The Gorgonio Gauntlet

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The Gorgonio Gauntlet

Postby Ellen » Sun Apr 29, 2012 6:56 pm

Howdy All :)

Six intrepid hikers (Krai, Florian H, Kelvin, Cindy, Robin W and I) left the Southfork trailhead at 6:30. We discussed our options and decided to go up one of the north chutes rather than the Big Draw. It was a beautiful day and I was comfortable in short sleeves after about 20 minutes on the trail (hmm...perhaps this warm weather bodes ill for the snow). The trail was free of snow all the way to the the Dollar/Dry Lake junction. Since we were headed for the north chutes, we booted it up the ridge on the east side of Christmas tree hill -- the snow was gone :(

At the top of the Christmas tree ridge, we had to negotiate our way through numerous brush- and rock filled-gullies as we made our way towards our objective. Hiking Jim refers to this as "glacial chop country" --I prefer "Moraine Hell" whereas Sister Sally kindly calls it "Chaos." These gullies are a lot more fun to navigate when they're covered with firm snow :? I continuously apologized for the route and promised that we would not take this way back to Southfork meadows. Krai kept reassuring me: "It's fine Ellen!" I am truly blessed by the unflappable nature of my hiking buddies 8)

Glacial chop country loves playing visual tricks. Since I thought we were headed up the ridge to the "staging area" for the north chutes, we donned snowshoes. Instead, we popped out on dirt -- more specifically, the dirt trail above Dry Lake near Trail Flats :x Fortunately, we finally had adequate snow for shoeing and headed up. At the "staging area" (plateau at 10 K), we switched to crampons/ice axes and took the chute that looked to have the longest snow tongue. This topped out at about 11.3. We had a short scree boot scramble up to the ridge and intersected the trail at the Sky High/Vivian trail junction.

Most of the trail was free of snow up to San Gorgonio peak. Bottom line -- the Wed/Thurs storm was a dud -- there was very little new snow. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch on top (not too warm or cold), retraced our way back to the snow tongue and prepared to glissade. As usual, I was the slowest one in the top section but started speeding up and having more fun as we lost elevation. We made it to about 9.8 K before having to don snowshoes.

I was looking forward to a relatively uncomplicated descent down the west side of Christmas tree hill (the X-country ski route). It came immediately clear that this was not possible. Even with snowshoes, we periodically post-holed as we made our way east through Moraine-Hell towards the ridge that heads up Charleton. It was energy-intensive as well as unnverving to post-hole to the knee or crotch on one side. We finally reached the Charleton ridge -- yippee :) This relief was short lived, however. There wasn't snow on the X-country ski route, so we dropped into the gully west of the ridge.

Big mistake. We found ourselves alternating between walking on top of the snow and dropping several feet into brush and rocks :shock: This reminded me of Calicokat Jim's comment about negotiating land mines. At one point, I fell dropped in up to my waist -- I felt like I was trying to breaststroke through the snow. Also lost a pole. Chevalier Florian used my ice-axe to dig around and finally found the pole about two feet below the snow. Shortly thereafter, Kelvin had a similar experience and almost hit his head :o Enough :evil: We took off snowshoes, fought our way out of the gully, and scrambled back onto the ridge.

From there it was a matter of traversing downhill and to the east to avoid the Southfork meadows bog. The final insult was breaking trail through a icy, mid-thigh section of snow. It was an absolute relief to be back on the trail. It was wonderful to be able to walk normally, rather than worrying about every single step. Ah -- tera firma at last 8) Although the hike from the Dollar/Dry Lake sign to the trailhead seems to take forever, I was so happy to be on dirt that I didn't care. Twelve hours from starting, we called the Oaks restuarant to make sure they were open.

Six famished hikers happily inhaled dinner before heading home. Thanks everyone for being easy going and patient with the route finding and lousy snow conditions.

If I had a crystal ball, I would have taken the trail to Dry Lake and then headed up the gully to Trail Flats and gone X-country from there. Early in the morning the snow may be frim enough for snowshoes, but it softens up dangerously in the afternoon. I think we're at the end of being able to climb the north chutes.

