USC has always hosed off its sidewalks on nearly a daily basis instead of sweeping them. This has always pissed me off, seeing as how this city is in the middle of a desert and we're raping the watershed of the entire southern half of the state to sustain it. It wasn't until recently that I found out this is actually illegal in Los Angeles, so today after seeing it again on my ride in I called LADWP and put in a complaint. Apparently they don't usually fine on the first offense, but if I see it again I'm going to call again. I'm going to be a pain in the ass about this, I don't care what the university thinks, I don't care if this makes me some damn dirty tree-hugger hippie. Water is precious enough when you're not in the desert; hosing off sidewalks is just plain bullshit.
2 Lodges, The Mad River Lodge and The Timberline Lodge, with kitchens and restrooms
Indoor/outdoor picnic areas
National Ski Patrol
NEW Beginner Terrain Park
7,000 gallons of water is pumped up the hill per minute, bringing you the best quality snow available
First off, I'm pretty sure most every standard definition of a "mountain" puts the lower limit at 2,000ft. Second, they only managed to harness 300ft of that, yet they have an express quad and even claim to have advanced runs:
Ok, the double blacks are terrain parks, and it's in Ohio. I'm sure the rating system is no less inflated than here in SoCal where damn near everything at Baldy was rated a double black (for the record, I always that that the second diamond was earned with the presence of couloirs, cliffs, or slopes above 40 degrees, but I guess that's just my opinion).
Also according to the website, this area gets an average annual snowfall of 36". That's thirty six inches. Per year. Total.
My intrepid labmate Dan and I feel that we just have to go to this place. It is a moral imperative.
Also, one of my cycling team buddies was watching on the climb when the riders were going slow and chatting with each other, and distinctly overheard Lance Armstrong tell a European rider, "Oh yeah, they play football there...", in what can only be a reference to the Rose Bowl. Hilarious.
Well, we didn't make the summit of San Gorgonio. At about 11,300ft, we decided to call it off because it was extremely icy (and we'd left the crampons/ice axes in the car), windy, cold, and Carie had lost all feeling in her hands and feet. On the up side, we returned with our lives and all of our digits intact, though there were several points when that seemed unlikely.
I don't have a whole lot of photos because during the most scenic part of the trip I was concerned with getting off the mountain alive more than taking pictures. But here are the few I have:
Day One: Carie and I snowshoed/skinned 6 miles and 2500 vert to Dry Lake, where we camped overnight. It was really, really cold (0F with significant wind).
Our adorable campsite by morning light.
The rangers told us that bears don't hibernate in this area. Judging from how damn cold it was, I say those bears are stupid. But either way, we hung our food up.
Day Two: Carie and I skinned/snowshoed up the soft snow on the face of an endless ridge, then bootpacked once it got too steep to skin (Carie just contiued with the snowshoes). We made it within a couple hundred feet of the summit, then turn back. While we were hiking, the wind picked up and turned most of the soft snow into boilerplate. While the top of the descent was awful, the skiing was actually pretty good once we made it back down to the trees, but we couldn't enjoy it with the heavy packs, and the trail out had enough rollers to make it suck. We got back to the car without any water at about 8:30.
We camped at Dry Lake. Whether that means that there's no water there or some guy named "Dry" christend it, I don't know. It was a nice scenic spot with great views of San Gorgonio and if there's water there it would be a nice backpacking trip in the summer.
The trees were nicely spaced and the snow was nice and soft here. We should have turned around and enjoyed the descent.
I'll admit it, this mountain defeated us. We followed the "trail" that winds to the upper right and made it about 200ft from the summit, but couldn't make that last little bit. If I'd turned around and taken some pictures, I would have gotten beautiful views of the San Bernardinos and Death Valley NP in the distance. I was more worried about where I was putting my feet, though.
Today, I cannot walk. Carie is still in bed (where I'd be if I could sleep right now) and probably in more pain than me.
I think we learned several important lessons from this trip:
1. Put the firestarter in the damn bag with the backpacking stove. A stove and all the fuel in the world doesn't do you any damn good if there's no way to light it.
2. Skiing with an overnight pack is not fun. Snowboarding with one looks even less fun. If the approach is so long that we have to camp, probably not worth it. Six to eight miles is probably the farthest we want to go.
3. If I can't skin up it, odds are I will not enjoy skiing down it. Also, the peaks of wind-swept crags are generally unskiable.
