Thursday, January 29, 2009

Celebrating MLK Day with Whiteness

While it stormed here in SoCal, Carie and I were away up in the Great White North enjoying hip-deep powder (and hidden rocks) at Whistler. While most of the snow had melted here by the time we got back because of the absurdly high temperatures (85 degree highs here in LA!!!), there was still some of it hidden on north-facing slopes and we set out to go find some of it on MLK day. I think it's what Dr. Rev. MLK Jr. would have wanted us to do. At least, it's what I wanted to do with my day off.

Normally, when we want to go find some snow (and/or ski on it), we head to our winter playground, the Baldy Bowl on the southeast face of Mt. San Antonio. Last winter we found some decent skiing up there (or would have had we waited for the ice to thaw):

Carie climbing a couloir above Baldy Bowl, March '08

After reading how barren our playground had become at Sierra Descents, I decided that skiing was probably out and hiking was in order. I had seen Telegraph, Cucamonga, and Timber Peaks many times while hiking up Baldy, and thought that this area might provide some decent hiking:

Clear view of Telegraph Peak and Timber Mountain (right )from the summit of Mt. Baldy with author in foreground, March '08

I was correct: a quick search turned up a nice trailhead that follows Ice House Canyon (6160') up to Ice House Saddle between Cucamonga Peak (8859') and Timber Mountain (8303'), then traverses another saddle over to Telegraph Peak (8985'), with a round trip of 12.5 miles. Even better, the trailhead is about 15 minutes closer than the trailhead up to Baldy, putting the driving trip at about 50 minutes from our house.

Green is proposed route, magenta actual

Seeing as how it was our day off, we woke up at the crack of 9am and didn't leave until roughly an hour later, putting us at the trailhead at the early time of 11am. As we embarked on the trail, we passed a horde of volunteers who were spending their day off picking up litter. One of them was dragging back a very large tent (one of those giant family tents), apparently found abandoned in the wilderness. Someone having delusions of grandeur abandoning ABC out here in the Cucamonga Wilderness, perhaps?

After maybe half a mile we left the crowd and were able to enjoy relative solitude. The trail followed a snow-covered creek as advertised, winding its way up the canyon among first aspen, then fir, and finally alpine pine forest.

Unfortunately, Carie and I are still getting the hang of applying the Blister Shield and while some trouble areas of our feet were wonderfully comfortable, others were developing blisters. We made fine time past the saddle and up to Timber Peak, but we decided that the extra two miles to Telegraph would cost us more time (we were meeting someone for dinner) and pain than we wanted to spend this day. Plus, we had left the crampons and ice axes at home and boilerplate on the north sides of the ridges was very difficult to traverse without traction help. Instead, we stopped on Timber Mountain for a nice, relaxed siesta in the sun and solitude:

A nice break at the top. We found some litter up there (empty water bottles) and did our part to pack it out

The view of Baldy confirmed that it was sadly barren:

Baldy Bowl (center) from Timber Mountain

Hard to imagine that this often provides a continuous 4000' vert of skiing

Roast chicken sandwiches, German chocolate and still no other people later, we packed up and headed back down:

Carie can never resist sliding around

We ended the evening with fresh-made Spaetzle from Carie's new Spaetzle press, some Goulash, and a viewing of Rob Roy. I don't know what it is with our German food/Scottish movie theme nights, but it's become a thing as of late.

I still haven't gotten to use my skins this season, but it's early yet and maybe we'll be blessed with some more storms. In the right conditions, our hike today could provide some decent skiing lines, but if we do get a nice storm they'd be hard pressed to compete with Baldy Bowl.

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