February 19, 2017

Lost in the San Jacintos

Ah, that incomparable feeling when you're deep in the wild and you suddenly realize you have no idea where you are. This happens to me a lot in the San Jacintos. I joke I get lost about 50% of the time when I go up the tram, but usually it's more "lost" than lost.

Yesterday, I was lost—totally, 100% off-course, heading off to oblivion. Even when the clouds lifted, and I saw the surrounding peaks and ridges, I still wasn't sure where I was. Finally, I caught a glimpse of the tram station in the distance, and the world spun painfully back into place.

There is ice.

NOAA's point forecasts proved unfortunately accurate. Much of the water in this weekend's massive storm fell as rain, even well above 10K feet, at least for the San Jacintos. The rain eventually changed to 7-10" of reasonably nice powder, but with an insane ice lens erratically hidden below.

I was able to skin up and ski a fairly junky line on Jean Peak's south/southeast face, but when I tried to ascend the gully below San Jacinto Peak, conditions were literally too dangerous for me to continue. Fully disgruntled, I bailed to Mountain Station for pizza.

That's the first time I've ever been shut down by ice on a powder day.

Conditions are tricky. All that ice is going to continue to cause problems deep into Spring. That said, it sounds like the San Gabriels did better in this past storm, so hopefully we'll find better conditions there.

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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.