Skiing Snow Creek — Page 2

Free Desert Water Agency Water Fountain

DWA Blues

To recap, in Snow Creek we have one of the most massive, spectacular, and savage big mountain climbing routes in the entire United States, if not beyond.

And at the very bottom of the route sits Palm Springs' Desert Water Agency, whose perfect one square mile bottleneck is closed without exception to all hikers and climbers. Let's leave aside for one moment the question as to whether or not it is possible to traverse the route without crossing DWA land.

DWA: Keep Out Public Sentiment - Photo by Steve Irwin The Forbidden Zone The Bottleneck

On a personal note, I do my very best to respect backcountry permit processes, access points, and land closures—even when I don't happen to agree with them.

More so than actual mountaineering challenges—Chockstone included—it is this thorny issue of access that has most given me pause whenever I've contemplated skiing Snow Creek.

Given also that I tend to like to write about what I ski, it has never struck me as a particularly wise idea to go tromping around on restricted land and then document every forbidden footstep for all the world to see.

Other climbers, of course, have not felt the same reluctance.

It's hard to blame them. The effective result of DWA's hard-line stance on trespassing is that their tiny one square mile of land holds hostage the entire north side of Mount San Jacinto.

Prior to the Internet age, the DWA engaged in a quiet cat-and-mouse game with local climbers, who snuck across the property line in the dead of night, often hiding in the bushes or dashing blind across boulder fields to avoid detection from various DWA watchmen.

The advent of sites like Summit Post, climbing forums, and personal climbing blogs similar to sierradescents, however, have made what was once an under-the-rug game into a very public fiasco.

And with publicity, of course, comes exactly what DWA does not want: more climbers. Watching this saga unfold from the sidelines, it has been obvious to me for some time that something has to give. Increasing numbers of climbers willing to post photos and explicit information on exactly how to evade DWA security each Spring could not long go without some sort of a response.

Predictably, the Desert Water Agency has aggressively stepped up efforts to stop trespassers. It's hard for me to believe the DWA is at all happy with the current situation. In practical terms it is all but impossible to stop determined climbers from violating their boundary. And yet, DWA may not be capable of creating a public access corridor across their land even if they want to. DWA representatives have stated that recent water quality laws preclude them from allowing hikers to cross their critical watershed.

So, unless something changes, the access issue remains in stalemate. Those wanting to respect the law have little choice but to resist the fantastic allure of Snow Creek. And everyone else must sneak through the bottleneck like thieves in the dark.

next: Alternatives

About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

Pray for snow.