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DANGER in the southern mountains
Total posts: 1134
Joined: 47 year(s) ago
Posted 5:41 PM 1/16/2005

Folks, the conditions in the mountains is potentially Exceedingly dangerous!

I led a group up South Fork Trail, to above South Fork Meadows yesterday, on Mt. San Gorgonio.  We came upon two large snow avalanches.  One had wiped out the trail, and torn out many trees.  It took considerable effort and time to cross.  This was 3/4 of a mile short of SFM.  The other was perhaps 1/4 mile past SFM, and was actually larger, but had not reached the trail.  Many mature trees ripped out.

These specific areas are known for slides, but only every 30-50 years.  wow.  They seemed stable at this point. 

BUT, when we dug our snow platforms, we found 4 inches down, a solid sheet of ice, that was thick.  The next major storm will be a setup for another event.

Also, the daytime temps were warm, and the snow is turning into a sheet of ice.  This is EXACTLY the situation that caused the deaths of 7 people last january.  I would be especially concerned about south-facing slopes, getting pounded by the sun, however, with deeper snow, as it gets wet, wet avalanches are possible.  Baldy Bowl is famous for these.

Frank was kind enough to post his observations on Mt. Baldy, conditions I've never seen there:

"Was on the Bowl trail on Friday. Trail conditions were bad. We found land slides (7 of them) from the beggining of the bowl trail to the ski hut. Turn around about 50 yards short of the ski hut due to ice fall (base ball size). I did not have a helmet. Lots of snow up there. Saw a few snow fractures where the snow might give way to small avalanches or land slides... lots of trees were snap in half too.... If you go up that way make sure you have crampons, ice axe and a helmet. We had snow shoes but the snow condiitons in the early morning were great for crampons not so great for after mid day."

If any other people have reports, such as San Jacinto, perhaps they could chime in, here.  We ran into several other groups of people in ODC on San Gorgonio, going higher, maybe they can report what they found...

Total posts: 253
Joined: 16 year(s) ago
Posted 10:04 AM 1/17/2005

Thanks, Ken...Safety first ;o)

From another list:

Went hiking up Ice House today and there is an awesome avalange just
above the wilderness sign.  Pretty powerful and even had a 15 ft high
by 20 ft
wide arch that was carved out by the torrential rain.  Could not find
the trail
after climbing over and did not make it to the top but pretty awesome.

Heard that there was an avalange before South Fork Meadows in San G. 
Don't know much about future avalange risk but this one is powerful!

Total posts: 393
Joined: 13 year(s) ago
Posted 4:19 PM 1/17/2005
Ken, the area of the first avalanche is indeed the spot of previous avalanches. The area and width of the avalanche, seems to me the same area one came through in 69'. The trail does a left dogleg as you are going toward South Fork. In 69' it cleared everything out for some distance. I've watched over the years the forest grow back in that area but now it's seems gone again. Believe it or not, I look there every spring to see if an avalanche had come again. Looks like it has. Maybe it too is on the 30 years cycle as well. You know, major storms seem to happen about every 30 years. Check the records. 2005, 1969, 1938, 1905, 1862. Seems to coinsidental to be something new.
Everyone be safe and keep your ears & eyes open. Report anything you see that has happened or may be on the dangerous side.
Total posts: 1134
Joined: 47 year(s) ago
Posted 7:35 PM 1/17/2005

Rick Kent, over on http://www.mt-whitney.info  , the new mt. Whitney board, wrote:

I attempted Mount Baldy on Saturday (1/15) with a group of 4 others. Saw the same conditions Ken did. Below the ski hut there are two or three gullies that were bowling allies. Near constant chunks of solid ice that were breaking off from rocks high up on Mount Harwood and bouncing down impacting on trees (or unfortunate hikers). For some reason this didn't bother us as much as it probably should have. As Ken mentioned most were baseball size though we did see a few come down that were significantly larger (6+ inches). We also admired some very large chunks about 18 inches long that had come to rest in the gullies. It was unfortunately at this point that one of our group took an unintended glissade down a steeper section about 150 feet. In the process he dislocated his shoulder and we had to escort him down. Thus, as always, you want to be careful. I personally thought the snow was rather good for crampons. My Grivel G12s gripped the firm snow quite well. Our unfortunate partner wasn't quite so well equipped. Unfortunately Baldy has a reputation for not being very forgiving.

Total posts: 171
Joined: 15 year(s) ago
Posted 1:15 PM 1/18/2005

I hiked the Vivian Creek Trail on San Gorgonio on Sunday.  The conditions seem to be somewhat different on the southwest side of the mountain. We saw no evidence of large-scale avalanches on the trail.  Only some minor runs in gullies that were only a couple feet deep. However on the steeper sections above 8000 feet it did see fractures below many anchor points.  However none of the fractures produced any avalanches.  

 

The snow pack was perfect, the weather was sunny and warm, the scenery spectacular, we had a great day.