Monday, January 9

Snowboard Wright Mountain North/East Basin - San Gabriel Mts

| On PCT, getting close to our goal in back |

It was October 2016 & a small group of us were heading up towards Wright Mountain, the first of three peaks on our North Backbone Trail hike. Just before the summit, there is a place with hundred mile views in all directions to the desert & mountain ranges far beyond. This was the moment Ben turned to us & said we should snowboard off this peak when winter comes...

 | Roughly our route (drawn in) |

-------
------

Fast forward to New Years 2017. Snow had fallen twice in almost the same week & that meant a decent amount of coverage for us locally. While Ben was taxiing down a runway in Colorado, I was driving south on the 395 from Bishop with my girlfriend, somehow trying to pull this off the very next morning. Alas, the sun rose, fairly rested, we were driving out to Wrightwood under grey skies.

| Straight up the ridge |

Ben had scouted a neighborhood for us to leave the "exit" car since were not going to be ending near our start point. Shuffling all the gear to the other car we headed for the ever popular Acorn Trail. Since you can't park at the actual trailhead here, we dropped our boards at the top, drove back down & made the icy & slippery ascent of the private road.

| Acorn Trail |


Right from the beginning there was lots of snow & perfect conditions. Ben would break trail & skin with his splitboard for portions of the ascent, while I postholed behind, getting my winter legs in shape. The setting was magnificent all around as we gained elevation on the ridge, at times catching a glimpse of the open basin we were shooting for.

| Pausing to look at the basin |


| About to Send It! |

After a few hours we started to crest Blue Ridge proper and get much closer to the PCT junction. This meant a majority of the climbing was done. After some food fuel & a cold beer we headed towards Wright Mountain. With five minutes of level travel we marveled at Pine Mountain. Asolutely covered in snow & Ben couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to ride it's northern aspects.

| Final look at the basin before ascending |


| Acorn Trail & PCT Junction |

| Pine Mountain - 9,648ft |

| Windy! |

The last half hour to the top of the basin was much more energy consuming than expected. The open terrain combined with the excessive chaparral made for hip deep trudging on the final push. Mt. Baden-Powell was looking exceptional from our vantage point far across the East Fork.


| Deep snow, beautiful views |

After some great encouraging words from Ben, I was strapped in & sitting on the edge of Wright's eastern basin looking all the way down to the town of Wrightwood. I pushed off with a slow start & an adrenaline fueled finish pulled it off. I don't have much backcountry snowboard experience under my belt & this trip was helping me get just what I needed. After I was set down below, Ben skinned up to the rockier chutes & got all set up. He radioed me & was off, carving in & out, between & through all the rock escarpments. The stoke was high! He had totally called this exact moment 2 months earlier.

| Looking back up after run |


Coming to a rest we both high fived & looked back up at our lines. I was elated to have a friend push me to go the extra mile & get out of my comfort zone. The snow in the lower portions of the basin looked thin to continue, but would be exhilarating come the right time. Next, the ice axes came out & we side-hilled into the canyon on the southern edge of the basin.

| Obstacles |

| Transition to hike in main canyon |

Once in the right canyon, we began to twist & carve through the maze of pines that would funnel us down into the main drainage safely. With great SoCal snow we made good pace leap frogging each other, hooting & hollering the whole way. Eventually, according to plan, we popped out on the massive boulders lining the main river bed with the sun just beginning to dim its light. I never would have thought back on that October morning I'd truly be standing in the same place, hip deep about to drop into that crazy bowl. This was a good way to start a new year of adventures.

| Hiking out |


| Looking back at the face we rode |

Friday, December 16

Hotlum Wintun Ridge - Mt Shasta


| Mt. Shasta - 14,179ft |

In Spring of 2016... it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I got to try splitboarding for the first time. 

-------
------- 

| Mt. Shasta - 14,179ft |



But in all seriousness our group of friends had a blast! It was a great learning experience for myself tagging along with more experienced winter outdoor compadres. Ben had conceived this trip to Mt. Shasta several years back & after falling through once before was extra stoked to get up North.

| Hiking the road |

| New deer legs |

Driving for many hours into the night from Los Angeles directly to the town of Shasta resulted in need for sleep, but excitement. Within the hour (2am), two more friends arrived from San Francisco to make the endeavor five strong.



After coffee & some rental gear we took in our first sights of the massive volcanic summit. Decidedly huge! Ben choose the Hotlum-Wintun Ridge route for a couple good reasons, way less crowds than Avalanche Gulch & the massive snowboard decent he had planned from the summit. 

| Favorite shot of the trip |

After driving as far on the well maintained (no joke) dirt road as snow would let us, we began to pack. Setting off to find enough snow to begin skinning we marched up the road quietly. As I had mentioned this was my first time & I felt like it showed. The gents from San Francisco were exemplary, one being a heavy British Columbia skier & the other having summited Shasta the same route the previous year.



