Kaweah WTC Snow Camp 2018 Goes Negative!

March 16th to 18th, 2018
[Pics] [Map]

Each year the 10 week Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course builds up to a three day two night winter backpack outing into the Sierra Nevada.  And each year the staff nervously watch the snow forecast hoping we don't have a repeat of 2015 where we barely had enough snow to set up tents on.

This year it looked grim until right before the snow travel outing at which point a series of storms starting hitting both the local mountains and the Sierra.  By the week before snow camp we knew we were in for something memorable.


Even if the weather fizzled (which it didn't) this was looking to be the coldest snow camp in years!

Wilderness Travel Course Joshua Tree Weekend With Kaweah Group

February 17th & 18th, 2018
[Pics] [CalTopo]

Joshua Tree is the second of four outings that make up the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course.  Two weeks ago everyone joined us for a 15 mile -ish dayhike and now we had an entire weekend bus trip out to Indian Cove to focus on rock scrambling skills and navigation!

And since we're Kaweah Group (one of the three groups in the Orange County area of WTC) we like to throw a theme into the mix for our summit shot and potluck.  Themes are suggested and voted on by the class and previous years have run the gamut from simple to elaborate.  This year the winner was Medical Misadventure beating out Business Casual Murder Clowns by a very small margin.  The result is what you see above!

For more information on what WTC is and how to take the course see the official site here. More posts by me about WTC can be found here.

Whale Watching At Laguna Ojo de Liebre In Baja

February 10th to 12th, 2018
[Map]

This trip was a little different than my normal weekend fare since it didn't involve any peaks, hikes, or hot springs.  Victor Gomez and Lubna Debbini are two friends who came through WTC last year and they put this trip together around whale watching down at Laguna Ojo de Libre.

If you're like me and only ever seen whales Newport Beach style in the distance from the deck of a large boat the experience at Laguna Ojo de Liebre will completely ruin that for you.  Whales migrate here from Alaska to give birth and teach their babies how to swim.  These days it's carefully controlled so that only a set number of boats can go out and only in certain areas for 90 minutes at a time.  It's somewhat famous due to the fact the whales come so close to the boats that if you're lucky you can reach out and touch them.

Santiago Peak Wilderness Travel Course Kaweah Group Conditioning Hike

February 3rd, 2018
Santiago Peak (5,687')
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

It's that time of year again where we start taking the new crop of Wilderness Travel Course students on outings!  After three weeks of classroom sessions we spent Saturday hiking Santiago Peak via the Holy Jim Trail.   It's an Orange County classic it involving 15 ish miles and 4k gain all on trail making it a great fitness assessment before we continue on to the rock scrambling, snowshoe, and finally a winter backpack in the Sierra!

Deep Creek Hot Springs In San Bernardino

January 28th, 2018
Deep Creek Hot Springs
4.1 miles, 970'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

Deep Creek Hot Springs is located out near Apple Valley and is one of those places I've heard talked about for years and always wanted to check out.  It's only accessible via a hike involving a short and steep two mile descent or a longer route from the PCT and is known for its unique setting and prevalence of naked folks of a hippie inclination or otherwise.

And of course there are the usual warnings about amoebic meningoencephalitis and fecal coliform.  But hey, if that really bothers you you're probably not the sort that should be looking at backcountry hot springs to begin with.

Dyadic Point & Tensor (aka Aqua BM) Joshua Tree

January 27th, 2018
Aqua Benchmark (4,419')
Dyadic Point (4,360')
14.1 miles, 3,200'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

I was going to stay home this weekend.  I really was.  The last few weeks of constant trips and frantic work weeks had left me with quite a bit to do around the house and I decided I should really just stay home and deal with it all.

That resolution lasted until about 3 pm on Friday.  5 hours later Kristen and I were driving out to the desert planning to knock off some things that had been on the list for awhile but didn't really warrant their own weekend.

Dyadic is a peak near the DPS Spectre Peak out to the east of Twentynine Palms.  Jen Blackie and I did Spectre back in 2013 and due to running low on water we'd skipped the two named bumps nearby and ever since I'd heard people talk about Dyadic and how difficult it was.

