April 23, 2006

Cucamonga Wilderness Traverse

It’s that happy but busy time of year now where everything skiable is starting to look good…get it before it’s gone.

I’ve finally put together a trip report from my recent tour in the Cucamonga Wilderness, right after an April-Fool’s storm dropped two feet of snow all the way down to 5000′.

I decided to skin up Ice House Canyon and then traverse the ridgeline connecting Bighorn Peak and Ontario Peak. This turned out to be a long, strenuous tour, but it showcases the beauty and remoteness of the Cucamonga Wilderness in Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains.

As for the skiing, the descent was an unexpected delight: fresh powder on intermediate, rolling, marvelously-open terrain (trip report).

NOTE: images in this new trip report are now clickable, thanks to technology pilfered from Broofa.com.

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April 18, 2006

Snowy Thoughts

What good is a record-setting snowpack if you can’t ski it? That’s the question some Sierra skiers may be asking, especially after yesterday’s in-bounds avalanche at Mammoth Mountain.

Surveying the Southern Sierra this past weekend, I was stunned by the amount of snow I saw. Skiable lines were appearing in places that are normally bare rock—Langley’s north face, for example.

Yet beneath that gleaming white surface lurks an unusually quirky snowpack. The sheer depth of the snow seems to be slowing the consolidation of deep, unstable layers, even now, well into April.

Up top, the over-abundance of snow is getting cooked by warmer and warmer days, threatening massive wet slides. So we have wet slide and slab avalanche potential. What’s a Sierra skier supposed to do?

I’m guessing we’ll know more about the snow in a week or so, provided the storms finally fade away. For now, it’s probably best to consider the snowpack a hybrid of winter and spring—and a very unpredictable one at that.

Posted in Avy News, Current Conditions | 0 Comments

April 11, 2006

Mammoth Patrol Fundraiser

Mammoth Mountain will contribute 100% of lift ticket sales on Friday, April 14, to help support the families of the three patrollers who died last week.

James Juarez, John Scott McAndrews, and Charles Walter Rosenthal (President and a founding member of the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center) were killed while trying to fence off a hidden snow cavern created by a volcanic gas vent near Mammoth’s Face Lift.

If you’re unable to ski Mammoth Mountain, you can still participate in this extraordinary tribute by purchasing a lift ticket for Friday online. Mount Rose will also donate 100% of Friday’s lift ticket sales, and Vail Resorts and Aspen Ski Company will be making contributions.

The tragedies of this season remind us how fragile and precious life truly is. Let us remember to keep family and friends dear, reject fear and foolishness, and make our time count—on the mountain and off. Hope to see you at Mammoth!

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April 5, 2006

Skiing Stockton Flats

Skiing Stockton Flats

Stockton Flats is not the benign glade it appears to be on the trail map. I strongly discourage anyone from entering the region unless they’ve studied a topo map, are prepared to travel through cliff-bound terrain, and are properly equipped to get out. We all have to make our own choices when it comes to the backcountry terrain we ski. If you want high adventure without the possibility of getting very, very lost, go ski Telegraph Peak instead (more…)

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April 5, 2006

Say It Isn’t So

Multiple sources are confirming that Doug Coombs has been killed while skiing in La Grave, France. Coombs apparently slipped and fell while trying to aid a friend who had just fallen over a cliff. Coombs, 48, was one of the giants of American extreme skiing. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he eschewed the flashier side of the sport, preferring instead to focus on ski mountaineering and guiding (more…)

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April 4, 2006


I’ve been reading a collection of articles on the SunRockIce website. One that caught my eye is called Decision Making for Wilderness Leaders, by Ian McCammon, of the National Outdoor Leadership School. It’s probably no secret that the avalanche education industry has undergone a crisis of confidence in recent years. Disturbing studies suggest not only that traditional avalanche courses may be ineffective, but that they may even increase the likelihood a person will expose themself to risk (more…)

Posted in Health | 0 Comments