Ski Mountaineering

Galena Peak
Feb 23, 2008

Alvin Walter

Skiing to Galena Via Mill Creek This Saturday, 2-23-08, I invited some friends to ski to Galena via Mill Creek and the Mill Creek Jump Off as I saw a decent window of weather forecast for the day following 6 to 10 inches of new snow. We were able to ski right from our cars in the Vivian Creek trailhead on a solid base with about an inch of light and dry grapel to a very steep chute that drops straight down from the top of Galena where we passed a large accumulation of avalanche debris. From that point the drainage got steeper and the accumulations of grauple spilling down from the ridges grew substantially deeper posing some avalanche risks from both sides. We worked our way up to the Jump Off and about half way up on skis. We then booted it up to within about 50 vertical feet of the saddle with packed skis. At that point the wind had created an ice slab that we had to crampon up and just over the saddle to the other wind protected side. From there we skinned about two thirds the way up to Galena on wind packed snow with some icy sections and booted it the last third of the way to Galena Peak where we skinned out along the west ridge that is slightly higher. From there I could look straight down to Jake who was positioned close by the avalanche debris we passed earlier so that he could be in a good position to film us skiing Galena and Mill Creek. By 2 way radio I kept him informed of how things were going and the fact that there were some large dark clouds quickly approaching that were going to make us begin our descent very soon.

The skiing back down to the jump off was not the fun we were hoping for as it was icy and hard packed with a bit of powder in one aspect. At the jump off, the clouds had gotten to us and we had a bit of new snow with a lot of wind. Crampons and ice axes were an absolute must to get part way down the headwall to a point where the snow was soft enough to hold a ski edge. We did have a very good time skiing from here in the grapel down to where Jake was able to get some movies of us. At that point, we helped Jake pack his movie making equipment and together we skied the next couple of miles on the gently sloping terrain all the way back to our cars.

The day was a fun filled adventure for all of us in our spectacular Southern California Backcountry doing an unordinary trip with a fine group of friends. Thanks to Scott S., Heiko, and Jake for joining me. A couple weeks before I invited Scott B. to join me to ski to the Dragon's Head via this same route over the Jump off and conditions were epic spring with a close wildlife encounter that he wrote about in this forum at that time. The substantial January snowfall and cold temperatures made for a snowpack that made these unique ski trips possible. I hope to be writing about more in these areas as the season progresses.

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