In a good snow year this traverse makes a great but long local day tour. Several storms had recently passed through the local mountains and conditions seemed to be right. Eight skiers met at 7 am at the road junction to Mt. Pinos and the Pine Mtn Club. Participants were Tom Marsh, Mark Goebel, Susan Loftus, Dennis Wendy, Paul Borkovich, Matt Doody, Duncan Livingston, and myself with K-9 Tatanka. We first drove to the trailhead for Mt Abel (Cerro Noroeste) which is at the Apache Saddle beyond Pine Mtn Club. There we left three cars, squeezed everyone into the remaining cars and drove up to Mt Pinos.
Just before 9 am we started our tour on a sunny, spring-like day. An hour later we enjoyed the views from the summit of Mt Pinos (8,831'). To the south Mt Baldy stood out of the San Gabriels, and to the north, above the clouds in the San Joaquin Valley, Mt Whitney on the Sierra crest was visible with binoculars. West of Mt Pinos, we descended on breakable crust and some powder patches into a saddle from where one climbs up to Sawmill Mtn (8,715'). We signed the HPS peak register, enjoyed the views from the Sierra Nevada to the Channel Islands and, after a snack, continued our tour at 11 am. Lured by some excellent downhill slopes we enjoyed too many turns before realizing that we were off the ridge and had to pay for the fun by climbing up a steep densely-forested slope. We bypassed Grouse Mtn and headed NW to Mt Abel (8,286').
A trail sign indicated 2 mi to Mt Abel and 2.5 mi to Mt Pinos. "Piece of cake" was the consensus. Heading toward Mt Abel we first had to drop about 800' into a saddle (7,618') and then reclimb 600'. Unfortunately, the snow petered out and we had to hike through the saddle. In a burnt-out forest we crossed fresh bear tracks. Susan's pace increased (or was it because we carried her skis?). At 3 pm we reached the road leading to the Mt Abel ski area. After discovering a sign which said 9 (nine) miles to the road end we began counting our flashlights and snickers bars. We decided to take a short cut. Since the upper road had good snow coverage we skied it up to the summit and then continued XC along a ridge due NNW. It was an excellent ski terrain with open forests and gentle slopes which we skied down below the 7,500' level well beyond the Spring near the road. When we ran out of snow we hiked about 500' down to the dry road. The terrain was pretty steep but following a streambed we reached the road at 5 pm without incident. Another 30 min walk brought us back to the cars. We were tired but very satisfied with the 8.5 hr ski tour. We had beautiful weather, all sorts of snow, interesting terrain, and a great group of people. After a final car shuttle to Mt Pinos everyone was on their way home.
My special thanks to Tom who kindly assisted on this trip on a short notice.
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