Californi or Bust

3:10 p.m. on October 20, 2010 (EDT)
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Just after Christmas, my wife, daughter, dog and I are moving to Riverside CA (from our home away from home in Norway) for a six-month sabbatical. It's been many moons since I have been in CA so I'm looking for both suggestions and maybe a few like-minded companions for some weekend, or maybe longer, trips.

I'm a lifelong skier so one possibility is some variation of the Sierra Haute Route, likely in May, but I'm open to some advice on that. A buddy of mine from VT may want to join me on that one. Front- and backcountry skiing on Baldy in the San Gabriels if/when the snow is good. Probably a long weekend at Mammoth. Over the hill to Joshua Tree -- I'm not much of a climber these days but I'm up for some bouldering and toproping at least and my daughter would be into that too. Further afield, a visit to Yosemite before it gets too crazy, and I would love to visit Mono Lake at some point. Maybe as far off as northern AZ for some slot canyons. medium-size canyons in the Mogollon Rim, or even the big one. In July before we return home we're talking about some or all of the JMT (but the dog kind of throws a wrench in that), or maybe a tour up the coast, summer skiing on some volcano, visit friends in Seattle.

Any suggestions? Takers?

3:46 p.m. on October 20, 2010 (EDT)
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I would love to join you on some slot canyons like the Buckskin and Paria!

Had enough of Norway already? My roommate is saving up to drive to Alaska next summer.

4:38 p.m. on October 20, 2010 (EDT)
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Hey BigRed,

Welcome to riverside CA! I have been doing day hikes during the summer 110 degrees. I would be interested in some bigger hikes. Things are cooling off now so you will be here at the right time.


8:37 p.m. on October 20, 2010 (EDT)
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I’d love to join you on the Haute Route; however, my podiatrist hasn’t cleared me yet for extended snow trips, due to frostbite I got in 2009 attempting to climb Mt St Elias.  Maybe next year…  In any case May sometimes is late for the Haute Route, as diminished snow pack can make the route into a hard core boulder scramble with full packs at various points.  A great book on skiing the Sierras is David Beck’s Ski Touring in California.  This book is no longer in print, but may be available on  David was a principal pioneer of the Haute Route.  I believe David is currently associated with a tour service; Sierra Ski Touring, and the Meiss Hut, located in the Carson Pass area.

I can do day or hut snow trips, however.  Perhaps the Tioga Lodge, above Levining will be open this year. (Tioga Lodge has been closed the past two winter seasons.)  This is a great venue, with trips ranging from simply skiing along the snowed in Tioga Pass Road, to gonzo extreme descents worthy enough to be included in some Warren Miller Ski flicks. 

Another So Cal snow venue is San Jacinto.  When accessed via the Palm Springs Arial Tramway it is almost too good to be true; a high peak easily skied in a day trip – it feels like cheating!  San Gorgonio is also a good snow adventure, but being the highest peak in So Cal, it is the most wild, as well as notorious, with the traditional route crossing several reputable avalanche slide paths.  Like Baldy, the north facing slopes of Gorgonio are unstable for protracted periods of time.  But it is the most beautiful of So Cal snow trips when conditions permit.

Mono Lake is worth a few hours detour to/from other East Side venues.  In fact Levining, the hamlet overlooking Mono Lake, is the exit point from Hwy 395 to gain access to Yosemite NPS via Hwy 120.  Lots of good hiking just up the road, or further north out of Virginia Lake or Bridgeport.  There are also all kinds of good hikes all along the East Side.  If you have never been up the North Palisades, or to Cottonwood Lakes, you are missing some real gems.

I usually backpack to a dry camp in Joshua Tree at least twice a year; in fact my fall trip is this weekend.  It should be beautiful; as I write, the skies are just clearing from the first storm of the fall season.  The spring trip typically occurs in March or April. Should you be interest in some outing, my email address in listed in my profile.


9:45 p.m. on October 20, 2010 (EDT)
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Marcus Libkind has put all the tours in his books on Ski Touring in the Sierra on line, including a lot of newer tours that are not in the printed editions of the 4 volumes. Ed mentioned Dave Beck's book, which I have mentioned in other threads several times.

There are a number of backcountry touring clubs. I was associated with the Ski Mountaineers, which was a section of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club when we lived in SoCal.

Don't forget the White Mountains - some really great touring there, and much less crowded than the Sierra on the opposite side of the Owens Valley.

