3rd times a charm, what does that mean? It’s often an expression used in common passing. In this case, it was my jaunt up San Jacinto’s North Face route Snow Creek. I had my first attempt at Snow Creek about a year ago with a whole gaggle of people (see Taco’s trip report here) but was unsuccessful due to packing way to much stuff, and my knee was giving me problems. During this trip, I was so exhausted coming back down off the hike that I decided, screw the caretaker, and I walked right by his house, and yes, I’m still alive today to tell the story. My second attempt was about two weeks ago with two of my buddies. We made great time, but once we got on top of the Isthmus, we got lost and didn’t find the tunnel to get us into the gully. We ended up dropping down way to low into the wrong canyon. Time was not on our side so we turned around. Being that Miguel Forgan is a Snow Creek expert, I talked him into doing the route 10days before he’s going back to do it again with a large group of people. So Miguel, Tony and I set out at 3:50am from Tony’s house in Rancho towards the Power Utility Station…
Power Station to Chockstone
Miguel and Jon gaining the first ridge
Tony, Miguel and Falls Creek
The Very Important Tunnel at 4000ft
We pulled into the power station lot around 4:45am. It was WINDY. After gearing up, the three of us started down Snow Creek Rd. After walking for about 5 min. Tony realized he didn’t have his helmet. “I was looking at your bags and was like, where the heck are your helmets.” He rushed back to the car, and we were back on our way. As we started down Falls Creek Rd. towards the Caretakers house, I pointed out that I have had to hike down TWICE off the Isthmus and I thought the whole Caretaker thing was a bluff. After some quick debate, we decided to try to walk past the caretaker’s house. THIS WAS PROBABLY THE BEST DECISION WE MADE ALL DAY. Not only did it save a bunch of time, but saved a grip of energy that would have been used bolder hopping around the creek. We started ascending the ridge right around 6am. We made good time going up, as we hit the well-used trail early on. We followed this up to Falls Creek where we took our 2nd brief break. As we hit the trail again, we noticed that the trail was very well marked with Cairns. In fact, the night before the trip, we were forwarded articles of how there had been a rescue from RMRU off Snow Creek. (See SummitPost Forum ThreadWe assumed that SAR marked the trail for themselves. Regardless, THANKS to whoever put those up. They led us straight to the Tunnel! At 4,000ft, the Tunnel is the most crucial part of the route to find. If you don’t find this, you may as well turn around, which I have much experience doing! This well cut path goes right around and over the ridge dropping you into the gully. After quickly climbing through there we made it to Snow Creek Proper at around 9am. It took us about an hour from the beginning of the Tunnel to Snow Creek Proper. Here we took an hour break, relaxed as the sun started coming on us and warmed us up quite a bit, ate and refilled all our waters. At this point I already drank 4 liter’s of water.
Chockstone to Summit
Tony & Jon
Miguel & Snow Creek
After our well deserved break and trying to warm our hands up after filling our bottles with ice cold water, we set off for the chockstones 3rd class bypass. After scrambling through the trees, we popped out a little high, but down climbed and were on the snow. After putting on the crampons, helmets and getting out the axes, we set off. Miguel led the way and set a good pace. Unfortunately he went a little too fast and climbed right over a snow bridge where a huge crack in the snow slab had occurred. Tony took some time examining it and crawled into the crack. He came out with a pair of black diamond crampons! Guess it pays to explore underground snow caves and cracks! We then set out again. Miguel’s pace is insane so he took off (notice the pictures looking down at Tony and me, all taken by Miguel) We made good time to the 7400ft fork and took a small break. We started again and kept moving. I got a text from my wife that it was raining in Ontario/Rancho so I tried to pick up the pace as much as possible. We knew going into this day that we’d be racing against the weather clock and storms were heading our way. We reached the next fork and it was probably around 3pm. I figured heck, were not that far from the summit, we’ll be there in no time. Gosh am I an idiot! Being that this was my first snow creek success, of course Miguel decided to explore a new route to the summit. Instead of going left at the final fork, he went right, which took us right below the summit blocks so required some solid 4th class climbing, with crampons in extremely soft snow. Take a giant step, all the snow collapses, right back where you started but with less energy than before. The final 800ft were the killer part and I ran out of my 3liters in my camelbak so was very thirsty and hungry. After a final push, I made it to the summit where I was greeted with Tony’s wahoooooooo! After I reached the summit we were there for about 3 minutes, time for me to get out my PP&J, get some water, pass around my flask of Tequila for a victory shot, and headed off the windy summit! Clouds were closing in on us so we needed to get back to the tram and fast! It’s amazing how exhausted you can be while you’re going up, but coming down, I felt fine and had all sorts of energy again. We reached the tram station at 7:05pm, 5min after a tram left so had to wait until 7:30pm tram. A cab was waiting for us by 7:45pm when we got down to the lower tram station. We were back to Tonys car at the Power Utility Station just around 8pm. We stopped at Carls Jr. in Banning for some greesy grub and were back in Rancho around 9:30pm, and I was home by 10pm.
Tony & Jon at the 2nd Fork
Miguel Leading The Way Up Snow Creek
Jon & Tony, summit of Mt. San Jacinto around 5pm
Tony, Miguel and Jon at the tram station after a 14hr day
Day's recap, woke up at 2:45am to have breakfast, left my house at 3:15am, started hiking at 5am, summited San Jacinto at 5pm, tram at 7pm, home by 10pm. LONG DAY! Happy and safe climbing! =)
The crampons and crampon bag have been returned to their rightful owner. They belong to one of the rescuers from the day before. He said they were blown off of some rocks when the chopper came in to pick them up. I'm sure he will be needing them for more rescues up there in the months to come.