Mt. Waterman (Alpine Touring), Apr. 21, 2020

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Mt. Waterman (Alpine Touring), Apr. 21, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Apr 21, 2020 10:03 pm

After my adventure at Mt. High the SoCal weather has been fairly cool with days about equally split between sunny and overcast. Saturday was one of the overcast days, so I decided to make a recon run up the Angeles Crest to see if there was anything I could ski, perhaps with Ben and Adam later. The ideal would be a car shuttle run of the 1,400 vertical Mt. Waterman slackcountry.

The bottom of that drainage was a jumble of boulders so I was discouraged.

The ski area itself looked much better.

There were a surprisingly large number of cars parked there, as at most trailheads on the Angeles Crest Saturday.

The cloud layer was usually between 4,500 and 6,500 feet, so Waterman's base was above it when I was there around 1PM. Most skiers were done by then, but there were plenty of hikers and snowplayers too.

Here are snowplayers at Kratka Ridge as the fog is moving in.

I drove on to the roadblock at Islip Saddle, where I met two backcountry skiers who has skied 8,200 foot Mt. Islip. They took 4 hours roundtrip via a gradual route east on the Pacific Crest Trail before ascending and skiing a bowl from Mt. Islip. It was pea soup when I was there Saturday so pointless to take pics.

SoCal's extended winter is coming to an end this week. Monday was the last overcast day and it will cross 80F Wednesday in the L.A. Basin and hit 90F by Friday. This told me that if I wanted to ski Mt. Waterman, I'd better do it Tuesday.

I arrived at Waterman parking lot about 8:45AM and had an extended conversation with a snowboarder who has been camping up there and riding most of the days since the Easter Week storms. Surprisingly the road to and past Mt. Waterman was plowed promptly unlike what Adam and I found at Mt. High April 11.

The boarder said the slackcountry was worth skiing and that he and a friend had spotted a car down there. He was ascending a road with occasional bare spots by snowshoe and was waiting awhile for snow to get softer. He inquired about other SoCal backcountry so I told him about Vincent Gap/Mt. Baden-Powell, Mt. Islip and San Gorgonio, explaining that the latter would need to be multiday camping rather than daytrip.

As I was so slow climbing Mt. High East, I thought I had better get going about 9:30. The direct face Robyn's (old school name #3) is quite steep, so not great for climbing with skins. So I ascended Ally Oop (old school name #1).

Views about 1/4 of the way up.


This is still at least single black pitch, so necessary to skin in switchbacks. It was probably good also that I used ski crampons for the first time since 2011.

Lower down the chair 1 rises over a rocky ravine but about 2/3 of the way up the trees near the lift spaced out over good snow cover at more intermediate pitch so I moved over there.

I'm close to the top of chair 1 now.

It took me an hour and a half to ascend chair 1. I felt OK so I continued up to the top of the mountain. At Mt. High East April 11 we were in a hurry to ski the fresh snow before it got baked. On a spring corn day I took my time to rest and have a snack. This was one of two other skiers who came by.

He and his buddy ahead were doing multiple runs as it's hard for me to figure why they were coming up hill from that direction. The top of Mt. Waterman is forested and relatively flat. If you follow gravity down the way that guy was coming up you end up in the San Gabriel River drainage with a very long hike out as I found out the hard way in 1992.

I changed to ski mode around 12:30PM and traversed/skated looker's right in the picture to get on the far NE facing side of Avalanche Canyon. This was my first line skiing down.


The timing was good. Shaded areas were a bit firm but this time of year and time of day it was easy to stay in sun in mostly supportable corn snow. The last picture above looks like I should tear it up, but I did not.
1) Though I felt better than at Mt. High I still needed rest stops.
2) I was in my AT boots this time (last used in Sept. 2015 at Las Lenas) and they really hurt when locked down in ski mode.
3) Taking this fall line all the way down will lead to a very tedious long gully exit. I knew I needed to traverse left to end up with a cleaner exit.

I traversed left twice and ended up in the proper fall line eventually though it would have been better to get in it higher up.


I finally ran out of snow after 1,220 vertical feet.

It's only 150 vertical from here to the road, which was barely visible though obscured by the foreground tree in the pic above.

The spotted car was still there but no sign of the skiers/riders. There was a family of snowplayers and the dad was nice enough to give me a ride to my car. I advised them to go farther up the road to Kratka Ridge which had a continuous 2-3 foot snowpack.

I drove up to Islip Saddle since it was sunny unlike Saturday. This is the west face of Mt. Islip above the top of Hwy 39.

A landslide closed the top of Hwy 39 in the winter of 1978 and the road has never been reopened.

Here the Pacific Crest Trail ascends switchbacks from Islip Saddle.

The sign says 8.1 miles to Mt. Baden Powell and 11.8 miles to Vincent Gap trailhead, where Hwy 2 is open from the east. That's a seriously steep trail, 2,800 vertical in 3.7 miles. I will not be attempting that with skis, though perhaps Adam and Ben will.

Back at Mt. Waterman the boarder was still his van waiting for his friend to drive up from the Avalanche Canyon dropoff. A beginner boarder was trying the lower pitch of Robyn's here.

I believe Robyn's will hold up at least through the weekend. It's north facing and steep so the sun is not that direct and it should melt gradually. The run I ascended on skins will likely not have continuous snow by the weekend, so I suspect bootpacking will be required for some of the ascent. The slackcountry was not wide open like when I first skied it at this time in 1983 with a very deep base, so I don't think that will be a great idea after the heat expected the rest of this week..
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Tony Crocker
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Re: Mt. Waterman (Alpine Touring), Apr. 21, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Apr 22, 2020 9:05 pm

The Baldy reopening discussion is moved here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=14215
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
Posts: 10683
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California

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