San Jacinto Skiing

General Palm Springs area.

San Jacinto Skiing

Postby seth » Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:59 pm

Looking for a partner for a little ski trip on San Jacinto. I'd like to skin up from the tram and ski either Jean or the East Face. I've never been to the top of San Jacinto and will likely get lost on my own, so hoping to find someone who has done it before...or I suppose at just looking for someone to get lost with me, so at least I'll have company!

It's supposed to snow this week and Saturday. Sunday could be sweet! I'm a strong climber/hiker and average skier. Prefer a partner with back country/avy knowledge.

Hit me up!

Seth
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Re: San Jacinto Skiing

Postby zippetydude » Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:41 pm

Hi Seth. Replies are scarce only because xc skiing here is terribly limited by seasons and luck of the draw on weather. I am not into skiing, but for what it's worth, I can tell you that if Sunday is clear, you can follow within reasonable distance the tracks of snowshoes all the way to the peak and back. If it's snowing or windy, that's a bad idea. But if it's clear and calm, I have seen the tracks of skis back and forth around the main snowshoe trail many times, and it seems like it would be a safe way to enjoy the adventure without having to hope to find another xc skier doing the route. Best of luck to you. It's supposed to be crazy on Saturday, so there will likely be a deep, fluffy carpet of snow on Sunday morning. Again, if it's clear, there is almost always someone who heads up and knows the way in snowshoes. If it's safe and you can follow them, you'll be in luck. From your post it seems like you're too intelligent to end up lost and calling for a rescue... 8)

z
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Re: San Jacinto Skiing

Postby Ed » Fri Feb 01, 2019 7:25 am

No mention of avalanche danger. I would think about it. Recent heavy snow over an older, harder base is a prime indicator. A few years ago, under similar conditions, the rangers were warning people away from the area between Wellman's Divide and Miller Saddle, which is the area you are talking about. There once was an avalanche danger rule of thumb that you waited 48 hours after a big storm for the snow to settle and consolidate. In 1978 I started hearing the telltale Whumph! Whumph! above upper Tamarack Valley. By that time in my career, I had enough scary experiences with avalanche danger that I had no hesitation in turning back.

I would consider checking with the rangers, probably sticking to the Sid Davis route, perhaps waiting a week. Perhaps also check SanJacJon's snow conditions report. As Zip says, if the weather on Sunday is clear, there will be plenty of people on the Sid Davis route and you can follow the snowshoe tracks. I think much of the route is better done on skis than snowshoes, though my skiing days are over. But sometimes there are tracks laid down by people with other destinations or people who are themselves confused or lost. I suspect the new soft snow will create difficulties for both snowshoers and skiers. I assume you have experience with deep soft snow. Not sure the weather will be that good, either. The weather forecast for Sunday looks ok but not great, not forgiving of errors.
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Re: San Jacinto Skiing

Postby Perry » Sat Feb 02, 2019 4:09 pm

I've also heard that the east face can sometimes have avalanches, though not nearly as often as the north face. In 2005 I heard something like what Ed described. That might explain why there are no trees there, but someone more knowledgeable about local ecosystems might have a better answer.
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Re: San Jacinto Skiing

Postby Ed » Sat Feb 02, 2019 5:31 pm

The eerie Whumph! Whumph! is unstable snow shifting and settling. Other signs of avalanche danger are rivulets of snow running or balls of snow rolling downhill.
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Re: San Jacinto Skiing

Postby Ulysses » Sat Feb 02, 2019 9:02 pm

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Re: San Jacinto Skiing

Postby Ed » Sun Feb 03, 2019 7:03 am

If you don't do a Sonny Bono in the trees. I missed seeing the relatively treeless descent from Miller Saddle to Tamarack Valley in the video, which should have been the best part.

The Ski Mountaineers website has information on equipment and technique. They seem to have few scheduled trips now, perhaps they prefer private trips. The 2017-2018 trip reports looked thin on the eastern Sierra trips that were once standard. We once did the west-side Pear Lake Hut trip in Sequoia in their 2017-2018 trip reports. Very misty day, we were worried about finding the hut before the sun set.

Their old rule of thumb was that you had to be a strong intermediate skier, able to ski under control under a wide range of conditions, including soft snow.

http://skimountaineerssectionlachaptersc.org/
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Re: San Jacinto Skiing

Postby sdtrackrunner1 » Mon Feb 11, 2019 11:51 am

Hey Seth,
I may try to get out there and ski this Saturday. If you'll be in the area, give me a shout. I've been getting over a fierce cold for a couple weeks so I'll probably wait to decide until Wednesday or so. Looks like more snow is coming. Avalanche conditions are always a good topic for consideration and I will be carrying the usual: beacon, shovel, probe, snow saw, first aid kit. I've had Avy 1 training several times, so not an expert by any means but I've been around the block a few times. I am not a guide, just an enthusiast. There are some pretty safe zones on San J from the tram that are good for backcountry beginners, and some full value stuff as well. Navigating in the trees to and from the good ski slopes is always part of the fun. Best to bring a map and compass and know the landmarks like Cornell Peak, Miller Peak, Jean Peak, the creek beds, etc. Its easy to get lost out there and you don't want to wander off and start descending down toward the desert, unless its on purpose.

How's your ski ability in mixed conditions? The next snow looks warmer so I would expect a mixture of powder, crust, and snot. I think being fully confident on any ungroomed "blue" run in a resort is a prerequisite, and being confident on black diamond ungroomed terrain is a pretty good idea.

That video above is mine. That turned into a fun foggy day. I avoided Miller saddle and went further south to get a true east facing slope off the summit. There are a few more trees over there but the skiing is often better on that aspect, more sustained, and a little steeper. Thanks for the link Ulysses!
-Brent
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Re: San Jacinto Skiing

Postby seth » Mon Feb 11, 2019 5:34 pm

Hi everyone, and thanks for all the responses. I stuck around Big Bear that weekend. But still looking for partners for SJ. Thanks for the tips and avy advice. Avalanches are the biggest reason I wouldn't want to go alone. Even on relatively tame terrain they can be devastating. Profiles of SJ look like there could be some relatively safe low angle slopes to ski. But as I've said, I have never been up there and not trying to get lost. I think following other tracks sounds like the best option. But still would love to find someone looking to try it with me. I'll be checking back here to see if anyone is interested. I found the button to notify me of responses! :)
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Re: San Jacinto Skiing

Postby Ed » Tue Feb 12, 2019 8:50 am

Seth,

Despite my perhaps overly-conservative warning, people seem to be tramping all over the east side of San Jacinto and not reporting any avalanche danger.

If you are looking for alpine touring companions and have had no luck so far, I would consider contacting the Sierra Club Ski Mountaineers. If you search around their website, you can probably find contact information. If you are a strong hiker, a strong intermediate downhill skier, and have the equipment, I suspect you will be welcome. They don't seem to have much in the way of scheduled trips posted, but with this amount of snow in Southern California, I suspect they have unlisted private trips.

The Ski Mountaineers were formed back in the 1930's, and are the people who built the Ski Hut on Baldy. They once operated more or less jointly with the Rock Climbing Section, rock climbing in the summer and skiing in the winter, sharing a common newsletter, the Mugelnoos, often living together and sometimes ending up married. Quite a history. Sadly, the RCS came to an end, I think in the 1980's, when the Sierra Club would no longer bear the cost of the necessary insurance premiums. I believe the Southern California Mountaineers Association may have been formed by former RCS member to carry on.
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