Post subject: A jont in my backyard: 03032014 Mt Islip
Posted: Tue Mar 04, 2014 9:07 pm
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:41 am Posts: 301 Location: Altadena SoCal
A day and half after a storm, I ended up having a Monday off and decided to go for an impromptu solo tour. I'm still nursing a cough so I couldn't do anything committing like Baldy (where the good snow is). With my late start (9:30) I decided I would just tour for an hour or so. That means up The Crest it was! I'd scope out the situation, weigh my options, and make the decision as to where, then. The Angeles Crest (Hwy 2) was moist the whole way up and had a rock/mud/snow slide that covered an entire lane just past Kratka. It was cleaned up by the time I drove back and snapped a picture. I opted to bypass Waterman and Kratka—both of which, when I passed by, had some of the regulars getting ready to enjoy their day too—for Mt Islip where the 39 and 2 meet.
Avy & Winston Canyons (left & right respectively) were too bony to board or ski. Waterman and Kratka looked ridable, but...you know...bring yer rock-board! They both looked fully covered but thin.
Rock/mud/snow-slide just uphill from Kratka. This covered the entire lane and then some in the morning but was cleared by 2:45.
The hwy was closed at Islip Saddle. On the drive up, I discovered I was rockin' a pretty high ALPTRUTh score so I chose to skin out the hwy and up Little Jimmy fire road; minimizing exposure by avoiding the gully crossings on the trail.
Islip Saddle at days end. I skinned up The 2 (far left). The 39 (far right) is always closed. Note the cloud at the summit.
Shortly after I set out, I discovered CalTrans had plowed one lane from the other side of the closure, just out of sight from the road closure. I ended up following some guy's XC ski track the whole way. The snow surface was melting so fast, it was hard to determine if his tracks were from this morning or yesterday.
Skintrack (taken on the way down): looking down where the main (N) drainage from the summit crosses the hwy. Note at the tracks. He descended in my up-track (left). See how degraded his five-hrs-earlier up-track is (right). Also crazy rollerballs on the far left and the CalTrans one lane plow.
On the tour to the fire road, I hopped on a couple of test slopes, all of which were negative.
At noon, shortly after I reached the fire road, it started heating up; 60ºF (16ºC) in flat open sections of the fire road. It very much became a dynamic environment with melting snow falling off trees, the snowpack turning to slush before my eyes, and rollerballs popping up everywhere. I thought this was the deathknell for my chance to snowboard at all today; especially when I saw an avy path covered in rollerballs.
Catestrophic Avy path: road on the left, snow-snails on the right. In 2002 we had a very hot, crown fire here, burning the needles in the trees (Curve fire). The following winter, two massive avalanches caved two scars along the road, taking out most trees and depositing them right on the fire road. They've since been cleared and manzanita has grown in it's place.
I got to Little Jimmy and ran into the XC guy. No spandex *phew* He had toured all the way to the summit and found some sweet turns on his way down. Still following his path, I discovered a treed NW aspect slope with no snow-snails. Sweet! Maybe I'd get to ride after all? I dug a quick pit and found a decent snowpack
Taken from the pit location, looking onto the slope I will ride. Mt Islip summit in background (not yet socked in).
I continued climbing to and up the ridge until 7920' where it was really warm and for the first time windy. However, the snow was too heavy to transport by wind at that time. I found a quickly-melting, proto-cornice on the ridge (1–2' higher than the snow level) and rime indicating wind from the SE. The rime was melting and falling in massive 6–9” chunks, making these huge thumps.
Nearing the shoulder: Windy gap is behind me. Note the foot-long (30cm) rime/ice atop the trees and all the debris below. Instead of normal switchbacks, I zig-zagged between the trees to avoid a headache. This stuff was coming down.
On the ridge at 7920', looking into Crystal Lake (white splotch, center left) amphitheater/Azuza Canyon. Mt Wilson on the far right in the distance,
Major Rime. This stuff was coming down in bricks!
The ride down was a pleasant surprise. I had a short 400' descent into camp on the same slope I dug the pit. It was smooth, mostly warm cream cheese with just a hint of crust...mmm. Once into camp, I transitioned my board back into skin mode and discovered my boots penetrating the slush up to mid-calf. Eek!
From camp: looking back on the tracks, summit on the far right behind the big tree. Skintrack goes left to right thorugh the center, behind the trees. I rode the shaded NE slope, center left 'cause thar be rollerballs on the N aspect slope center right. I was postholeing mid-calf deep when taking this shot. Note the clouds moving in to the summit.
The skin out was pleasant. By 1:30, Islip summit had become socked in. Where I was became partly cloudy, and the temps plummeted to ≈ 30ºF (-1ºC). At the trail/fire road junction, I really, really wanted to take the trail. It just looked so inviting and there-and-back trips are so lame. But I remembered HikeForTurns saying, “[When you tour solo], you have to be 100% right, 100% of the time.” and thought of all those snails and sinking boots. *sigh* Alas, 'I shall stick with the fire road & hwy.' Besides, I didn't have to break trail that way.
Junction of the Fire road (upper left to lower right) and PCT (center). Off in the distance is exactly where I'm headed. I could cut like two miles off my trip by taking this...Not today.
Once I got to the highway, it heated up and things were melting even faster. The four-hours-earlier 6–8” of snow had become 4–6”. In some places, the tips of my poles hit asphalt.
A glorious day and a pleasant surprise to earn some turns this was. This is L.A!