Southern California's Penthouse View - San Gorgonio Mtn

9:25 p.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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My son and I have been eyeing this Mountain since he was 8, when we started backpacking mountains whose elevation was commensurate (per thousand feet in elevation) to his age. 2 weeks before his 12th birthday, last November, we ventured out with some relatives to summit San Gorgonio Mountain on a late Fall backpacking adventure. unexpectedly heavy snow kept us from our goal because some of the supposed "experienced" and "fit" members (author and son notwithstanding) had to quit, so we are playing catch-up to bag a peak in the 11,000-12,000 ft range, especially before my boy turns 13.

Picture from the failed attempt up Vivian Creek Trail:


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My best friend of 16 years hasn't been back-packing since he was in college, has no gear, and has a son (14) who was wanting to try backpacking. I have been blessed with the opportunity to purchase more gear than I need personally in order to allow for growth of my family's interest in the Outdoors, and also to share outdoor experiences with others that might not otherwise "get out there" if they had to purchase or rent equipment. So I invited them to join us on a 2 1/2 day, 2 night backpacking trip to San Gorgonio Summit via the South Fork Trail in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. We would leave June 1st and return June 3rd. More details to follow...


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Just before hitting the SouthFork trail at 5:45 pm PST. note TS cap worn proudly by my son!

 


 

 

10:19 p.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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San Gorgonio is a fav, any season.  I made my first trip to the top in the early 1960s,  when I was your son's age.  We came up via Poop Out Hill.  The final push to the summit was a tortuous tease for this young man; one false summit after another and another...

Some of the best spring corn snow skiing to be found anywhere, but its southern latitude masks the fact this mountain can pack a real wallop of a winter storm.

Ed

11:52 p.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Sometimes a tactical retreat today makes for a grand assault tomorrow, especially if everyone got back home in good shape.  Looking forward to further details.  Also, looks like everybody had a good time--big smiles!  Thanks for taking pictures for the rest of us.

2:50 a.m. on June 12, 2012 (EDT)
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We got off to a late start, grown up life being what it is, and Jeff and his boy were ready to go. The first day's plan was to hike 8.1 miles along South Fork Trail, taking the Western most fork, Dollar Lake Trail, to reach Red Rock Flat along the San Bernadino Divide Trail. The remote campsite is at 10,100, just barely within treeline, and with incredible views of the Southwest Inland Empire. But first we had to get there - no easy feat with 3300 ft of climbing left and less than 3 hours of sunlight at our disposal. Jeff and his son were ready to give it a go.


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We set on hiking, hoping to reach the campsite at 10pm. The temperature was 72 degrees with little humidity and a light breeze; perfect for backpacking.

Jeff and I handled almost all of the weight: The boys each had less than 17 pounds on their back, including their own snacks and 2 liters of water a piece. The long shadows of the late afternoon made for beautiful contrasts while on the trail

 
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Along the way, we saw what I understand is a rare sight - a snow flower, I'm told. We ended up seeing several along the trail. Quite striking. My son calls them "Dragon's Breath"
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(it is here that I will apologize for the lackluster quality of many, if not all, of my iPhone 4's photos).

After this point the photos stopped, as we wanted to reach Dry Lake Saddle at the halfway point to fill our (8) 1 liter water bottles for our campsite.

 

 

 

10:42 a.m. on June 12, 2012 (EDT)
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Nice ! that snow flower is really cool.

9:12 p.m. on June 12, 2012 (EDT)
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I wish I had enough free time in one sitting to complete this report, lol. Anyway, we ended up hiking the tough push from South Fork Meadows (waters source I referred to as Dry Lake Saddle incorrectly) up to Dollar Lake Saddle under the moonlight, where in my grainy picture you can see San Gorgonio below the moon:


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Along the way we found a Wilderness volunteer policing the Trail:


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He was cold and moving very slowly...