Several favorite tours of mine are in Yosemite - Ostrander Ski Hut (southern part of the park from Badger Pass), or just a day tour out of Badger to Glacier Point or to camp at the summer campground, Bridalveil Campground. On the north side of the Valley is heading out Tioga Road, or branching off on Old Tioga Road (currently it's a hiking trail). You can venture out all the way to Tuolumne, though you pass a number of glacial polish slab areas that are very prone to avalanches (a snowplow operator was killed there a few years ago when working on clearing the road in the spring). There is a nice tour between Tuolumne and the Valley with a half-dozen route variations.

Ed's comment on May being too late for the Haute Route variations is correct, even if we get a super snow year. March to mid-April is the good season for those traverses, with Jan and Feb having too many major storms and too much avalanche danger in most years.

You mention skiing on the volcanoes - Lassen is good for tours, as is Shasta, though the ever-popular Avalanche Gulch on Shasta is aptly named during the Jan through Feb period (and even for rockfall any time of year). Unfortunately the old ski bowl on Shasta is heavily used by snowmobilers, many of whom supplement the gasoline in their snowmobiles with ethanol in their stomachs. By the way, the SnoPark system maps for the state indicate which SnoParks are "best" for snowmobilers - there are a number of areas that are legally off-limits for snowmobiles.

The ski resort on the side of Mt Hood (Oregon) runs lifts all year around, except for a couple weeks in Sep for maintenance (it was closed longer than that this year for some major refurbishing, but you could still skin up).

As for the rock climbing, since you will be in Riverside, don't forget Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks (plus the extensive route development that has gone on over the years on Mt Rubidoux and Big Rock - good for evenings). Instead of climbing in Yosemite Valley, head for Tuolumne, Calaveras Dome, Middle Fork of the Kings, Domeland, Kern River Canyon, the Buttermilks, or farther north at Donner Summit. Maybe we can arrange to meet at Pinecrest and I will show you some of the Sonora Pass area climbs (the area behind Dodge Ridge Ski Area has some really great backcountry skiing as well, as does the area beyond the road closure above Bear Valley and Lake Alpine - get off the road where the snowmobilers tour and over the crests north or south of the road over the pass).

10:36 p.m. on October 20, 2010 (EDT)
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If you ever feel like exploring the desert, please let me know (Death Valley or Anza-Borrego).

4:26 p.m. on October 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Welcome back to Cali, BigRed!

So glad you posted, because it is wonderful to hear input from all of these fellas who are bursting with experience and outdoor wisdom. I just learned of several adventures that I would like to plan for in the future!

If you are interested in slot canyons or just a nice stay in Northern AZ, then let me know. My family built cabins in the north end of Oak Creek Canyon (halfway between Sedona and Flagstaff), one of which is available for rental right on the creek. It is reaonable in cost, rustic, and a beautiful and serene place (no tv!!!! but some wi-fi). If you're interested, I'll send you the link privately, as I'm not looking to advertise.

11:14 a.m. on October 22, 2010 (EDT)
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There are some great trails in Oregon. But you might want to wait till after the rains stops. But if you guys plan on going up the coast (101), I would love to join you for a day or two.

1:10 p.m. on October 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks for all the feedback!

Gary and Xterro, I'll be in touch if and when we head for AZ. A cabin in Oak Creek sounds about as ideal as some of the cabins we have rented here in Norway. I was at Prescott College for one year (73-74 I think) so I have spent a little time in the area. I remember a place called West Clear Creak Canyon with especial fondness. Jim, I am actually a little torn between going for lots of ski time versus some desert exploration, about as different from Norway as you can get. Maybe a little of both, as some of the desert ranges may be worthy goals, including the White Mountains as suggested by The OGBO. As a tree biologist I would love to get up there and see the bristlecones (as well as revisit the sequoias, coast redwoods, and Doug fir and red cedar forests further north).

WhoMe, San Gorgonio and San Jacinto are now on the short list, as both are close to Riverside. Here in Norway I do a lot of my mountain skiing in the spring after the snow has stabilized so I don't have to worry as much about avalanches (though I have seen powder days in April and May) but I get the impression that the snow in SoCal can retreat pretty quickly so that I may have to work (walk) for some of the spring skiing. Let's keep in touch about possible day trips? And Reaper, let's talk about at least a weekender sometime somewhere.

I get the message loud and clear that the Haute route will be better in April. I may have Beck's book in a box in our barn back in VT -- have to see if I can swing through and retrieve it, while we visiting family before we head further west. QUESTION: Do (most) people do the Haute Route in heavy tele/rando gear or is the main route mellow enough to go a little lighter? As a veteran of the Early Telemark Revival, when were skiing Tuckerman Ravine on toothpicks and bedroom slippers, I'm still a fan of lighter equipment when I can get away with it, for example on our Easter hut-to-hut tours here in Norway. I can still go steep if the snow is good.

Thanks again!

May 23, 2018
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