Summitpost Snow Creek Climb March 2009

Summitpost Snow Creek Climb March 2009

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 33.82672°N / 116.67789°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Mar 14, 2009
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Winter

How It Began (For Me)

When I first started to get into hiking and climbing, my only experiences had been up on Mt. San Jacinto, which I had done quite a few times. I would always look down to the many rock carved gullies and crevasses that carved Mt. San Jacinto's north face and would think to myself that it was impossible to climb something that sheer and steep.

When I fist joined Summitpost, I started browsing through different pictures and routes (which I still do wayyy to much) and came upon a route named Snow Creek that climbed up that steep north face of San Jacinto. I started checking it out and thought it would be a cool idea. It seemed like an objective way out of my grasp, but I thought that I would try to give it a shot and see what happens. On my first route page, an Sp'er named TacoDelRio suggested that I try and go up with Sp'er forjan. So I sent him a pm and hoped for the best. Miguel (as I later found out) said that he was going to take a group in in March 2009 and said that I could tag along, which made me real happy.

First thing was to get some more experience. Since my only mountain experiences came from hiking/backpacking and basic rock climbing, I needed to get some more experience on snow. I started off the 2008 winter season not having, crampons, snowshoes, and an ice axe. So those were going to be Christmas presents, which I ended up getting. I had been trying to go out a fair amount and ended up doing quite a few hikes/climbs locally on snow. So when the day neared, I felt well enough prepared to take on this grizzly 9,600ft couloir. I still had my doubts, but it was mental now.

The Plan

Miguel had been keeping close correspondence with those who wanted to attend. From the initial lists, there were at least 20 people who were going to come on the climb, however, less then half of those ended up coming. He presented the plans very nicely to all of us, which was to follow the basic way of climbing Snow Creek. We were going to start at 4:00am and climb all day, reach the summit, hike to the tram and then get a ride back to our cars.

The Summitpost Group:

Miguel (the legendary Snow Creek expert)




Alex (Me)




These are the people that ended up doing the climb. Great group of people!

On the day before, Gene and I had arranged to drive up to the out station at the start of Snow Creek and to camp there overnight in the back of his car. This was a great idea.I think almost everyone did this except one person.

In the Dark

Gene and I ended up leaving Temecula around 8:45pm on the 13th. We got to the Snow Creek start around 10:20ish (we thought the turnout was sooner, so we were offroading for a bit trying to look for it). Apparently, Gene hadn't packed yet, so he spent quite a while sorting out what stuff he wanted to bring for tomorrow morning. Right when we were about to go to bed, Dave and Deb pulled up (which was around 10:45ish). We said "hi" real quick and then tried to sleep in the back of Gene's Lexus. Thankfully, it wasn't that windy. We set our alarms for 3:30am.
Taking a BreakTaking a Break
In the DarkIn the Dark

At 3:30, me and Gene both jumped up and begin getting ready for the day. Everyone in our group was a whole lot faster in getting ready then me, so I was the last person ready. Right at 4:00am, we began the approach. We walked fast and quietly, and neared the first Desert Water Agency outpost. I was carrying my Spot Satellite Messenger that had a green flash every few seconds, which I had to cover up on the approach. We quietly pasted the first outpost in success and continuing onward up a small asphalt road. Mt. San Jacinto loomed in front of us in the dark, but it still seemed as if it was very far away. We began to approach more lights: the second DWA (Desert Water Agency) outpost. This called for even more caution and silence. We all made it by and then prepared for the bushwhacking ahead.

The trail was marked very nicely because there was a rescue almost a week before. So it was fairly easy following (it still wouldn't have been possible without Miguel at front). After hiking for a few miles, we took a break and waited for a little more light.
Snow Creek AlpenglowFirst Light

Approaching the Chokestone

The TunnelThe Tunnel
Steep PartsIn the Canyon

Snow Creek Canyon was now in sight. Also, it was beginning to get light out. We passed Falls Creek Canyon on the left side and saw a HUGE two tiered waterfall. It was spectacular to see. We took some pictures here and continued on to find the "tunnel" (of bushes). Apparently this is a key part in finding the route. We ran into a group of Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit (RMRU) People who were doing some training. Anyhow, they had gone off trail a little and Miguel told them the way back. Apparently they knew Miguel as the legendary Snow Creek guide. We finished the first bushwhacking escapade and made it down into Snow Creek Canyon. Here we took around an hour break, which I utilized to put moleskin on my hurting feet.

