Islip’s South Face

In the aftermath of the giant February 2023 storm, which put snow at unusually low elevations throughout the San Gabriels, I urgently wanted to ski Islip's south face before it melted out, but Highway 2 and the 39 stayed closed all winter, so there was no reasonable way to get there.

Islip's south face is readily visible from the 210 freeway near Azusa as a prominent, inviting, wide-open snowfield on the Angeles Crest.

Islip's summit tops out at 8251', and the south face, as you might imagine, faces south, so let's just say this is a Southern California line that doesn't see too many ski descents. But enough snow fell earlier this month to put it back into the realm of possibility, so Dave Braun and I returned this past Friday to give it a try.

We were joined by the excellent Matt D, a Crystal Lake specialist who we invited to help us navigate through the awful brushy section in the lower part of the basin. Yes, a lot melted out since our first Islip foray a week ago, but we still found great views and good skiing.

I remain bullish on Crystal as a local ski touring destination, but that lower bushwhacking section is unfortunately a concern. Thanks (I believe) to the Station Fire, there is quite a lot of manzanita, thorn bushes, and deadfall in the area, which when partially covered with snow absolutely makes for an elevated level of risk.

You can, however, just skin up the Crystal Lake fire road. I'd recommend that as a safer alternative to the brush—even though the road is a bit circuitous. From the road we veered left onto Islip's southwest ridge, which proved to be a fine ascent route. As for getting down through the bush, well, we're still working on that part.

There's still a lot more great skiing to be had here, provided the snow holds. I'll be back.

— February 20, 2024

Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents

Randy Lamm March 21, 2024 at 11:06 am

Fyi if you knew Reiner from the SMS there's a memorial Saturday at UCLA

Reiner Stenzel Celebration of Life
Saturday, March 23
11:30AM PDT
Add to Calendar
UCLA La Kretz Garden Pavilion
707 Tiverton Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Randy Lamm March 21, 2024 at 11:07 am

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