Mt. High East (Alpine Touring), Apr. 11, 2020

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Mt. High East (Alpine Touring), Apr. 11, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Apr 11, 2020 11:04 pm

In late March Adam began considering touring options in SoCal with the lifts shut down. 9,399 foot Mt. Baden-Powell is one possible spring objective. He scouted the road access March 28 as I did April 1. The distance view of the north face of Baden-Powell looks enticing:
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The switchback trail on the map from Route 2 to Mt. Baden-Powell starts at Vincent Gap, which is at 6,535 feet.
Big Pines Map.jpg

It's steep, so a rigorous climb with skis, and snow cover in spring is often inadequate for skinning at lower elevation.

Both of us found Route 2 gated 2 1/2 miles short of Vincent Gap.
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So both of us walked the hour to Vincent Gap.
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Notice the steep hillside with patchy snow rising to the left from the parking lot. That's where the Baden-Powell trail starts. Notice also the Caltrans car on the road. The driver turned a sign around and opened the road a few minutes later. I arrived at 2PM but if I had been an hour later I could have driven to Vincent Gap and reconned the road beyond its closed gate. :twisted:

Between Big Pines and Vincent Gap is the Blue Ridge scenic overlook at 7,300 feet.
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There are quite a few people there for a Wednesday afternoon though the weather was very nice. The east face of Baden-Powell is in the background. On the map Blue Ridge is at the intersection of Route 2 (yellow) and a fire road drivable in summer that goes east past the top of both West and East sides of Mountain High.

Here's the bottom of Mt. High East as I drove out April 1.
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This week's weather reset winter. It was the biggest snowstorm of the season in the San Gabriel mountains and the biggest storm in April since 1999. Mountain High latest updated Thursday morning with 34 inches storm total but it snowed all day Thursday with Big Bear reporting 6 more inches.

So I had a new plan which I ran by Adam and one of his friends: Drive to Blue Ridge and skin the easy fire road to the top of Mt. High East. There were two potential problems. That much new snow might close the road past Big Pines and the snow might become difficult with predicted sun Saturday.

Adam and I decided on Saturday since he was working Friday (he can work from home) and that allowed more time to clear the road. All week long the Caltrans website and phone said Route 2 remained open "5 miles west of Big Pines." Nonetheless Adam found the road closed when he arrived at 7:30AM. I arrived 15 minutes later and we drive to the gated road at the base of Mt. High West, where an employee said the public was not allowed anywhere there.

Mt. High East's stepchild status means that no one is there to enforce restrictions.
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Notice tracks from Friday in Olympic Bowl. There's also a skin track at far right on Goldrush, so that where we decided to go.
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View toward Cajon Pass about halfway up:
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I have not done this in a long time so I was slow. It took me two hours to skin the 1,170 vertical feet. Adam got up there 45 minutes ahead of me.
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As it was 10:30 the snow was already heavy in the sun so we were not tempted to climb the last 500 vertical to the top.
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I just missed getting a picture of the snowboarders making those tracks.

We are going to put the first tracks on Sundance/Wildcard.
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My DPS Wailer112 skis kept me out of trouble but there was still some effort making clean turns. The shady patches far skier's right were more powdery. I had to take a couple of rest breaks and never had the camera out when Adam was skiing.

Our tracks on the last pitch of Sundance:
IMG_5812a.JPG


With the road closed, Adam's friend was right. Friday would have been the better day. But any ski day is a victory under the current COVID-19 circumstances.
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
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Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Mt. High East (Alpine Touring), Apr. 11, 2020

Postby jojo_obrien » Sun Apr 12, 2020 8:05 am

well first of all,Tony, good on you for the effort! i bet it took all but .......2 minutes to ski down LOL

it's been a tough March and April here in SoCal. looking back at the last ....just say 10 years, this March and April have been unreal in terms of natural snow. with the exception of the past 2 years, it's been a very dry past decade . 2010 was the last really good year .

i guess my question is -- were you afraid a sheriff would possibly fine you guys? i assume you just parked in the parking lot?

i wanted to hike up snow valley yesterday but they're pretty specific about no trespassing and furthermore, the sheriff is out enforcing no snow play (meaning tickets for parking outside of snow valley's parking lot for sure).

watching it snow would be like looking at a 5 foot flawless wave in 82 degree water without a surfboard.......truly hell!