Taking a BreakAnother Break
Getting CloserOn Rock

We filled up with water and then loaded up (I was the last one ready again). I later learned that I left my sunglasses at this resting spot....If anyone finds sunglasses in this area it would be appreciated if they sent me a pm. We began the boulder hopping which leads up to the chokestone. While I was trying to cross the creek in a spot, my camera case (with the camera inside) fell into the creek. I was very disappointed by this, but I retrieved it and pulled the battery out and the memory card and put it in the pack and hoped that it would dry out. This is where my pictures stop at.

Update on Camera: It is now official survived two more trips after it's epic on Snow Creek, but now its done. 5-2-09

We arrived at the Class 3 bypass to the chokestone. I thought it was just a simple traverse across the side, but this was a long bushwhack up and over. We made it through this and then continued down into the Snow Creek proper.
The ChokestoneThe Chokestone

3rd Class BypassThird Class Section

Climbing Up3rd Class Part

Chokestone to the 7.400ft Fork

Above the ChokestoneGearing Up
The Climb BeginsThe Begining

We all pulled out our crampons, ice axes and helmets and began the toilsome climb upwards. It was easy going at first, but that soon changed. Miguel, Paul, and Ron all pulled pretty far ahead and left the rest of us behind. We kept climbing upwards and passed a large crevasse in the snow. I began to feel the heat of the climb, Snow Creek was a VERY tough climb, physically and mentally. I hadn't eaten that much that whole morning, so my energy was running low. I was praying for a break.
Well Deserved Break7400ft Break
Dave and DebDave and Deb

Meanwhile, snow and little bits of debris kept whizzing by us in the couloir. Most of it was small stuff, but there were a few larger rocks mixed with an occasional pine cone that would come hurling by. So that kept us on our toes. Finally, looking up, I saw that Miguel, Ron and Paul were taking a break. Steve had passed me too, so he was up there quite a bit. Gene was close by to me and Dave and Deb pulled up the rear and were taking it easy. I was very relieved to make it to that break spot. I began downing as much food as possible and drank quite a bit of Gatorade. I already felt my strength coming back.

7.400ft Fork to the 8,400ft Fork

Looking UpLooking Up
Looking DownLooking Down

Being the last one ready again, we left and continued our climb once more. I felt sooooo much better for this part. It still wasn't easy going, but it was definitely easier. We began to gain quite a bit more elevation, which makes sense when your climbing 40 degree snow. Miguel, Ron and Paul were up there quite a bit. This time, I was hanging with Steve, and Gene was close behind. Dave and Deb were still behind, but they were continuing up steadily.

8,400ft Fork to the Summit

The Last Fork9100ft Fork

From this breaking point, the summit block of San Jacinto seemed just a hop, skip and a jump away. But Miguel assured me that we still had LOTS of climbing left, which was very true. This time, we broke up into two groups. Miguel, Paul, Ron, Steve and me were up front while Gene, Deb, and Dave took up the back. The elevation really began to kick in here. Coming up to around 9,000ft, lots of debris began to fall constantly around us. Higher up the route, we could see a group of skiers casually coming down. I had found out from the Mt. San Jacinto Message Board earlier that a guy named Brad was going to be leading a group of people down on skis. So I assumed that was him. When they approached, turns out, it was. Brad was on a Snowboard and had about 4 skiers with him. We stopped and exchanged a few words and they continued down the couloir while we went up.
A SkierA Skier

Ron, Paul and SteveThe Final Push
Me Climbing UpMe Climbing Upwards

I began to lag behind quite a bit and began feeling weak again. So I took my own little break and pulled out some food and downed the rest of my Gatorade. Feeling revived again, I attempted to catch up with Miguel, Paul, Ron and Steve. I began booking it up the last couloir, passing one of the RMRU people. Also, I passed Robb, who was climbing up with skis and then proceeded to ski down. You can see the his trip report HERE.

