Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Snowcrest/Kratka Ridge 3-26-2011

OK, I guess we'll start from here
Cary cutting out a block for an avy test.
Slow down Cary it's a 25 mph zone up ahead!
Snow wheels are awesome
The walk back to the truck
Props to Cary for getting a picture of me on my feet!
Cary and I had such a blast 2 weeks ago at Snowcrest we decided to go back and ski some of the different more challenging runs.  On our drive there, 3 miles from the Snowcrest area we encountered 3 cones blocking off the road.  Hmm, the road looked perfectly fine to us.  After little debate we decided to drive around them and check out why the put the cones blocking the road.  About a mile down we quickly found out.  Snow!  The road had not been cleared/plowed.  Last week a storm dumped about 5 feet of snow on the area and the snow plow only cleared Hwy 2 up to Waterman ski area, which is 3 miles from Snowcrest.

Cary and I dumped our gear off at the end of the road where it met the snow.  We drove back to the cones and parked the truck.  We walked down the road and skinned up our skis and toured the last 2 miles to the Snowcrest.  It was an unexpected detour but it was good practice skinning of flat surfaces.  A little over an hour and a half later we arrived at Snowcrest (a deserted ski area).  We had a blast last time we were here and we thought it would be even better due to the recent storm.  It was nice to see the place completely blanketed with a good 4 feet of snow.  But unfortunately the skiing conditions were not so great.  There was a semi hard crust as the top layer and then about 4 feet of very soft snow below it.  We found this out when Cary dug a pit to perform an avy test.  While skiing our skis sank in just a little to feel like they were stuck in grooves.  I took many spills coming down because I felt my skis were stuck in a rut or something.  Cary even did a face plant (on much steeper terrain) as well which made me feel a little better.  It was frustrating eating crap left and right when just 2 weeks ago I was skiing the same runs much better.  Oh well, as Cary says "a bad day in the mountains is always better than a day of work!"  

After a few hours at Snowcrest we toured back to the end of the plowed road where we put our gear on our backs and walked the last mile.  Even though it was a frustrating day it was still fun.  There were beautiful clouds covering the snow capped mountains and other than running into 2 snowshoers on the snow covered road we had the place all to ourselves.

**I purchased a helmet camera with my REI dividend. Unfortunately most of the footage I recorded was me eating it:-)  Once I get better at skiing it will be awesome to use!  I plan to attach it to my surfboard as well and start posting some of my surf sessions too!

Trip Notes:
Start: 8am at Waterman overflow parking lot
1.5 hours walk/skin to Snowcrest
1.5 hours back
End: 4:00 at the parking lot

Cary's Photos
Todd's Photos

Note:  Many edits were made to create this movie:-)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Snowcrest/Kratka Ridge 3-12-2011

Last Saturday Cary and I skied the old, abandoned ski resort of Snowcrest also known as Kratka Ridge.  Snowcrest is just a couple miles down from Mt. Waterman in the San Gabriel Mountain Range.  We started climbing up the old ski runs and were quickly intrigued by the rustic feel this old resort had to it.  The runs were in decent shape with a few new trees popping up, but the thing that was really interesting was seeing the old run down chairlifts and operating booths.  Windows were smashed out, wires were pulled out, a little graffiti, and some of the roofs were caved in.  Snowcrest is also home to the single chair lift, which is one of only two in the US.

Cary and I climbed up the ridge about 700 feet and found the summit register. Yay, our first ski climb summit!  Yes, I know it's only 700 feet but I'll take it.  After taking in the scenic views and exploring the abandoned ski lifts we took off our climbing skins and prepared for some down hill skiing.  We skied down a blue diamond run that had some new trees popping up.  The snow was still icy and made for fast skiing conditions compared to the fresh powder on San Jacinto.  Cary being very patient and helpful helped pick out lines for me to ski down.  I am getting more and more comfortable on skis and want to push myself to ski steeper slopes.  This run was a little steeper than San Jacinto and I looked forward to the challenge.  The first half of the run was steeper than the second.  I fell a few times and got frustrated by my slow and inconsistent path down the mountain.  After the first section I got a better feel for turning without relying solely on snow plowing.  Cary and I climbed the mountain 2 more times and I skied the entire mountain much more comfortably and confidently.  I think I only fell one more time and picked up my speed as well.

Skiing Kratka Ridge was an absolute blast!  We had the ski area all to our selves except for one other backcountry skier we saw at the end of the day.  I can't wait to get back out there and try some of the other runs, hopefully a little more challenging, but not too crazy!

Jump for joy!

Rare:  A single chair lift

Old ski lift

No I didn't jump through the window

Upper section of the mountain.

Our first ski mountaineering summit....yes it was only 700 feet but who cares:-)

Captain Morgan

Cary's Photos

View Kratka Ridge/Snow Crest BC Ski 3-12-11 in a larger map

Saturday, March 5, 2011

San Jacinto Backcountry Skiing 2-27-11

Last Sunday Cary and I went to Palm Springs to climb/ski San Jacinto Peak.  This season Cary and I are getting into backcountry/ski mountaineering.  Traditionally we've been climbing with snowshoes and crampons.  After witnessing bc skiing we quickly came to the conclusion that it would be much more enjoyable skiing down a peak then slogging down it in snowshoes.  Cary is a great skier, however, I am not.  I am learning how to ski/bc ski all at once, this is why I move so slow in the videos.  Cary has been very patient with me and has been giving me great advice.  Slowly but surely I am feeling more comfortable on skis.

We took the 8am tram up to Round Valley.  Around 8:45 we were all skinned up and started climbing.  The first mile and 500 feet of elevation gain was a narrow trail that was kind of hard to skin up.  We were dodging trees, branches, and leap frogging hikers in  snowshoes.  Once we reached about 8,900 feet the trail opened up and we could climb straight up (for the most part).   This is our second time climbing with skins on and our first major peak/climb.  We were pretty slow going trying to get the hang of skinning and managing our gear.  At 10,400 feet we reached the top of the ridge (400 feet from the summit).  Cary's new boots where beating down on his feet and my blood sugar dropped too low.  We decided to take lunch on the ridge and then ski down.

Skiing down was absolutely AMAZING!  Fresh powder made for spectacular skiing.  Cary said it was some of the best powder he's ever skied, that's pretty good for a life long skier!  We skied down about 1,500 feet.  I fell 2 times once burying my face in the snow (see the video). Once we got down to 8,900 feet we grudgingly took off our skis, put them on our backs and hiked back to the tram.  The last mile was  long and a pain in the butt but we didn't have an alternative.  When we got back to the ranger station we returned our permit, talked with a split boarder and waited in line for the tram.  Our feet killing, we eventually made it back to my car.

We really enjoyed our first real climb.  We still have plenty of work ahead of us though.  I need to become more efficient climbing up with skins.  It would also be nice to find climbs/peaks that we could ski all the way back down to the trail head instead of hiking out with our skis on.  Oh well, I guess it's good for us.  I must say ski mountaineering is exhausting.  I hope it becomes easier the more we do it:-)

Start: 8:45 at 8,400 feet
Top of the ridge: 12:45 at 10,400 feet
Return to the Tram: 4pm
4.9 miles round trip

Cary's Photos
Todd's Photos

View San Jacinto BC Skiing 2-27-11 in a larger map