Without going into too many embarrassing details, as the day grew longer it became clear that this would turn into a learning experience trip versus a summit bid for myself. My dear friend Daryl opted to join me for some big slope riding in the ten thousand foot range.



The next morning our separate groups had separate goals & everyone's day was great. Daryl & I skinned to an upper ridge & I got a bit more comfortable being out on skis. Finally after all this time, we clipped into our snowboards & road the most beautiful wide open mountain slopes I've ever experienced.



We would come to learn that Ben & our friends made it much higher on the mountain. Eventually Ben would break for the summit & conquer Shasta after planning this trip all those years ago. Well deserved!


 | People going to the summit |

 | Ben's summit photo! |

There really was nothing like carving huge sweeping turns with not a soul in sight. I'd spent my whole life riding at SoCal mountain resorts & I had fallen hard for this experience. Riding right into camp at the bottom of the slope topped it all off.


I had seen it coming the day before, my beginner size load of crap in my pack was going to give me issues snowboarding out to the car, which is notoriously difficult on return from this route. Alas, with some laughs & again, some awesome friends, we all tossed back a beer at the van without too much navigation issues.

Sunday, December 11

Upper Devils Canyon - San Gabriel Mts


 | Drawn for visual aid |

Saturday morning Collin & I drove separate cars up the Angeles Crest Highway, night time peeling back to reveal the colors of dawn. Leaving one car at the Devils Canyon trailhead, we hopped in his SUV & kept moving higher in elevation to the Mt. Waterman trail. Morning sun not helping the low thirty degree temps outside yet.

-------


-------


 | Heading to Twin Peaks |

| East Twin |

Our plan was to explore the upper section of Devils Canyon, dropping in from Twin Peak Saddle high in the pines & finding the exit trail out of the canyon the next day. Winds where whipping around the icy slopes we first hiked. The melt, freeze, melt, freeze effect that is classic & dangerous in SoCal was in full effect.



| Bear print |

After a few miles we were on the main switchbacks heading to Twin Peaks Saddle. It was fantastic to be out in the brisk morning air with the first bit of winter here in SoCal. Arriving at our first major objective, we ran into a couple other hikers I had just met earlier in the month on a TRVRS Apparel Group Hike. Check out that crazy trip here, S. Hawkins Traverse via Rattlesnake Peak!

| Good views |


Wishing them well on a their snowy ascent of East Twin Peak, we double checked our maps & stepped off the trail into Devils Canyon. The last writing I could find of this place was from 1999, we would learn it had changed a bit.



Snow lined the canyon bottom as we rambled through the pines, animal scat was present always & within about three minutes we started to see bear prints in the snow. Very cool. Staying mostly in the main creek or just to the right/north of it on the upper slopes worked well enough. There was a use trail of the faintest regard at times.

| Anyway you choose |
  
| Push through |


After about an hour or so of gorgeous walking we came to the top of a waterfall, marked on the USGS topo maps. It was easy to tell this was coming because the canyon becomes more narrow & choked full with bigger & bigger boulders. There is a passable ledge on the left of the falls that leads to a scree slope. Putting us below the main falls, but still in the middle of the large canyon cascade. Moving across the falls to the right, down & then again over to the left across the falls one more time landed us in the most dense fall foliage you could ever wish for.


| Looking back up canyon |

Post holing years of backcountry vegetation now, the snow had long since gone above the 5,400 foot mark. The next four hours would become the navigation/bushwack challenge that our friends know the San Gabriel delivers all so well. One good note, the beginning of winter allowed for the Alders to have lost most of their leaves, allowing our sight to go much further than would be possible come Spring time.


 | Canyons are getting wider now |


Along with the mostly hip to shoulder high plant insanity, the number of fallen trees was becoming laughable. The trip had become a cross-fit-esque maneuver over, under, balance, crawl, focus type of "hike". Still is great spirits & enjoying the solitude a place like this affords just outside Los Angeles.
 
| Which way? |


After a few more hours the grade of the canyon slowed & became much wider. Both a good sign, but allowing for much more vegetation to grow. We used some embankments on the south side of the canyon to weave up & down just above all that mess. 

| Looking down Devils Canyon |


 | Beautiful |

 | Water source |

Overall, water was available in the middle of the canyon & for a few moments lower down in large very still pools (seen above). Eventually a nice flat spot on the south side of the canyon revealed itself to us & we called it home for the night. Good meal, few beers packed in & a quiet nights rest in the canyon.



The next morning we spent about forty minutes hiking down canyon on a growing use trail that had appeared. This being a good sign b/c we needed to find the main trail out of the canyon. With a watchful eye & some decent map skills it wasn't much trouble to find the ridge that signified the trail was near. 



Now moving on a wonderful path up out of Devils Canyon we could enjoy the simple joy of hiking. A hawk spent an extra moment or two eyeing us from a few different perches before deciding he couldn't take us down. The signal to the end of all weekend backpacking trips in the San Gabriels is when you can hear the motorcycles again. The parking lot must be close.

 | Getting closer to the exit canyon |

| On trail again |