The snow in the last section was crap. It was all sugary and very unstable, which made this last part pretty difficult. The snow had been fabulous all day, but this last part was bad. Miguel, Paul, and Ron were atop the summit already while I was still in the last couloir. I had managed to catch up with Steve and pass him (he let me pass to take a picture). We summited around 3:30ish after being on the move ALL day. Dave, Deb and Gene came up at around 4:00.
Ron Topping OutRon Topping Out

Dave and DebDave and Deb

We were all happy to have summited and looked back down on what we had just done. It was quite the climb. There was a group of guys who had come up from the tram, but they left before Dave, Deb and Gene got up. Also, it was cool to see Robb (the skier) drop into the couloir and head back down Snow Creek.
Summit ShotGroup Summit Shot

Summit Back to the Tram

After hanging out atop the summit with PERFECT conditions for long enough, we decided to call it a day and head back to the tram. I really wanted to bag Miller Peak because its the only 10k peak I hadn't done in the area, but I opted out of it. We had a very nice glissade down, which saved quite a bit of time. We all managed to break up into our own little groups on the way back to the tram. I was with Dave, Deb, and Miguel and the other group had Steve, Paul, Ron and Gene. Me and Miguel broke out of our group and met the other group right at the ranger station. Dave and Deb showed up a little bit afterward. We all went inside got a table and had some drinks (I had water of course and so did Gene).
All SmilesBack at Last

We were all trying to figure out logistics on getting back to our cars. Gene and Steve decided to head down and go get there cars at Snow Creek via taxis. I went down with them, but stayed at the lower tram station. Gene was coming back to give people rides back to their cars, but we ended up just giving Dave a ride down. Since Dave and Deb live in Temecula, I decided to go back with him. They had brought two cars up in order to leave one at Snow Creek and the other at the Tram Station, but apparently, the gate on the Tram road closes around 10, so they had to leave their car at the museum.

Gene was very tired, so he decided to spend the night in his car that night in a neighborhood. I went with Dave and Deb to get their other car at Snow Creek along with the other guys.

Excitment Isn't Over Yet

We had a little issue with the DWA. If you want more information regarding this, send me a pm and I will tell you what happened.

Looking Back

Summit ShotSummit Shot of Me

I am really glad I did this climb. It was a very good intro for me into real mountaineering, along with my friend Gene. The people we went with were first class and I was very happy to be climbing along side of them. I have a respect for Snow Creek now. Thanks to Miguel for organizing the trip and thank you everyone who went for being such good company. I hope this is not the last time I will be able to experience this route.

More Pictures-
Snow Creek WaterfallsSnow Creek Canyon
Rock OutcroppingsFirst Light
Before the ChokestoneThe Canyon
Looking DownLooking Back Down
Ron and Paul (Not Ron Paul)Ron and Paul
Looking Back UpLooking Back Up

Thanks for reading!


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-20 of 42
Cy Kaicener

Cy Kaicener - Mar 21, 2009 4:37 am - Hasn't voted

Awesome Snow Creek

Thanks for a great trip report and pictures. I am glad everyone made it safely and were all technically proficient. I think future trips may have to go around the village and water agency.
This has to be a record for the number of people on one day.

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - Mar 22, 2009 1:40 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Awesome Snow Creek

No problem! Yup, it was a great group to be with, especially with Miguel. That might need to happen, or we were thinking you could summit via the Tram and then go down Snow Crekk and then back up...which would be even more of a hassle... And yes, there were quite a few people up on the route- its one of the best routes in SoCal. Thanks for the comments!


Deb - Mar 21, 2009 6:10 pm - Voted 10/10

Great Job!

