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.

— February 19, 2017

Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents

Bill February 23, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Love Jean but havent skied it since 2011 -2012. Getting lost there happens to me every time - at least a little bit. Havent gone up or down the same way twice. Getting back to the station is also a pain (well maybe not by AT standards).. Do you have a rcommendation for a line to ski back down through the valley (after descending Jean) to the station without a lot of obstacles and pushing? Best Ive been able to figure out is stay right / southside to avoid the stream canyon.

Andy February 24, 2017 at 1:57 am

Yeah, definitely try to branch off early and stay out of the horrible gully (which is where everyone else goes). There is a sort of spine formed by the gully's south aspect, which you can try to stay on top of, which I always try to stay on top of, and somehow end up heading off in all directions of the compass except the right one! Maybe SJW is like a mini-Bermuda Triangle. :)