 

8:06 p.m. on June 13, 2012 (EDT)
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We finally made it to Dollar Lake Saddle, at 10,000, at about 10:00 pm. We appeared as mere shadows in the forest, as evidence by this grainy, ghostly photo of the boys and my friend hovering around the trailsign...
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We continued West from the Saddle on the San Bernadino Divide Trail, ascending 100 or so, bodies exhausted, and found our campsite at Red Rock Flat. Views of Redlands and Yucaipa lightscapes were fanastic, and extended down into Orange County. We quickly set up camp and I had a late dinner served within the hour: Barilla Angel Hair pasta with Tomato Basil sauce and spicy Vegan sausage, accompainied by Garlic mashed potatoes (instant variety). Fully satisfied, we settled down for bed.

The next morning a woodpecker was our alarm clock (for us dads - the boys were dead to the world). After making sure everything in camp was still in place.    (Alps Mountaineering Zephyr 2 tent and GoLite Shangri-La 2 shelter with nest )

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...we surveyed the majesty and glory of nature all around us...


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(view towards Grinnel Ridge, Dollar Lake, and South Fork Santa Ana River draw)

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(view of Charlton Peak above Dollar Saddle through the trees just after sunrise)

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(looking back at camp as I head down to wake the boys and make breakfast)

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The boys built a fort hidden on the ridge while I prepared breakfast. They showed it off later in the morning.

The next part of our adventure was to explore close by and collect more water...

10:07 p.m. on June 13, 2012 (EDT)
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The segmented TR is kinda fun, you can come back to it each day for the progress update. Thanks for sharing!

9:04 p.m. on June 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks Jake! I never seem to get enough time in one sitting to finish the post, and by the time I return the edit feature is timed out. lol.

...to collect the Water for our San Gorgonio Summit hike planned for the afternoon, we headed West .5 miles on the San Bernadino Divide Trail to High Meadows Springs, which starts as a babbling spring and descends steeply over 4000 ft to Big Falls and Forest Falls below. Here is the GPS route:
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and here is the picture of my crew at the top of the beautiful alpine meadow:

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The views of the surrounding mountains was awe-inspiring. Hard to believe this is so close to Los Angeles! The boys were exploring the meandering path of the spring, which was flanked by delicate, tiny yellow and white flowers (I failed to take a picture of them). Dobbs Peak in the center background, with Little San Gorgonio Peak (9133 ft) to the far right.

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4:01 a.m. on June 15, 2012 (EDT)
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After taking in the view and having a delicious lunch in the meadow, we headed back to camp to to pick up supplies on the way up to the Summit, about 4 miles from camp. I looked West just before descending to our campsite to catch a glimpse of Anderson and Shields Peaks, 2 of the 9 peaks in this wilderness over 10,000 ft high. Many of these peaks are peppered with Jeffrey and Sugar Pines across their Granite caps, until you approach peaks greater than 10,700 ft, where they they thin out, leaving terrain that resembles the surface of the moon (more on that later)
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As we left our campsite heading East toward San G and the other 11,000 ft peaks, I bid Dollar Lake goodbye until our return in the evening...
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On the trail along the South face of Charton Peak, heading towards Dry Lake View
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A view of the Jepson Peak and its false Summit. We decided to climb to the ridge directly (instead of the trail traveling around its mid-section once we passed that semi-vertical tree border on the face (middle of the photo).
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8:57 a.m. on June 15, 2012 (EDT)
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WOW! What a great trip and the pix are spectacular! Looks like a whole lot of fun and brought some nice start to my Friday morning!

1:23 p.m. on June 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks GiftoGab! Just getting started on the repot, lol. Speaking of the report...

we continued ascending the South side of Charton and met a couple of Wilderness Rangers on the path. I cannot overstate my appreciation for these volunteers and their helpful tips. They were great with our boys and do so much to keep this mountain paradise beautiful, preserved, and safe. (I didn't take their picture).
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we arrived at Dry Lake View, a spectacular campsite at 10,400+ feet. There was a view of Dry Lake (I have a better picture of it later), but the view of San G was more inspiring at this location, showing the sloping North face terrain that makes for amazing skiing (so I'm told) when the conditions are right...

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From this point on, the vegetation and trees really started to thin out as we eclipsed 10,500 feet in elevation.

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It was at this tree that the boys decided they wanted to climb the face of the Jepson false summit, so we turned left, climbing steeply 400 ft to break the 11k barrier - a first for my boy and our guests!