Love the write-up and enjoyed climbing with you. I don't mind being tail-end Charlie; I know slow and steady gets me there in one piece. :) Hope your camera came back to life after it's chilly swim.

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - Mar 22, 2009 1:43 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Great Job!

Thanks Deb! It was nice climbing with you and your husband too!Yup, I don't blame you, it was quite the climb. Thanks, its almost back to still spazzes out every once and awhile, but at least I have a camera.

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - Mar 22, 2009 1:45 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Good stuff

Thanks Ryan! I took me long enough to do, so its nice to hear good comments. I can't take credit for all the pictures though. Cheers!


MoapaPk - Mar 22, 2009 12:04 pm - Voted 10/10


I enjoyed the conversational, candid, non-heroic tone. There is something neat about driving from a desert terrain, then doing a snow climb when everyone else is sweltering below.

Since this activity does involve trespassing... should the naming of names be more subtle?

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - Mar 22, 2009 5:22 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice

Thanks for the comment! I guess all those English classes are beginning to pay off. It was quite the experience. I entertained that same idea myself (I almost didn't post this TP due to that fact), but I have told everyone about the TP (those who went with us) and they can tell me if they don't want their names on here. For the most part, it seems that other climbers haven't been to cautious with giving out names, so I was kinda going with that... but I do see your point. Cheers!


BobSmith - Mar 22, 2009 12:20 pm - Voted 10/10


bit of work. Nice that you were able to hook up with experienced folk who were so good to you.

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - Mar 22, 2009 5:23 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great

Thanks! It was nice. I definitely learned alot too. Thanks for the comment!


farrisgl - Mar 22, 2009 1:03 pm - Voted 10/10

Excellent Report

Reading this is getting me very interested in doing this route.

Thanks for writing it.

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - Mar 22, 2009 5:27 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Excellent Report

Thank you! Snow Creek is definitely worth the effort. Its an amazing route, especially for Southern California. I still need to do Baldy a couple more times to catch up with you =) Cheers!


farrisgl - Mar 23, 2009 9:52 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Excellent Report

Your welcome.

Now that we have moved to Palm Springs, San Jacinto is my new "hobby hill". With the snow depth subsiding, I want to start training on the skyline trail. Hopefully doing my second ascent later this week.

Maybe snow creek next year.

Thanks again for the great report.

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - Mar 24, 2009 11:07 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Excellent Report

Thats pretty cool.... I wanna try to do the Skyline soon, so maybe we could try hiking it together. Cheers!


farrisgl - Mar 24, 2009 7:07 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Excellent Report

Sure thing. I sent you my contact information in a personal email.



fortybelow - Mar 22, 2009 1:26 pm - Voted 10/10

nice job!

grats on climbing Snow creek! Great pictures aswell gave me a really good idea of what the 3rdclass climbing part looks like. Your really lucky to get a knowledgable group like that! Pretty scary stuff with DWA though. =/

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - Mar 22, 2009 5:29 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: nice job!

Thanks! If you get the chance, I would definitely try and do the route. Yeah it was, but hopefully nothing will come out of it. Thanks for stopping by!


bajaandy - Mar 22, 2009 2:12 pm - Voted 10/10

On my list.

Nice trip report! I've been wanting to do this one for a while now. That was one big group you guys had there. I can see why the water authority is getting it's panties in a wad. Someone is going to have to scout out an alternative approach.

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - Mar 22, 2009 5:31 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: On my list.

Thank you! I think in years past, Miguel has lead even more people up (I think it was 10 or 13 people a year before)...but there was just alot of other people up on the route. People have been talking about doing another approach, but, it would take alot of work to put another trail in. Maybe the climbers can work something out with the DWA, I doubt it though. Thanks for the comments!


Bascuela - Mar 22, 2009 2:52 pm - Hasn't voted


That was a fun read, adding that route to my list. Thanks!

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - Mar 22, 2009 5:33 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Cool

Thanks! You should definitely try it some time. Its a one of a kind route. Hopefully you won't get any crap for the DWA. Cheers!

Viewing: 1-20 of 42