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.
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:
(the legendary Snow Creek expert)
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 Break In 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.
Approaching the Chokestone
The Tunnel In 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.
Another Break On 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 broken...it 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.
Third Class Section
3rd Class Part
Chokestone to the 7.400ft Fork
Gearing Up The 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.
7400ft Break Dave 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 Up Looking 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
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.
The Final Push Me 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 Out
Dave 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.
Group 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).
Back 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.
Summit 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.
Snow Creek Canyon First Light The Canyon Looking Back Down Ron and Paul Looking Back Up
Thanks for reading!