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On the ascent, I looked West and snapped this shot of (4) 10K+ peaks along the San Bernadino Peak Divide Trail (my next trip) - from left to right: San Bernadino Peak (10649), San B East (10691), Anderson Peak (10860), and Shields Peak (10,700)
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The result of the boys' decision to leave the trail and ascend to the ridge meant that we would bag 3 11k'ers that day. We were excited to push on, if not a bit tired. we came upon the marked, but false Jepson Summit and enjoyed the views and our first conquest (smoky and foggy day looking towards Redlands and Valley of the Falls)
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Looking towards Dry Lake to the North

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7:42 p.m. on June 19, 2012 (EDT)
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...
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so we turned around and headed towards Jepson's Summit (behind the weary travelers here) The pine trees grow along the ground like shrubs, telling their story of struggle with the harsh environment around them. Above treeline, or shrub line in this case? (San Jacinto Peak in the distance)

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The false summits left my son bewildered and a bit discouraged as fatigue set in, but he was a trooper and marveled at the imposing drops on the North face of the ridge...

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We finally hit Jepson Peak and saw San G far off in the distance.

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It was time for the push to San G... 

9:14 p.m. on June 21, 2012 (EDT)
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We continued along the ridge toward our goal, the Summit beckoning to our weary bodies while San Jacinto peak (far right in the distance) asked "Remember when you were here?". My boy is center-photo, with our friends far off and directly above him...
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My iPhone's battery was on low, so I turned it off to save for Summit pictures. After traversing over the unnamed peak in the picture above, we finally started to see other hikers on trail where it joined up with the ridge. Most all of the hiker traffic came from the Vivian Creek or Mineshaft Flats Trail, which you can barely see in this simple trail map.

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and shown a little better on this screenshot from my iPhone (unlabeled ivian Creek Trail is marked by the "G" on "Gornonio Wilderness" on screen.
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We finally reached the Summit at about 4:30pm, happy to rest and take in the scenery. First photo looking NW towards Big Bear Lake, just below the mountains on the horizon.
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and next looking NE towards the Big Horn Mountains and Wilderness, with Mojave Desert in the distance behind. You can see the rock wind-break built around the Summit Campsite in the foreground...
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A view SE towards San J Peak, Palm Springs, Casino Morango, (a speck to center-right), and Toro Peak furthest out... 
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A smoggy view South towards hometown Temecula, the Palomar Mountain range furthest away and marking the San Diego County border...
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Us boys at the Summit! and Summit registry photo...
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after resting with the group, I focused my interest on the Tarn, created, I'm told, by ancient Glaciation. It is a flat, hemmed-in seasonal lake area, and a common spot for Bighorn Sheep. Didn't see any though. San Jacinto once again nods "hello" in the background. That rock outcropping made for a great photo shot in the second photo...
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and as I ventured SouthWest view of the Tarn, I took a SW facing shot, where Corona and Riverside were hidden in LA's bad breath (smog). Not the Mineshaft Flats trail on the side of the mountain in the foreground...
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Later, I got a great close-up of a summit camp wind break. I had tried to reserve one for our trip, but all were booked (about 2-3 mo's in advance). Make no mistake, this is dangerous, extreme weather territory during many parts of the year.
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Looking back from my "Tarn Viewpoint" up to the Summit, where my crew is hanging out.
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with that, my phone battery died, the photos stopped. I ran back up to the Summit, and we headed back to camp for a good night's rest and a hearty meal...

10:03 p.m. on June 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Very cool stuff Xterro, I like the idea of how you are taking the son and bagging summits in 1k ft increments. 

Really cool. 

12:58 a.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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I've hiked that mountain.  It's quite a grunt.  Good job!

3:54 a.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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..the view of San G was more inspiring at this location, showing the sloping North face terrain that makes for amazing skiing (so I'm told) when the conditions are right...

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When the conditions are right.  That is soo true!  It comes down to timing your visit.  When you hit it right, Gorgonio's North slope is some of the best high altitude wilderness skiiing in America.

