San Gorgonio Climbing Notes
Please submit any useful information about climbing San Gorgonio that may be useful to other climbers. Consider things such as access and accommodation at the base of San Gorgonio, as well as the logistics of climbing to the summit.
January 30, 2018
San G hiker from United States
Winter hiking San G safety tips:
I just posted hike notes from the other day. What I did not include was that a strong member of the group I hiked with, who stayed with me the entire time as this was my first snow hike, is a Search & Rescue volunteer and highly trained. He corroborated some safety tips to share.
First of all, he said he does not get all that many calls for San G, as most people who come here know this is a big mountain that can get big weather and has serious elevation. That does not mean no calls though and not that this is an easy peasy hike, just that people typically come prepared and knowledgeable.
So, here are some tips to have a fun, enjoyable, and safe hike:
- Winter hiking is slower and harder than normal. Significantly harder if you are trudging up ridges in knee deep snow, above 9000 feet! Add a couple hours to time estimates, and be mindful of dropping temps in afternoon aiding ice formation.
- I called it a mile from summit around 1:30/2 as winds cranking and was concerned about hiking back in dark and wanted to get down to lower elev before sunset/potential icing. I normally move fast downhill but not in snow/ice. We still had to hike 1-1.5 hrs with headlamps and were lucky temps still a bit above freezing so road out hadn't iced over hard yet.
- Ensure you have an emergency bivvy or such and adequate fire starting materials, in case you have to stay overnight unplanned.
- ALWAYS stay with a buddy! This is good anytime and esp with the challenges of winter! Even if you get to Halfway Camp and your friend gets AMS, the mountain will still be there and do NOT take off to peak and leave friend behind. My SAR hike partner told me many stories of both rescue - and sadly recovery - missions when this has happened; it is serious.
- Plan on possible increased food and water consumption due to higher calorie burn in snow.
- Be mindful of shorter daylight and dropping temps in afternoon that can cause the nice slush to turn to ice and black ice, which btw headlamps do not "see" well.
- The upper parking lot is closed for the season, and the "road" to the lower lot is like walking the creek itself without a trail now, so plan on extra mileage and time getting back to your car. Also, the upper parking bathrooms are locked.
- Bring poles and an ice axe, as well as waterproof shoes, crampons, micro spikes, and waterproof jacket and pants/snow gaiters. Windproof stuff and warm fleece layers and beanie - break out your ski/snowboard clothes - will prove very useful on the higher elevations and in the snow!
- San G is remote and BIG, another reason to stay on the trails as much as possible. Cell service spotty. Strongly consider investing in a SPOT or ResQLink type emergency device and a GPS tracker to ensure you stay on track in the snow.
Hiking in winter is amazingly beautiful but was way harder for me than the other dry day hikes I've done. The mountain demands even more respect.
Be mindful and safe and remember, the mountain isn't going anywhere, and you do want to be able to go home safe and sound after your hike!
January 29, 2018
San G hiker from United States
Report from day hike up/down Vivian 1/27/18
Below High Creek patchy snow/ice; nothing on boots going up; used micro spikes down as temps were dropping. Trail was clearly marked and well-trodden.
High Creek was flowing nicely but still easy crossing. Yummy cold water :)
After High Creek, much more snow and trail obscured climbing first ridge. Only minimal use trails went straight up ridge. Microspikes started clogging with snow; switched to crampons which worked great. A pair of guys had snow shoes and said they worked well too. Snow gaiters/snow pants/waterproof boots recommended as we sank up to knees in a few deeper snow patches.
As trail turned left towards San G and sunnier side of ridge, more spotty snow/clear trail on the ridgeline traverse. Switchbacks and beyond had snow; crampons best.
Did not glissade as day we went high 40+ winds were kicking up as strong Santa Anas moving in, so just focused on descending safely.
This was my first winter hike and I was amazed how long it took! Mountain was beautiful though :). Enjoy and be safe! :)
Happy winter hiking!
August 09, 2017
Marta S. from United States
Took Vivian Creek trail up to peak.. great views good steady climb. Our first time on this trail so would have
Liked a few more signs... but so worth it! We did in 11 hours and were glad to see the parking lot;)
May 16, 2016
Staci from United States
Momyer trail on 5/9 had a few snow banks after Plummer Meadows that required tools for safety's sake. Beyond Dollar Lake Saddle (9,960'), the trail to Dry Lake View was easy enough to navigate just with foot spikes. Beyond that, there were snow drifts that obscured the route.
