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Mt. San Jacinto

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Mt. San Jacinto

Postby Jedi5150 » Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:50 pm

Hello all, new guy here. I'm looking to do my first solo winter backpacking trip towards the end of March. One of the places I'm looking at is Mt. San Jacinto SP. I'd be taking the aerial tram up from Palm Springs (the wife and kids would be hanging out there). I'm thinking about a 2-3 day max trip. I'm not looking to actually summit on Mt. San Jacinto because I have zero winter climbing skills (and even fewer summer climbing skills :lol: ). This is mainly for a sort of shakedown trip to see what works and what doesn't. I'm pretty set on gear, I have decent cold weather clothing, bag, pads, etc.

I'm looking for advice on things specific to this area (such as is the ranger station at the top of the tram open in winter to get a pass), what weather I can expect, etc. I know they rent snowshoes up on top, so that should work for the hiking part of it. I was thinking of simply hiking to Round Valley or somehwere similar and camping for a night or two, before returning.

As for stoves, I could use a little schooling on the benefits of each. I already own an Ezbit stove, an MSR Whisperlite International, and a Snow Peak Giga Power stove. So in other words I have one of each of the three major types (what can I say, I'm a gear junky). I'm not a chef by any means...I simply boil water. I bought the Whisperlite because I can use the same gas I put in my motorcycle for my road trips. But do either the liquid fuels or the gas fueled stoves have advantages such as how long they last, performance at altitude, etc? Secondly, is it safe to cook inside a vestibule? I know it would obviously depend on the height and size of the vestuble, but provided it's a big one, can you cook under it?

Thanks in advance for any advice. I know by my questioning it is fairly obvious I'm new to backpacking in general and winter backpacking in specific. I've done only a few overnight backpacking trips so far.
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Re: Mt. San Jacinto

Postby luzak00 » Mon Feb 20, 2012 3:16 am

White gas is best in the cold - canister stoves like your Giga Power really die down below freezing, and you'll need several Esbit tabs just to boil water (melting snow is a PITA) and it takes a very long time.

I never recommend cooking inside the vestibule. Especially with white gas stoves (hello, ball of flame). With that said, plenty of folks do.
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Re: Mt. San Jacinto

Postby Alex Wood » Mon Feb 20, 2012 4:16 am

Jedi5150 wrote:Hello all, new guy here. I'm looking to do my first solo winter backpacking trip towards the end of March. One of the places I'm looking at is Mt. San Jacinto SP. I'd be taking the aerial tram up from Palm Springs (the wife and kids would be hanging out there). I'm thinking about a 2-3 day max trip. I'm not looking to actually summit on Mt. San Jacinto because I have zero winter climbing skills (and even fewer summer climbing skills :lol: ). This is mainly for a sort of shakedown trip to see what works and what doesn't. I'm pretty set on gear, I have decent cold weather clothing, bag, pads, etc.

I'm looking for advice on things specific to this area (such as is the ranger station at the top of the tram open in winter to get a pass), what weather I can expect, etc. I know they rent snowshoes up on top, so that should work for the hiking part of it. I was thinking of simply hiking to Round Valley or somehwere similar and camping for a night or two, before returning.

As for stoves, I could use a little schooling on the benefits of each. I already own an Ezbit stove, an MSR Whisperlite International, and a Snow Peak Giga Power stove. So in other words I have one of each of the three major types (what can I say, I'm a gear junky). I'm not a chef by any means...I simply boil water. I bought the Whisperlite because I can use the same gas I put in my motorcycle for my road trips. But do either the liquid fuels or the gas fueled stoves have advantages such as how long they last, performance at altitude, etc? Secondly, is it safe to cook inside a vestibule? I know it would obviously depend on the height and size of the vestuble, but provided it's a big one, can you cook under it?

Thanks in advance for any advice. I know by my questioning it is fairly obvious I'm new to backpacking in general and winter backpacking in specific. I've done only a few overnight backpacking trips so far.


Late March in the San Jacinto area is typically more icy. I would suggest crampons (you can rent them at REI I believe, I don't know if they have them for rent at the ranger station or in the area). Whether or not it is icy just depends on the snow year. If this year keeps up the way it has been going, I would say that crampons would be the way to go. The three times I have done winter jaunts in the area I have only used crampons. Late dumps of snow are not uncommon though. For the most current conditions, I would recommend checking this site--->http://www.mtsanjacinto.info/ They have lots of really good updated information and are a really great resource about the area.

