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Mt. San Jacinto
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Snow Creek 

Snow Creek 

YDS: 4th French: 1 Ewbanks: 2 UIAA: I ZA: 2 British: M 1b AI1-2 Mod. Snow

Type:  Ice, Snow, Alpine, 10000', Grade V
Consensus:  YDS: 4th French: 1 Ewbanks: 2 UIAA: I ZA: 2 British: M 1b AI1 [details]
FA: unknown, BITD
Season: Spring is best, but can be done all year
Page Views: 3,456
Submitted By: Richard Shore on Apr 18, 2011

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Giant chockstone at 5,500'. 3rd/4th class scrambl...

Do not trespass on DWA property! MORE INFO >>>


(Taken and edited from SummitPost)

Snow Creek is one of the premier alpine climbs in Southern California. It has a tremendous vertical gain of 10,000 feet in less than 5 horizontal miles. Supposedly, it is the steepest escarpment in the contiguous 48.

The starting elevation is approx. 1,200 feet. From the start to about 5,500 feet, depending on the snowpack, it is all bushwacking and boulder hopping. Once you reach the snow tongue of Snow Creek you will need crampons and an ice axe. Climb the remaining 5,300 feet of snow and/or ice in one of the several chutes. You will encounter 35 to 55 degree snow slopes, with the angle increasing as you get near the top. Most people hike 2-3 hours (~5 miles) from the summit to the tram for a ride down off the mountain.

Just a short note - This is not a beginner climb. The very long approach requires conditioning and considerable route finding to get into the canyon. The exposure on this route requires solid 4th class ability & low 5th. Round trip from car to summit to tram is ~15 miles. This makes for one HUGE day, or bring minimal bivy gear and make a 2-day ascent. Many parties camp at a flat bivy around 5,300' before dropping into Snow Creek proper near the giant chockstone.


The traditional approach to the (East Fork of) Snow Creek route trespasses through one square mile of private property owned by the Desert Water Agency (DWA) -- specifically, section 33, which is demarcated on most maps. In 2010, the DWA started taking the trespassing issue very seriously. In light of this, it is recommended that climbers respect the DWA's property rights and avoid their property altogether.

The key to the approach is accessing the isthmus, which is the narrowest strip of land between Falls Creek and (the East Fork of) Snow Creek. One legal approach to this point involves ascending the ridge east of Falls Creek to the peak at ~4300 feet and then traversing directly to the isthmus.

From the Isthmus, continue south up the ridge about 100-200 feet, then bear right following ducks through very heavy brush. Stay high above the creek and aim for a notch on the spur ridge to the west. From the notch, drop down 100 feet into a boulder-strewn gully. Follow this west 200 yards to a waterfall. Go up brush/dirt slopes to the right of the waterfall and continue west and up a few hundred feet to the ridgeline. From here you can see the snow tongue in Snow Creek. Aim right for it.......

After attaining the summit, traverse east approximately 5 miles to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for a quick and easy descent. An excellent alternative during high snowpack years would be to ski/board straight back down Snow Creek and reverse the long approach.


Ice axe(s), crampons, gaiters, trekking pole(s)

Photos of Snow Creek Slideshow Add Photo
snow creek in january
snow creek in january
Low on San Jacinto. 1971. Just a bit of spindrift off the summit. With Paul Gleason in about 12 hours car to car with perfect conditions.  (This might be near the tram).
Low on San Jacinto. 1971. Just a bit of spindrift ...
DWA searching for trespassers...
DWA searching for trespassers...
Alex and Zach near the chockstone
Alex and Zach near the chockstone
Snow Creek, as seen from approx. 1/2 way in on the approach
Snow Creek, as seen from approx. 1/2 way in on the...
The start of the snow tongue, just above the massive chockstone.  5,300' of snow/ice to the summit
The start of the snow tongue, just above the massi...
Paul Gleason 1971, mid-route with perfect conditions.  Took about 12 hours car to car.
Paul Gleason 1971, mid-route with perfect conditio...
Paul cruising up the snow chute.  The starting elevation can be seen wayyyyy in the background
Paul cruising up the snow chute. The starting ele...
Zach and I running out of up, and fat to burn.
Zach and I running out of up, and fat to burn.
R Shore topping out on the Snow Creek/North Face route on Mt San Jacinto
R Shore topping out on the Snow Creek/North Face r...
nathan on nice firm snow near the top
nathan on nice firm snow near the top

Comments on Snow Creek Add Comment
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By Benjamin Chapman
From: Small Town, USA
Mar 1, 2013

#1.....Kahiltna Base to Denali summit (13,000+)
#2....Sea level to Fairweather summit (12,500+)
#3....Bad water to Telescope Peak (11,200+)
#4....Snow Creek Village to San Jacinto summit (10,000+)
By Chris Owen
From: La Crescenta and Big Bear Lake
Apr 25, 2013

Did it back in 1986 with a couple of other guys I met in the Sierra (Bob and Pat), took us two days to get to the summit then half a day to the bottom of the Tram. We stayed the night in the summit hut, carried skis up and tried to ski down the back side. Conditions were horrible, crust over powder over hard ice, with hard ice at the summit pitches.

But of an epic but glad I did it.
By Roy Suggett
May 2, 2013

Back in the early 80s Frank Curry and I left the Village around 1:30 am and headed quietly up the water dist. rd. We were within 20 yards of the house when the biggest, meanest, and loudest dog ever, charged us. We took off down hill but knew we were raw meat for this beasts early breakfast...then his large chain stopped him. We slinked through a boulder field and around the house. Made the summit by 3:00. Then down to the tram before it closed. Good times!
Later I was going to do it again so drove up to the water Dist. house to inquire of the proper etiquette. The dog was there and even worse than my imagination had envisioned. A German Shepard-Saint Bernard cross weighing at least 180. A few weeks later a ranger informed me that a Lion had ambushed the dog. When the owner came out and tried to scar the Lion off with a round from a 30/30, the Lion bolted up hill with dog in mouth. Then chain never even slowed the two down and later the St. trapper found tracks of the biggest Lion he had ever seen.
This route is really only doable as a alpine/all in one day push when the snow/ice tongue gets very low. This comes around every decade or so.
Over the years I have seen some bad asses skiing down the thing with axes as poles! Wish I had those skills so as not to have to post hole down to the tram!
By Keith Leaman
May 29, 2013

Enjoyed seeing this route on MP. The late Paul Gleason and I did Snow Creek twice, in 1971 and again in 1972. Both times we had excellent conditions which made for a smooth ascent -about 12-14 hours car to car. No post-holing even on the summit and over to the Tram if the route was chosen carefully.

Paul's father-in-law helped pour the concrete footings for construction of the tram in the early '60s. We briefly explored some route potential on the largest rock formation in Richard Shore's photo west of Snow Creek. What a spectacular place.