Mt. San Jacinto is located in the San Bernardino National Forest, just west of Palm Springs. The Snow Creek route is one of the premier alpine climbs in Southern California. This story appeared in the September-October 1993 edition of The Hundred Peaks Lookout newsletter. (Bob Sumner)

Mt. San Jacinto (10,804')

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(A 10,000' day hike via Snow Creek)

By Dan Richter

Easter Sunday April 11, 1993


Erik Siering, Bob Sumner and I slept Saturday night in the desert behind a well-lit up utility building halfway up the Snow Creek road. At 4:30 am we parked our trucks just before the private property sign on the left just before Snow Creek Village and quietly went up Falls Creek road to not wake the sleeping residents. Twenty minutes up the road we cut south across Snow Creek and climbed the ridge between Falls Creek and Snow Creek. We scrambled and bouldered up on the east side to not disturb the guard and his dogs. Once high on the ridge we continued along easy ground to "the isthmus" at 4,000 feet where Falls Creek and Snow Creek almost come together. We traversed through heavy brush keeping to the east side of Snow Creek and about a hundred feet above it aiming for a notch on a spur at 4,800 feet and then dropping into a canyon that joins Snow Creek from the southeast. At the point this side canyon turned left at 5,000 feet and we climbed southeast out of it onto the ridge 50 feet above Snow Creek proper. From here we could see the tongue of snow about a quarter of a mile up the creek. We traversed on the east side of the creek and joined it to boulder over the final waterfalls that brought us to the snow at 10:00 am.

We rested and snacked as we put on our crampons, got out our ice axes, and adjusted packs and clothes. Ahead lay 5,100 feet of 45 to 55 of snow that becomes almost vertical at the summit. The first500 to 700 feet was piled with run out of avalanches which looked like large fluffy moguls with an occasional broken pine bough sticking out at odd angles like the arm of a buried skier. The chute was narrow here with high rock walls. As we slowly switched back from side to side on deep firm snow the chute began to widen more and more. Between 7,000 and 8,000 feet the chute began to become immense and as we looked up the shear wall of white snow we could see the glistening summit 3,000 feet above us. Bob moving more quickly broke trail and reached the summit at 4:30 p.m. as the sun left the final steep pitch below it. Erik and I watched the surface glaze over with ice as we kicked and hacked up the freezing final 200 feet. We came out 30 feet to the right of the summit at 5:30 p.m. below a cornice glowing blue in the later afternoon sun.

After a break to put on warmer gear, to get our breath and to gaze at the glorious vistas, we strolled down to the tram as the sun set. The surface of the snow had re-frozen and we crunched along easily in our crampons. We were at the tram by 8:00 p.m. and caught the 8:30 car down. Once down we took a cab back to the trucks and were back in L.A. by midnight.

© 1993-2001 Dan Richter

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