Ski Mountaineering

Alto Diablo, San Gorgonio Wilderness
February 2, 2008

Alvin Walter

This January turned out to be one of the coldest and snowiest in many years in all of California and especially Southern California. The snow, wind, temperatures and aspect all combine to challenge the ski mountaineer to find the best conditions - powder being the choice.

After careful consideration and years of experience plus a couple of weekend trips to Mt. Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains and Mt. Dobbs in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, I chose to lead some friends: Scott B., Angel, Jake, and Jerry Stokely, up a northwest facing aspect of Alto Diablo in the San Gorgonio Wilderness.

Conditions were looking good with skiable snow from the point where we all parked. The temperature was cool and, as we began breaking trail, we left tracks a foot deep in the new powder. The forest was a bit dense to begin with and then opened into a beautiful glade of mature pine, fir, and cedar trees on a respectable pitch that would ultimately led to Alto Diablo Peak.

We stopped at a nice rock outcrop for lunch and to take in the view, then proceeded to the top. Conditions were excellent and Jake set up his video camera below the top to catch us making powder runs down the initial pitch. Oh, the fun of being movie stars in such fine powder conditions was exhilarating! We patiently proceeded down the powdery slope giving kudos to each other for the many well executed turns. On approaching the bottom, we smoothly negotiated our way over the sparsely covered chaparral that is typical for this early in the season.

Back at the cars, we agreed to postpone the planned snow camp due to the large storm approaching, even though we found a beautiful historic cabin that we could have stayed in for the night.

To top off the day we went to a true Mexican food restaurant recommended by Jake to celebrate a fine day in the mountains with the camaraderie of good friends over fine food. What else does one need in Life?

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