April 18, 2016
Brian from United States
This past week I just hiked to the top of Shields Peak. There is still allot of snow on the trails.
Please take your poles, compass and map to navigate the trails. I did the hike 14.4 miles round trip in 9 hours. At 60, I felt really great being up there and safety was my number one rule in the mountains. I turned around at 1pm so I could get back down for dinner at 4pm. It was a strenuous hike cutting snow tracks and marking arrows in the snow for an
easy visible return. The tree trail markers are very few and far between so take care to mark your way in the snow. The hardest thing to deal with was the wind chill factor. 10 to 12 mph winds over 9800ft. very cold.
Notes. This trail at this time of the year is not for easy hikers. Be warned !
Take a wind breaker, poles and boot spikes.
March 01, 2016
Shawn from United States
With respect...if, over the last 200 years, every single avalanche fatality in California occurred on San Gorgonio, your estimates might come close.
While I appreciate anyone that takes the time to post (especially when promoting safety), your comments regarding the "thousands of people" killed on the mountain are wildly inaccurate. Over the past 50 years California has averaged 10 fatalities per year. A vast majority (over 90%) of those are on/near Mt. Shasta or in the Sierra backcountry. 5 out of those 10 are typically due to snowmobiles triggering avalanches.
San Gorgonio can be a dangerous place and should be treated as such. I'm not suggesting otherwise, but by following a few simple rules you can enjoy the mountain quite safely. It's not Russian Roulette up there.
1. Call the ranger station and get the conditions
2. Bring the right gear
3. Know how to use the gear!
4. Check the weather
5. Check the avalanche forecast
6. (100% most important rule...you'll live a nice long happy mountaineering life if you just stick to it.) KNOW when to turn around and call it quits. The mountain isn't going anywhere. Head back to town, take a few pictures, have a beer and plan your next attempt. 20 feet from the summit, but blocked by 4 feet of slick ice that you can't get around? Throw a rock at the summit and call it a day!
Again Jacob, no offense meant.
February 09, 2015
Sally Morley from United States
I'm not sure if my tongue-in-cheek post will be printed, but in all seriousness, my group did ascend to the San Gorgonio backbone 2/6/15 via the "Big Draw." We used snowshoes until we reached about the 10,500' level where we switched to crampons. Conditions were excellent, and yes, we were mindful of avalanche conditions, which we ascertained to be an extremely low possibility that day. It was cold on top of the ridge, mainly because of the wind, which is typical of this ridge.
February 09, 2015
Sally Morley from United States
Thank you Jakob for the timely post. I took the route to the San Gorgonio Ridge up the "Big Draw" on Fri. Feb. 6. My group was mindful of the avalanche danger. We lucked out...the closest I got to a serious mishap was a Nalgene bottle dropped by a climber about 50' above me. It rocketed past me and missed my head by about 10 feet.
December 25, 2014
Jakob from United States
I didn't mean thousands killed from one single avalanche, I meant that the mountain has avalanches that have killed a thousand people so far.
December 18, 2014
MDG from United States
Thousands killed by avalanche? Really? Maybe a bit of an exaggeration.
November 18, 2014
Richard from United States
I concur with Jakob Bailey's post.
My group summited on November 15th 2014.
As stated by Jakob, warm clothes and the appropriate gear, if overnighting, is imperative. There was some snow on the trail starting at around 9500 feet. This made the trails a little more technical so be careful. No crampons or microspikes were needed. The wind, if forecasted, is a definite concern and this will impact gear selection as well as summiting times.
November 04, 2014
Jakob Bailey from United States
Watch for the steep slopes of San Gorgonio especially during the winter because you can slip and fall off cliffs of over a 3,000 ft. drop. San Gorgonio is my most favorite mountain peak of all because of the weather and how much snow it gets because I am a really big fan of snow. The temperatures during the summer can reach up to 50 degrees while during the winter it normally reaches up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, listen and check to see if there is an avalanche danger signaled for the mountain because it has been known to have deadly avalanches that has killed thousands of people. So, make sure to pack warm gear and pack lots of food. Don't pack to much food as it can lead to exhaustion faster and tiredness and also can make it hard to breathe faster, especially at the higher elevations. Hope this climbing note comes into handy and helps you out on your hiking trip.
June 13, 2011
JT from United States
Beware of downed trees and snow making extra challenges between San Gorgonio summit and Red Rock Flat.
Add about 1 hour to normal time and take care not to lose the trail. No need for axes or crampons unless frozen conditions come.