it rained 4.7" in my house in Arrowhead on Monday and Tuesday and then snow on Wed night/ Thurs. I'm taking a guess that Snow Valley must have gotten 2-3 feet at 8000 ft. slide peak would be truly once in a lifetime type of skiing. there was basically no wind on Wed/Thurs - so i'm sure the snow condition was incredible (for SoCal). probably the same for Baldy.
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looking at cucamonga peak
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my truck on thursday
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view from my deck
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Re: Mt. High East (Alpine Touring), Apr. 11, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Apr 12, 2020 5:40 pm

jojo_obrien wrote:well first of all,Tony, good on you for the effort! i bet it took all but .......2 minutes to ski down LOL

It should have been but I had to stop and rest twice. It was very strange. The uphill was not uncomfortable but it took longer that it would have a few years ago. I have no particular aches and pains today either. Every once in awhile I get reminded that I'm not getting any younger.

jojo_obrien wrote:It's been a tough March and April here in SoCal. looking back at the last ....just say 10 years, this March and April have been unreal in terms of natural snow. with the exception of the past 2 years, it's been a very dry past decade . 2010 was the last really good year .

40 inches in March vs. 25 inches average for SoCal is nice but not exceptional. About 1/5 of Marches have had more, topped by 102 inches in 1991 and 90 in 1983. 40 in April is unusual, only exceeded and just barely in 1975 and 1999. But check out this data from Mt. Baldy Notch in the 1960's and scroll down the left frame to select Monthly Snowfall Totals. Over 100 inches in April in both 1965 and 1967! With the wind Baldy Notch can't be a good place to measure snow accurately, but LA rainfall was 6.07 inches in April 1965 and 4.17 inches in April 1967 vs. average just under an inch. LA rainfall last week was 3.00 inches, bringing the season total to just above average.

jojo_obrien wrote:i guess my question is -- were you afraid a sheriff would possibly fine you guys? i assume you just parked in the parking lot?

The Mt. High employee who said the public was not allowed at West said explicitly that Forest Service land was open. The East parking lot was chained off and not plowed. The same guy said we couldn't park in front of the chain and had to park on the road. The road in front of East had No Parking signs but there was room to park outside the white road line. Parking was explicitly allowed on the road near West's exit driveway so we put one car up there and took our chances parking one car by East. There were maybe 5 other cars parked near East when we left about 11:30.

We have at least a decade of observing Mt. High concentrating on West and leaving East alone unless there is a natural snow opening, so I wasn't concerned about skiing there, just about a possible parking ticket which we did not get.

jojo_obrien wrote:It rained 4.7" in my house in Arrowhead on Monday and Tuesday and then snow on Wed night/ Thurs. I'm taking a guess that Snow Valley must have gotten 2-3 feet at 8000 ft. slide peak would be truly once in a lifetime type of skiing. There was basically no wind on Wed/Thurs - so I'm sure the snow condition was incredible (for SoCal).

No question the big storm was Monday, 30 of the week total 40 inches. Slide Peak is really exposed to both wind and sun. Does it ever run during storms? The sun would have zapped the snow fast on Saturday morning just as it did at Mt. High East.

jojo_obrien wrote: probably the same for Baldy.

I have renewed appreciation for how great Baldy's topography is. Adam looked over the edge east of where we skied. The terrain funnels into a narrow ravine just as it does in Sawmill Canyon on the other side. The canyons on either side of Geronimo at Bear Mt. are the same. Baldy has numerous fall lines accessible by easy traverses and usually straightforward exits. Even on the more tedious exits like South Bowl and Eric's, the reward to grunt work ratio is excellent IMHO. Baldy also has steeper runs in the trees which shade the snow at least for awhile. And with NW orientation the spring sun won't hammer it for the first 2-3 hours of a powder day. The most extreme example was May 14, 1998.
I took a vacation day for that one, as I was fairly sure it would be a once in a lifetime experience.
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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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Re: Mt. High East (Alpine Touring), Apr. 11, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Apr 13, 2020 4:31 pm

jojo-orien wrote:2010 was the last really good year.

