San Gorgonio via the Big Draw

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San Gorgonio via the Big Draw

Postby Ellen » Sun Mar 17, 2013 3:49 pm

Howdy All :)

I knew the warm weather would soften up the snow, but had no idea just how much :( Left Southfork at 6:30. Put microspikes on after the wilderness boundary sign when I fell on ice. Once I passed the Dry?Dollar Lake junction sign, the snowshoes were essential. Even so, going up the XC ski route on the right hand side of Xmas tree hill was not pleasant -- I broke through the icy crust up to my knee or higher more often than I like.

Skirted around the morraine and started heading up towards the Jepson bowl and the Big Draw. I stayed to the left to try to see how far the snow went up. It looked pretty good, so I headed up. About halfway up before it got really steep, I switched to crampons and ice-axe. The good news -- I sunk in really well and felt secure. The bad news -- sinking in that much while climbing is work. The snow ran out about 10 vertical feet before the saddle to the west of Jepson. Scrambled up and enjoyed the rest provided by removing my crampons.

Followed the ridge up and joined the main trail at the Vivian/Sky High trail junction sign. Made it to the summit at 12:45 PM and celebrated by eating lunch and taking a picture of my St. Patrick's day bandana and sipping some Oban single malt scotch. After 45 minutes, no one else had shown up and I headed down. Ran into four guys who'd come up from Vivian -- they looked absolutely traumatized -- they'd fallen repeatedly in the soft, slippery snow. This was their first time on San G and they wanted to go down a different way. I told them how to avoid the high traverse by staying on the west side of the ridge.

I headed over the ridge on the east side of the north chutes and started hiking down -- there was no snow for the first 250 vertical feet. I wasn't comfortable glissading and continued to down climb, switching from crampons to snowshoes. I was sinking in mid-calf with snowshoes and hadn't even reached the morraine field yet. Bad omen. Sure enough, once I reached the flat area at the bottom of the snow climb, I was dropping in up to my crotch. I considered myself lucky to only sink in up to my knee. I slowly made my way back over towards the XC ski route. This was harder than climbing.

I didn't experience any sort of relief until I rejoined the trail in Southfork meadows. Finally, I could walk like a normal human being. Got back to my car at 5:50 -- the hardest 11:40 minute snow climb I've ever experienced on old greyback. Made me wish that summer would come early and melt the darn lousy snow. Had a fabulous meal at the Oaks before heading home. From the number of cars still parked at the TH when I returned, I suspect it was a long, miserable day for many folks.

Miles of smiles,
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Postby Sally » Sun Mar 17, 2013 5:05 pm

It sounds like you had a tough go of it! I have a funny feeling that maybe we aren't doing that route on Wednesday?!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!
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San G via North Chutes

Postby Fastnlight » Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:35 pm

Hi Ellen,

This is George from SGWA site. We talked in the parking lot before this hike. You beat us to the summit by an 1:15. If you would have seen me coming up you would have definitely described me as "traumatized"! LOL. That was one mean hike!

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Postby NormaR » Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:08 am

:shock: Sounds delightful! NOT! But you burned some mighty fine calories! What a difference a week makes... and loads of sun.

Glad i didn't make the 3.5 hour drive to slug it out with 'ole Greyback after all.
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Postby zippetydude » Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:02 am

Hi Ellen.

Ugh! I thought the snow had consolidated more than that and was planning on doing San G last weekend myself, but Ivette and I met 23 years ago on St. Patrick's Day so we spent a nice weekend together instead. We did go out to lunch in Palm Springs and wondered if we would run into you there. I thought you might be doing Skyline. At about 2:00 Ivette asked what time you usually finished, and I said you were no doubt done by that time...little did we know you still had a few grueling hours left before you'd get back to your car!

Glad you made it okay. Those are just about the toughest possible conditions. Hopefully the snow will firm up in the next couple of weeks without becoming dangerously icy. In any case, great job!

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Postby arocknoid » Mon Mar 18, 2013 9:43 pm

yikes and yowza, unpleasant laborious conditions.

Unpredictable hip-deep post-holing puts too many vital body parts at risk. "Oh, snails! I've strained my sartorius again!"

Not to make light of it, vis-a-vis the treachery of being halfway-down the post-hole, knee deep, and catching on a buried obstacle/stump/rock etc as you sink deeper, with resultant ankle, tib or fib or knee injury, big-time.

Hate that sjunk...

The miserable deficiency of snow for Y2013 made the commercial ski slopes marginally more attractive for limited play time than backcountry slogging. grrr

Thanks for the reports!

kind regards
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