Miles of smiles,
Ellen
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Postby Ranboze » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:29 pm

THANK U Ellen for a wonderFULL day! A wonderful write-up and excellent, concise detail of the day. You forgot to mention, though, how you helped out one of your hiking-mates by offering Sharkies and other carb/salt chewies to help relieve leg cramps on the chute :wink: It was ALL good! Thanx for showing us the way!

[url]http://ranboze.smugmug.com/SoCal-Mountain-Adventures/San-Gorgonio-11490-x3-Apr-29/22700381_84L7T5#!i=1819257765&k=Sjc4GCL/][/url]
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Postby zippetydude » Tue May 01, 2012 9:14 am

Not all your outings sound like fun Ellen. That waist-deep postholing problem is kind of comical, I ran into the same problem in roughly the same area when coming back down with Steve and Fern a couple years ago. It's comical for a couple of times. Then it can become, well, a bit tiresome. I'm glad you all had fun, sounds a bit tough here and there fighting through.

z
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Postby arocknoid » Wed May 02, 2012 2:04 pm

Thanks for the TR of what sounds like an unforgettable day shared with hike buddies. Bet you wish some parts weren't quite so memorable, like the hip-deep post-holing. Unlike Zip, I don't find even the first few (or one!) to be the least bit comical. Far too easy for a subsurface surprise to put an injury kibosh on the festivities. Wearisome, at best, and worrisome for the duration.

At least the misery was in good company, and the unfun sections made the fun ones all the finer, eh?

cheers,
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Postby zippetydude » Wed May 02, 2012 7:19 pm

arocknoid: I ran into a couple over on San G who told me about a kinda/sorta postholing event they had in the Rockies. They were hiking along when the wife suddenly fell in to her arm pits. She told her husband she could feel her feet dangling. He lay down on the snow to spread his weight out and grabbed her arms, helping her to wriggle up and out. When she looked back into the hole, there was a 30' drop to a stream and they realized they were on top of an unstable snow bridge. They made it out okay, but that story occurs to me anytime I'm going up the Dry Lake ravine when the snow is deep and the ravine has become wide and flat. That kind of removes the comical edge, even for me.

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Re: The Gorgonio Gauntlet

Postby Hikin_Jim » Wed May 02, 2012 7:44 pm

Hey, Ellen!

Were you guys up there on Sunday? I was just over the ridge in the Fish Creek area on Sunday, and then I passed through Dry Lake and S. Fork en route to Grinnell/Lost Creek on Monday. I was half wondering if I might bump into you!

HJ


Ellen wrote:At the top of the Christmas tree ridge, we had to negotiate our way through numerous brush- and rock filled-gullies as we made our way towards our objective. Hiking Jim refers to this as "glacial chop country" --I prefer "Moraine Hell"
I think your descriptor says it well. :lol:

Ellen wrote:Glacial chop country loves playing visual tricks.
You've got that right, boy and how.


Ellen wrote:Most of the trail was free of snow up to San Gorgonio peak. Bottom line -- the Wed/Thurs storm was a dud -- there was very little new snow.
Agreed. Very little snow. I crossed over Fish Creek Saddle on Monday in my low top Moab Ventilators. No problems. I just walked around any snow patches. On the same route last year at this time, it was wall-to-wall snow.

Ellen wrote: We enjoyed a leisurely lunch on top (not too warm or cold)
Perfect weather in the SGW high country these past few days. Just absolutely wonderful. I was stunned on Tuesday to drive down the hill and encounter a dense fog bank starting a mile or so past Barton Flats and then drizzle all the way on my drive back home. I had been out in the sun all morning!

Ellen wrote: We called the Oaks restuarant to make sure they were open. Six famished hikers happily inhaled dinner before heading home.
They were closed on Tuesday because there was no power. :( Apparently Edison was working on the power lines. It was kind of cool to see a chopper ferrying in a telephone pole. CHP had hwy 38 closed below Mountain Home Village just up from the first bridge. We watched the chopper come up the canyon and lower a phone pole into place. You don't see that every day!

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