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March 11, 2017

Sugarloaf aka The Bump

I am pleased at long last to announce success in my longtime quest to climb and ski Big Bear's Sugarloaf Mountain. Contrary to expectation, this one turns out to be a bit of a stinker.

A classic of Southern California ski mountaineering this peak is not. North facing terrain is primarily comprised of steep ridges and deep, gouge-like ravines that are fairly snaggy and treed. The best skiing seems to be on the eastern sub-peak, which offers a ski-run like expanse (seen here, eventually).

I ascended what you might call the true north ridge. That was a mistake. It would have been much easier to go up the north/northeast gully. If you're just interested in tagging the true (west) summit, coming from Bear Mountain's Bear Peak (8805') is probably the best bet.

Snow quality was not great. Very, very damp snow and of course very warm temperatures. Despite being basically the same elevation, Sugarloaf feels like a much lower peak than neighboring San Antonio.

Most of the open skiing is west-facing, which usually doesn't mix well with the Southern California sun. As for views, the true summit is completely tree-bound, so you get to see a sign advertising Sugarloaf's near-10K foot elevation—and not much else.

Far to the east, there are some east-facing chutes and better (and higher) road access, but I'm not sure any of it adds up to much more than a curiosity for SoCal skiers.

Ah well, I am happy to check this one of the list. My advice: don't drive past the San Gabriels unless you're heading to Gorgonio or San Jacinto.

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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.