4. In the spirit of number 3, we should seperate our peak bagging and our skiing trips. If we want to summit something, we should travel light with crampons and ice axes. If we want to ski, we should stay where the snow is good.
5. Snow camping, while novel, is really cold and actually pretty miserable. I will remember this for at least a year, maybe two, at which point I will refresh my memory.
6. We need to get Carie some powder baskets for her poles. The little baskets that came with them were worthless in soft, deep snow.
7. Carie's sleeping bag is, well, not so good. Definitely not up to snow camping, even with the liner.
The trip wasn't all bad. On the plus side, thanks to liberal application of Blistershield Carie managed to go the whole trip without blisters, a first. Seriously, that stuff is amazing. Also, I finally got to use my new AT boots for skinning, and they are a major improvement over my old Alpine boots. Next time I'll pick a route that allows me to enjoy them more. With how I feel right now, though, I'm willing to call it a season on BC skiing.
Apparently hitting great powder at the frequency of once a month or less leaves you kind of sore afterwards. Carie and I are more or less out of commission right now. But we will return to the snow this weekend, when we climb Mt. San Gorgonio. It may not be the pointiest peak, but it's plenty tall (11,499ft) with over 8,000ft of prominence and that broad north face supposedly holds some very nice ski descents. And, well, it's the tallest peak in the region so we should climb it.
Today we managed to catch the tail end of a storm and get an amazing powder day at Mt. Baldy ski area. Even better, they closed the road up to the parking lot shortly after we got there (was no problem for the Lesbaru...I don't know what everyone else's problem was), so we had the place almost entirely to ourselves. We were riding untracked powder all day long, even through the last run (on which we took almost all of these pictures). If this had been any ski area in the northwest, the powder we found would have been chop by 9:30; we had to do no hiking, no traversing, nothing. Just hop off the lift and enjoy.
We had originally intended to tour today, but all the fresh snow and storm we drove up in convinced us that it was worth it to shell out for the ski area. It was definitely well worth it. The absolute lack of lift lines allowed us to get over 20,000ft of vertical by the end of a half day. Plenty of steeps and trees to be had here, and over 1,000ft on every single run, almost all untracked pow.
The wind with the fresh snow was crazy. It was depositing it sideways in hard crusts on everything, a la Mt. Washington. Luckily the north side of every ridge was sheltered from the wind and the snow on it was perfect.
We were the first to make tracks on this. In fact, we tracked it out almost singlehandedly and like fifteen other runs just like it or better.
Yes, that is the ocean in the distance.
Seeing yucca while skiing is an experience somewhat unique to SoCal. While yucca in the summer is pointy death, in the winter it just looks sad and droopy (or as Carie impersonates them, "What is this cold shit? I'm a desert plant!").
It's steeper than it looks, and oh-so-soft.
Carie's in there somewhere. It was nothing but dry Colorado sugar for us the entire day.
People were riding the lift down for myriad reasons, ranging from "the run is too difficult" to "it's too cold". If the suckers are willing to give up such great snow, fine by me!
We also learned something today: I am much better at holding a camera while skiing than Carie is (though I still need some work). My video of Carie tearing it up on the last run down to the parking lot:
Carie's video of "me" (do not watch if you are prone to motion sickness):
Sorry, Carie, looks like you're going to have to do the extreme crazy stuff while I film and not vice-versa.
On the way down we picked up two hitch-hiking snowboarders whose truck had been plowed in and dropped them off at the nearest town, hopefully doing our good deed to appease the mighty snow demons. We also told them to enjoy it while they could because once they turned thirty and had kids it was all over. We then drove home and sat in our hot tub and ate steak. Life doesn't get much better than this.
It is raining like crazy in L.A. and snowing like crazy in the mountains. Due to the rain we decided to bug out of the bike race, meaning my road racing season has officially ended before it even began, but who cares? I'm particularly awful at road racing, so it's really no loss to me or the team. I'll rack up points again next fall in mountain biking. And besides, there's snow about!
This weekend I will be going hiking/sledding, and on Monday Carie and I are going to skip out of work and go skiing. Stay tuned for updates!
This weekend, we're supposed to get a storm coming through with a few inches of precip and snow level at 5000ft. Yay! Too bad I'll be in a bike race when it happens, but that means skiing for Presidents' Day weekend! My prayers have been answered!