Ski Mountaineering

Angeles Crest Tour
(Private Trip)
December 31, 2004

Randy Lamm



I had procrastinated making holiday plans for skiing at June or Mammoth. The last trip to june in the middle of December it had not snowed since November and it was looking like spring conditions for xmas weekend. But then right after xmas the Dweeb report said the big one was coming. Now it was too late to find a place, all the calls to the hotels they said forget it. I thought maybe I can dig a snow cave behind the tiger bar, but then the problem of too much snow, chain restrictions from Lone Pine, and cars buried at Rock Creek. I got desperate and emailed everyone, but more bad news. Here's what BuckHowdy said:

Brian McElwain wrote: "I drove to Mammoth. I counted 10 cars that ran off the road. They closed the road up from the village. I tried to get to canyon but there was a big traffic jam. I thought I would go to Tamarack and cross-country ski but the road was closed. I drove down to Rock Creek because I have a snow park pass but they haven't plowed the road and the snow is 2 feet deep. Some snowmobiles went up the road and I followed their tracks. They said there are many stranded vehicles parked at the snow park parking lot about 6 miles up the road. I'll try again tomorrow. I'm taking all of my skis including the cross-county skis. I should be able to ski no matter what with all of this snow everywhere. How was the Angeles crest tour?"

I resigned myself to waxing my skis, resorting my cd collection and reorganizing my sock drawer. Its too snowed in up north, I got desperate and started emailing everyone I knew someone might be up for a tour on the crest. Mike emailed back, he was at mt. pinos on the 29th and said there was some sweet powder, he would do it. We met at the rendezvous point at the bottom of the 2. It was cold and raining and the sign said closed 29.9 miles from La Canada. Would we get to Kratka? With Mikes new 300 hp, V8 Turbo diesel, 4wd econoline - Home Off Road (HOR for short) we probably could. At 5k the rain changed to snow. We passed Newcombs ranch and then a little past the gate was closed at the snowplay hill at about 6700'. Rather than wait for caltrans to plow the road and open the gate, we suited up in the HOR and exited the airlock into a wet snowstorm. We put our skins on at 11:30am and followed a snow covered dirt road up a drainage. There was about 4" of wet powder on a well consolidated base of about 3-5'. It was foggy and windy and we veered off the road which was heading south and started arching back to the North to go up a ridge. We continued up to about 7400' and the clouds parted.

At about 1pm we reached the top of the ridge at 8,000'. We could see Mt. Waterman to the east about 1/2 mile away. We ate our lunch, pulled our skins and headed down for easy skiing on 4" of fluff on a billiard table smooth under surface. The snow was super easy to ski and we made some nice turns down the steep north facing slopes. Soon we were back at the bottom. We still had time for another run. This time we went back up the ridge further to the west. The slope was a little gentler, the powder just as good. We hung out at the top and watched the alpin glow start, then headed back down. With the good snow, the terrain and conditions were just like the selkirks ( less vertical, but only an hour from downtown LA). I reported the conditions to the Goebel's and recommended they head up there on the next day - New Years. Here's Mark's report:

M & J Goebel wrote: Randy, "Thanks for the photos. Joy and I repeated your tour on Sat and the snow was sweeter than sweet. Surely nothing this good since 1998 El Nino. Although the road was icy, we made it up without chains. Cal Trans was giving rides up the road past the gate, but went from the gate like you did. There were more tracks, apparently some snowboarders followed your tracks, going up on snowshoes. It was very cold all day with clouds coming in. We started down from your same high point, skied down about half way, then went back up again. At the top again, we heard a hoar and looking up spotted a pair of B-2 bombers though an opening in the clouds. It was about 2pm and they were there for a flyby at the Rose Bowl. WHAT a sight! We stayed a little more right on the second run and ended up above the gate a half mile, skiing some exciting steep slopes right to the road. Once back at the parking lot, it was jammed with snow play family, cooking on BBQs or camping stoves."

Saw some exciting snow sliding devices including a baby's bathtub, skateboard without wheels, & car floor mats. But the best was a heavy wooden chair mounted on some skis! (the chair had the looks of an ex-electric chair) Definitely a death ride. Every pullout was jamed with snowseekers all the way down to Red Box RS, at the Mt Wilson turnoff. Fortunately the downhill traffic moved well, but lots of cars were still coming up at 3pm. A great New Years Day! Mark

Definitely going back as these El Nino storms keep dumping


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