If you have any more specific questions hit me with them. I could ramble on forever about San Jacinto
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Re: Mt. San Jacinto

Postby Jedi5150 » Mon Feb 20, 2012 4:44 am

Luzak, thanks for the info on stoves. The Whisperlite sounds like the best option for winter hiking.

Alex, I appreciate the info on crampons. I didn't know REI rents them. I've never been to San Jacinto in the winter, so I wasn't sure what to expect snow-wise. I know in the Sierras lately it seems like the end of March is still the dead of winter. I've been hiking in 4' deep snow in June the past couple years in the Sierras. I'll check out that link you provided.
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Re: Mt. San Jacinto

Postby lilbitmo » Mon Feb 20, 2012 5:22 am

Jedi5150

Here's another place to get up to date information on what's going on in and around the Mount San Jacinto Area - http://www.mtsanjacinto.info/ and tram weather and info here - http://www.pstramway.com/weekly-planner.html

There's a large number of hiker/climber/snow shoe'rs that talk on the above message board that can give you up to the day answers on conditions and what's needed when you go.

Have fun with the family
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Re: Mt. San Jacinto

Postby Stockwell » Mon Feb 20, 2012 6:17 pm

Jedi5150 wrote:I'm not looking to actually summit on Mt. San Jacinto because I have zero winter climbing skills (and even fewer summer climbing skills :lol: ).


I find this silly. San Jacinto was my first ascent of a larger peak during winter. I did it in November last year with two buddies of mine all of which we had no winter experience. Besides the words of Freedom of the Hills stuck in my head, a full pack, and a well put together outfit we had a spectacular day, summited and returned to the car from the Marion Mountain trail in 1 day.

If you are going from the PS Tramway and are planning on a 2-3 day outing. I would highly suggest attempting a summit push. It is a BEAUTIFUL peak. Read through Freedom of the Hills to get a good idea of base knowledge for winter travel. San Jacinto is a populated enough and tame enough mountain to go for the glory IMO, I did it with 3-4 feet and ice on the trail; on the Marion mountain trail and as far as winter gear goes, we waterproofed our suede leather boots, brought along gaiters, and 1 ski pole for each of us. I would suggest snowshoes and or microspikes.

I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to experience the gratitude of summiting your first winter and I can promise you San Jacinto is a fine peak to be your first. Just keep an eye on weather, and bring a map and compass. People have and do get lost up there. Also watch out for wind advisories, they have been popping up there now and again lately.

Have a great trip!
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Re: Mt. San Jacinto

Postby Jedi5150 » Mon Feb 20, 2012 8:13 pm

Thanks for the links Lilbitmo.

Stockwell, I appreciate the tip. I've hiked up there on day hikes in the summer, but never gone to the summit. I just guessed that it would be more technical than my abilities, but maybe not. And thanks for the book recommendation. I'll pick up a copy right away.
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Re: Mt. San Jacinto

Postby deungsan » Tue Feb 21, 2012 3:28 pm

I did this trip--solo to the summit in winter--a few years ago. It was my first time hiking on San Jacinto.

Had a white gas stove, ax, snowshoes with steel crampons built in, four season tent, map, compass, gps, etc.

Beautiful scenery, great photos, lots of solitude. I saw only two other climbers and ... a ranger.

Which brings me to my tidbit of advice:

Make sure you know where you will camp. When I went, the snow was 5-6 feet deep, and I couldn't see much in the way of landmarks.

Did see the roof of one outhouse size building but kept going in search of signs of the campground. Didn't see any, so I set up my tent in a good spot.

On the way down from the summit the next morning, I met a ranger. He said not only had I missed the campground (should have stopped near that outhouse) but I was permitted for the other campground. Seems there are two up there...

Then he said I could be fined some ungodly amount--$300 or some such. But he let me off with a warning.

Still fun, though. Get the proper gear and experience and go.
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Re: Mt. San Jacinto

Postby esmith » Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:17 pm

There should be very little snow in Mt Jacinto area right now. This has been an extremely dry winter, especially in southern CA. Just yesterday I was checking the site of a nordic ski area near Big Bear (elevation 7000') and it was saying that they were still closed on account of having only 9″ of powder snow on the ground.

Crampons should come useful. REIs vary in terms of gear that they rent. I've checked with REI in San Diego and they did not have crampons. If you look here

http://www.rei.com/stores/rentals.html

crampons probably come under "Mountaineering gear". The only REIs that have mountaineering gear rentals in SoCal are the ones in Tusting and Huntington Beach.
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