyce's first real snow hike) on Saturday. It was really sketchy in the morning although normal passenger cars were making it (and sometimes not), but by late afternoon when I came down, the road was clear. My Honda Accord had no problems coming down.

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Postby lesper4 » Tue Dec 18, 2012 9:28 am

Yeah we came down more or less down the ridge which was easier. I figure going accorss a slope may be easier with crampons.


The roads looked completly clear on Sunday but we didnt go that high. I figure it may be the same with patches of ice if it stays clear to Manker given the storm should move out in time. We are probably going to hit another peak up there this weekend either Saturday or Monday. weather.gov says another 5-10" today and tonight.
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Snowstorm c2c

Postby Cy Kaicener » Tue Dec 18, 2012 10:50 am

Awesome feat Eric and friends. The trip report and pictures were great !!!!!!!!
. Please visit my website at www.hiking4health.com for more information especially the Links.
http://cys-hiking-adventures.blogspot.com
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Postby bluerail » Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:11 pm

Ellen, the road up to manker was turning a lot of cars around early morning, very icy, ask Jim norma and I got out of control going back down to pick up others, luckily running into the mountain instead of Jim and joyce, walking up the road directly in front of us.

Eric, great tr sounds like a dun day. I can tell you will enjoy 3-4' from flatrock up in a whiteout...let's keep our fingers crossed.
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Postby Hikin_Jim » Tue Dec 18, 2012 8:47 pm

bluerail wrote:Ellen, the road up to manker was turning a lot of cars around early morning, very icy, ask Jim norma and I got out of control going back down to pick up others, luckily running into the mountain instead of Jim and joyce, walking up the road directly in front of us.
Yeah, that got my attention when they went shooting past Joyce and I and went into the snow bank. :shock: Good thing I was wearing brown pants.

It was definitely sketch in the morning, but it was fine when I left that afternoon. Can't say what's happened since Saturday, but there hasn't been much rain here where I live just north of downtown LA.

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