Gorgonio/Jepson Saddle

Page Type
California, United States, North America
Route Type:
Mountaineering, Skiing
Spring, Winter
Time Required:
One to two days
Various snow climbs: 30-45 degrees

Route Quality: 1 Votes

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Gorgonio/Jepson Saddle
Created On: Jun 27, 2008
Last Edited On: Jun 27, 2008


The lesser-appreciated mountain by the many hikers that strive for San Gorgonio's summit every year, Jepson in fact has a multitude of interesting couloirs on its north and eastern flanks. In addition to the couloirs on the north side, those on the east side of the summit running toward the Jepson / San Gorgonio saddle offer additional climbing and skiing.

Getting There

Follow the directions on the main page to South Fork Trailhead:
From I-10 in Redlands take the University exit north to Lugonia Street (route 38). Follow route 38 east passing the Forest Falls turn-off and the small town of Angeles Oaks. About 6 miles past Angeles Oaks turn right on Jenks Lake Road. Go about 3 miles to the large hiker/trailhead parking on your left.

Make sure to bring your adventure pass ($5/day, $30/year, or valid NPS annual pass). There can be snow down to this road and well past it in the winter, be prepared.


Follow the Dry Lake trail as best you can up to the lake. In the winter, the trail actually does not take the best route, so use your common sense.

Jepson Peak / San Gorgonio BowlApproaching the bowl between Gorgonio and Jepson

If there is a lot of snow, the best choice is probably to stay in the well-treed gully wash leading up the South Fork to Dry Lake rather than turning east (left) uphill to follow the switchbacks.

When there is partial snow (this route is best in the spring, I think!) the switchbacks can be quite difficult because the snow patches in the trees on the switchbacks are steep and icy from the tree shade.

Once at Dry Lake, head up the wash to the west of the lake and follow it until the bowl between San Gorgonio's west slopes and Jepson's east slopes. There are good opportunities to rest and eat in the trees before heading into more exposed areas.

Route Description

Climbing in East Jepson BowlApproaching the top of one of the middle couloirs. Yum, curdly.

From the bowl, you have a whole selection of routes to choose from, including those going off to climber's left up San Gorgonio itself.

The steepest couloirs are obviously more left toward Jepson's summit, and those get quite rocky and nasty in the spring. The most gentle couloir (30 degrees-ish) is the one right at the end of the bowl - leading up toward the saddle itself. This retains its snow well into the spring.

Ridgewalk to Jepson Peak SummitThe summit ridge at the top of the couloirs in early spring

The couloirs get progressively steeper toward the left - it is easy to see once you get there what is climbable and what is not, and as the easiest couloir keeps its snow the longest you always have a 'bail out' way up.

So basically, pick your coloir, and climb it!

When you get to the top, it is a simple and beautiful ridge walk to the main summit.

Essential Gear

These couloirs are on the wind loaded side of the ridge, so be prepared with your avalanche smarts, partners, and prepardness. Unfortunately, there isn't an avalanche bulletin for Southern California, but you can try calling ski patrol at Mount Baldy to see what they say about conditions. Also, be sure to check the bulletin board at sgwa.org, sometimes experienced people post there with snow conditions.

Otherwise, a simple assortment of snow gear like axe, crampons, helmet (esp in those rocky couloirs) and good timing will do fine.

External Links

External trip report in May conditions

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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Blair - May 30, 2010 2:23 pm - Hasn't voted

The Big Draw

You should add that the Gorgonio/jepson saddle is better known as The Big Draw. Your description is correct as it is the saddle of these two peaks, but for clarity please add that as a name maybe in parenthesis in the title.

This large north facing bowl was named the Big Draw back in the early ski touring years in the 1950's and the term 'The Big Draw' has been used since before the with early snow study teams going back to the upper bowls.

The 1st map that shows The Big Draw labled was the 1971 San Gorgonio Wilderness Defenders map, and has been commonly referred to since.

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