It is unadvisable to ski the North slope while the snow is fresh, as the pack remains unstable for as long as the temps remain below freezing, and is considered an avalanche hazard during this period.  Generally these slopes are not safe for most of the first part of the season, due to elevated hazards from wind slab and unconsolidated pack conditions.  The only way to get a powder run is if a mere dusting occurs over a preexisting, settled, base.  A late season cold snap and storm around Easter is the most common time for this opportunity.  But more often than not these late season storms dump too much snow for the North slopes to be safe until the snow settles and is no longer powder.  Another good, more predicable condition is spring corn snow.  This season we had a great, protracted, corn snow season.  But bring crampons and axe, as these slopes often ice up late in the day, requiring expert skills and good edges to ski down.  

The less desirable, frequently encountered, conditions are Napoleon crust and a snow known on the West Coast as "Sierra concrete" or "Cascade concrete."  Napoleon crust is a snow pack consisting of several layers of breakable crust, such that you plunge deeper into the snow pack in stages, as one crust layer supports then gives way under weight.  I have bruised my shins when these layers were solid ice.  VERY difficult to ski Napoleon with grace.   The concrete snow is a wet, heavy, fresh, snow that makes it difficult to be agile, unless you are accustomed to this condition, and a skilled skier with a variety of turn techniques under your belt.  It is unwise attempting any level of aggressive skiing in either of these snow types - regardless these conditions compell skiing in an aggresive manner - as skiers are prone to being launched head over heals, risking a serious injury in a deceptively remote location.

In any case do not attempt skiing the North slope unless you have taken course instruction on snow pack analysis, as these slopes can generate all of the typical conditions that cause avalanches, albeit slides due to TG (depth hoar) crystals are probably a rarity.

Ed

8:02 a.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Incredible landscape! Thanks for sharing this X!

9:28 a.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Very Cool Xterro!

I think my favorite photo is the very first one: great tone and density, beautifully composed, and relays the place well.

 

5:44 p.m. on June 23, 2012 (EDT)
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Nice Xterro! and THANX!

I've driven along I-10 thru CA. more times than I care to admit to, often looking up at the Mountains along there wondering what its like up there? Well now I know. Its beautiful! Glad ya had quality time with your boy and friends.

11:55 p.m. on June 23, 2012 (EDT)
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Thank you all for your comments. It is truly an amazing place. I have to time a trip up there when rain has cleared out the smog from L.A. so I can see the islands off the coast of the Pacific...

Ed, thank you for your words of wisdom concerning the snow conditions at San G for skiing.

I have some more pictures to share from the descent back to our car. The most picturesque leg of the entire weekend. Stay tuned...

9:00 a.m. on June 25, 2012 (EDT)
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I enjoyed this. I did San G on skis in May 2011 when it was all snow from Dry Lake on up. It's cool to see what it looks like without snow - dry!

4:20 a.m. on June 26, 2012 (EDT)
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BigRed said:

I enjoyed this. I did San G on skis in May 2011 when it was all snow from Dry Lake on up. It's cool to see what it looks like without snow - dry!

Was this the trip I missed because of my cook missing work?  Rats!  What route did you take back down?  There are some thrilling descents options possible in April/May. 

Ed

9:22 a.m. on June 26, 2012 (EDT)
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I went straight up the right side of the gullies above Dry Lake, and back down pretty much the same way. It was a day trip from South Fork trailhead, so no time or ambitions to do much more. I didn't do a full TR, just snuck it in under Hikin' Jim's TR on the same area. I was supposed to meet up with a group from San Diego but there was a snafu over the departure time -- I was an hour early -- so I ended up going alone, but met a bunch of hikers up on top. Just as well, I met the main group still coming up, a good three hours behind me. I heard they finally hit the parking lot some time after dark. I could definitely see camping at Dry Lake for a few days and picking off some more descents -- Jepson and Charlton, anyway. But now I'm back in Norway where I have to make do with little zits like Kirketaket... :-)

4:58 a.m. on July 3, 2012 (EDT)
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After a night of good rest, I woke up early to climb the hill overlooking our campsite and catch the sunrise. I didn't see the first light, but caught a picture a few minutes later.
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Dawn delicately paints the forested ridge at Red Rock Flat in a subtle Gold hue
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It was time to head back to camp and wake up theh kiddos. My Shangri-La2 and Zephyr 2 performed very well throughout the entire weekend.


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