Joined: Thu Dec 23, 2004 10:23 am Posts: 26 Location: Southern Kookifornia
Bodhi, his dog Dude, and I got together Saturday to ride Craft's Peak (8364') in Southern California's San Bernardino range. This area is near and dear to my heart, since I first got into backcountry riding on slopes nearby. I had never summited this easy peak in winter, even having gazed at it many times from my usual haunt at Snow Valley, so I was pretty stoked to have finally checked this one off.
The false summit of Craft's peak from about 8000'
Bodhi drove up in the morning and met me at the local greasy spoon at 6am. We both had our reservations about the snow quality, since it was a balmy 23 degrees at 6000', with a glistening 3/4 inch sheet of ice coating everything from thundershowers the night prior. We had planned on corn farming, but this unexpected change in the weather left us looking at a dust-on-crust scrapefest. Ahh sweet socal... At least the rime made everything look nice.
No pillow lines today...
Fortunately things got slightly better once we left the trailhead at ~ 7000'. The freezing rain below became graupel on high. The skin up was very easy for the first hour-and-a-half, since we had a jeep trail to follow. A few creek crossings were our only impediments. Things got a little interesting when Bodhi twisted his ankle on an off-camber portion of the trail that swallows many a Jeep in the summer, but he toughed it out to complete the trip. To add insult to injury, the snowpack got so deep that I lost the trail shortly thereafter. We were only a couple hundred vertical feet to the summit by then, so we broke out the Verts and clambered up the crust the rest of the way.
Second guessing myself on the route
Once we reached the summit, we screwed around waiting for better light for photos, signed the register, and took in the views. Craft's Peak is one of my favorite peaks near my house, since the sprawl of LA is contrasted with views of the Baldy and the San Gabriel's on the west, San Bernardino Peak and its 10000' brethren on the east, the high Mojave desert to the north, and the occasional glimpse of the Pacific Ocean on very clear days. It also has a second-to-none view of my home ghetto resort, Snow Valley.
Snow Valley - there's no place like home
Bodhi and Dude on the summit. Butler Peak on the left, Big Bear Lake to the right, with Sugarloaf Peak on the right extent
San Bernardino Mountain (10490') barely pokes its head through the clouds
Microclimates rule. Snow to desert in a few miles as the crow flies
Dude is ready to drop in. Enough lollygagging
We had made our goal, so it was time to enjoy the fruits of our labor. The snow newly fallen snow totalled an epic 1 - 4 inches of thunder graupel, and the crust was almost soft enough to edge in. I wanted to break out the snorkel, but I didn't want to make Bodhi jealous of my scuba steeze. Instead, I found a little blown in pocket and dropped in.
Dropping down to the saddle above the bowl. I am at the top, just left of center. I need some better photoslut gear it seems
Dude chasing me. I shouldn't have strapped that bacon to my leg
Once we got into the bowl proper, the snow got a bit deeper, but the trees got much tighter.
Bodhi finds the deep stuff
Bodhi rides and the Dude abides
It was over all too quickly, since we could only descend about 1000' to the road that would take us back out. We hit the road and found ourselves in a dilemma, since the road had enough snow to make skinning look doable, but enough dirt and mud to ruin skins and boards alike. We opted to hike out, and look for little shots to do on the return trip. Bodhi's ankle wasn't feeling too good, so he took a break while I got in a few more turns since the snow had finally warmed enough to corn over.
We trudged back sore and tired, but that only made the beer at home taste sweeter.