Correct. I'm estimating how this season would have progressed post-shutdown.
This season is equal to last year overall as of this week. But this week was the end last year so it's safe to say there would be a couple more weeks open with adequate coverage on some terrain with spring conditions. But the likely ending score of 27 or so would fit in with the so-so seasons of the past decade and still be short of the good ones like 2010.
http://bestsnow.net
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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Re: Mt. High East (Alpine Touring), Apr. 11, 2020

Postby snowave » Mon Apr 13, 2020 5:55 pm

FWIW, Forest Service land is different than USFS Special Use Permitted land, (which is what all ski areas that lay on national forest are classified under). If it is specifically stated no uphill traffic at that area, someone probably could have given you a ticket if they really wanted to. Anyway, I'm not here to chastise you, just sharing for anyone that might think otherwise.

Also, often right after decent snows, Cal-Trans usually closed the road at Big Pines to Vincent Gap to focus on clearing the inhabited areas along Hwy 2. (The volunteers I used to supervise at Grassy Hollow got stuck many times trying to get the visitor center to open). Problem of course, is there is often a disconnect between what is happening on the ground and what is posted on-line. Some things never change.
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Re: Mt. High East (Alpine Touring), Apr. 11, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Apr 13, 2020 7:21 pm

snowave wrote:Also, often right after decent snows, Cal-Trans usually closed the road at Big Pines to Vincent Gap to focus on clearing the inhabited areas along Hwy 2. (The volunteers I used to supervise at Grassy Hollow got stuck many times trying to get the visitor center to open). Problem of course, is there is often a disconnect between what is happening on the ground and what is posted on-line. Some things never change.

This makes sense, and both Adam and I were suspicious. It's annoying that Caltrans time stamps their updates, making you think they are current. How would you suggest getting accurate info about that road?
http://bestsnow.net
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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Re: Mt. High East (Alpine Touring), Apr. 11, 2020

Postby snowave » Tue Apr 14, 2020 8:33 am

I used to call the guy (something Chandler?) that had control over that, and tell him. Unfortunately, it never really helped.
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Re: Mt. High East (Alpine Touring), Apr. 11, 2020

Postby jojo_obrien » Tue Apr 14, 2020 10:19 am

Tony on your comment regarding the topography of Baldy -- it is pretty impressive. i appreciate you showing me a glimpse of it the first time we enjoyed eric's error to ourselves. the stuff beyond south bowl is truly incredible. reminds me of the terrain at taos, but nobody there. ski at your own risk!

unfortunately, the days of big big dumps are few and far between. i miss the 90's...........

well.......after reading your TR from 98, I now know how long you've been on this planet. i hope do be living your kind of life in 26 years (like living out of a travel and leisure magazine) -- although i'm guessing the concept of snow will be an ever rare phenomenon by that time.........
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Re: Mt. High East (Alpine Touring), Apr. 11, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Apr 14, 2020 11:24 am

jojo_obrien wrote:although i'm guessing the concept of snow will be an ever rare phenomenon by that time.........

Temperature (with high humidity which we should assume during storms) drops about 1C for every 500 feet in altitude rise. We have had 1C rise since the 1970's and we might get another 1C by the time jojo_obrien is my age. The high altitude places (Mammoth, Utah's Cottonwoods, nearly all of Colorado, many other places, even the Whistler alpine) are business as usual in that scenario.

That's the simple rule of thumb. Local climates may vary in other ways. I read that interior continental climates are warming faster than the world overall. But most of that excess is in summer, which is why the glaciers in the Alps are retreating so fast. I'd worry more about low altitude/high latitude. The last 5 years look very ominous at Alyeska with dramatic increase in rain vs. snow mid-mountain and lower.

SoCal has multiple factors:
1) Warming which I suspect has more to do with the giant urban heat island so close to the San Gabriel Mts. My gut feeling is that winters are warmer in the LA Basin than when I was a kid but that summers are not so different.
2) Historically erratic precipitation; look at LA from 1946-1964 for example. I remember in junior high late 1960's thinking I had never seen so much rain.
3) The wet years this decade (2011, 2017, 2019) had way too much rain vs. snow compared to some of the wet years earlier. There were wet years before, notably 1986 and 1997, with excess rain and poor skiing. And the second highest rain month in LA history, 14.94 inches in January 1969, yielded less than 3 feet of snow at the local ski areas so obviously a ton of rain then too.

This season was unlucky in terms of storm timing. The Thanksgiving storm was low water content so didn't last. The past month 6+ feet of snow came with areas closed, but even in a normal year you don't want your biggest storm to be in mid-April. It's never good to have January/February be dry.
http://bestsnow.net
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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