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

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CalBadger said...

Looks like great fun--if you like self abuse! By the way Todd, nice ski boots!

Holly Teetzel said...

Great photos! What a perfect day, except for the low blood sugar & blisters you guys earned. I esp. liked the head plant in the last video :-) Keep on practicing, you'll get be up to speed in no time.