ApproachThe traditional approach to the (East Fork of) Snow Creek route trespasses through one square mile of private property owned by the Desert Water Agency (DWA) -- specifically, section 33, which is demarcated on most maps. In 2010, the DWA started taking the trespassing issue very seriously. In light of this, it is recommended that climbers respect the DWA's property rights and avoid their property altogether.
The key to the approach is accessing the isthmus, which is the narrowest strip of land between Falls Creek and (the East Fork of) Snow Creek. One legal approach to this point involves ascending the ridge east of Falls Creek to the peak at ~4300 feet and then traversing directly to the isthmus.
Once at the isthmus, the following route description, taken from Snow Creek Route Notes by Bob Sumner, applies (edited by Miguel Forjan).
From the Isthmus, continue south up the ridge about 100-200 feet, then bear right following ducks through very heavy brush. Stay high above the creek and aim for a notch on the spur ridge to the west. From the notch, drop down 100 feet into a boulder-strewn gully. Follow this west 200 yards to a waterfall. Go up brush/dirt slopes to the right of the waterfall and continue west and up a few hundred feet to the ridgeline. From here you can see the snow tongue in Snow Creek. Aim right for it.......
Route DescriptionSnow Creek is one of the premier alpine climbs in Southern California. It also has a tremendous vertical gain of 9,600 feet in less than 5 horizontal miles.
The starting elevation is approx. 1,200 feet. From the start to about 5,700 feet, depending on the snowpack, it is all bushwacking and boulder hopping. Once you reach the snow tongue of Snow Creek you will need crampons and ice axe. Climb the remaining 5,100 feet of snow and or ice in one of the several chutes. You will encounter 35 to 45 degree snow slopes, with the angle increasing as you get near the top. Most people hike 2-3 hours to the tram for a ride down off the mountain.
Just a short note. This is not a beginner climb. The very long approach requires conditioning and considerable route finding to get into the canyon. The exposure on this route requires solid 4th class ability & low 5th.
Essential GearIce axe, crampons, helmet and gaiters. Bivy gear. A 50m rope if you choose to the classic 5.5 crux section on the right (west) side of the wall at about 30 feet downhill from the 5500' main chockstone/waterfall.
LinksCheating Death On Snow Creek (J.K. Vawter)
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Snow Creek Cab Ride (Joe LeMay)
Snow Creek in September 2004 (Jason Hollinger)
Red Tape(1) Avoid trespassing on section 33, which is the DWA's one square mile of private property.
(2) Obtain a San Jacinto Wilderness Permit.