And they were right.  I tend to discount a lot of the Joshua Tree area peaks as trivial but this one has solid high end 3rd with a bonus of non trivial route finding.  It's a great pick for a Sierra Club M provisional with the only drawback being it's tough to day hike and any plan to backpack the peaks requires you carry all your water.  And who the heck wants to do that...

Newport Harbor Pizza Paddle - January 2018

January 25th, 2018
[Pics] [Map]

Once a month a group of us get together and paddle Newport Harbor after work. We launch from the beach next to the Newport Aquatic Center and paddle over to Pizza Nova in the main harbor in a combination of kayaks and SUPs. There we dock our boats, partake in feast of pizza and beer, and then paddling back to the cars. We do this all year round and in pretty much all conditions. Light, dark, rain, and the dead of SoCal winter where you're tempted to put a sweater on with your flip flops.

You can find writeups of other pizza paddles here. For notifications on when we're doing the next one see our facebook group Pizza Paddle Associates. (Send me a message so I know you're not a spam bot!)

We had skipped the December Pizza Paddle in favor of paddling along with the Newport Christmas Boat Parade which is always a lot of fun but of a different sort than our normal monthly excursions and I was looking forward to starting these up again.  Sadly we're still launching in the dark for at least another paddle or two due to the constraints of gainful employment but on the plus side that means smooth water perfect for paddling even if I do miss seeing the sunsets as we go down the main channel.  (And more importantly it's damn near impossible to take decent pictures at night from a moving boat!)

USGS Little Picacho Near Yuma

January 21th, 2018
Little Picacho Peak (1,508')
1.3 miles, 1,300'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

Yesterday's climb of Picacho Peak had been the main attraction for the weekend but I didn't want to drive all the way out to Yuma just for a single peak.  I'd already done Muggins, the two DPS Peaks off the 8, and The Thumb + Palo Verde Peak in the area and I was really starting to reach for new ideas when someone suggested Little Picacho.

USGS Little Picacho Peak is the bump to the north of Picacho.  It's confusing because the Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section likes to refer to Picacho as Little Picacho to distinguish it from Picacho del Diablo aka Big Picacho down in Mexico.  Nevermind the fact you also have *another* Picacho peak in the state park not far to the east.

USGS Little Picacho is a short hike from the road leading to the northern trailhead for DPS Picacho and could easily be done on the same day if you had a suitably fast group.  It's a rough approach but there's some quality scrambling near the top and I'd love to go back and see if there was a way to get even more down lower.

(The picture at the top of the article is a view of Little Picacho from the summit ridge of DPS Picacho)

Picacho Peak Near Yuma With A Big Group

January 20th, 2018
Picacho Peak (1,920')
3.8 miles, 1,300'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

Picacho Peak (sometimes referred to as Little Picacho on the Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section list) is a spectacular volcanic plug located north of Yuma.


From a distance it looks impossible but approached from the west there's a notch leading to a series of ledges which involve 3rd class scrambling, an awkward stepacross, two slightly sketchy ladders, and a summit ridge that requires a 4th class bit, 2 rappels, and finally a slightly challenging ascent if the rope.  (The last part is why the peak is listed as the hardest technical peak on the DPS list)

It's always struck me as a perfect fit for people who have completed the Sierra Club Advanced Mountaineering Program and are looking for a way to practice the skills they learned.  I'd been toying with leading it officially as an AMP Experience Trip of sorts for a while now and this was the result.

This was my 3rd time up Picacho.  I initially did it back in 2011 from the east with just two people and then again in 2012 from the north as a part of my Sierra Club E provisional in a slightly hectic day where we also summited the mighty Stud Mountain.


This time we had 15 folks counting my co leader Jack Kieffer and myself.  That number also included several AMP staffers to help move everyone through the choke points more quickly.

Despite the fact it was pouring rain when we left Orange County Friday night the forecast called for wind but 0% chance of rain.  Yet somehow my personal luck seems to *occasionally* override forecasts like that...

Mustache Mosey 2018: Cady Peak

January 14th, 2018
Cady Peak (4,627')
6.3 miles, 2,000'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

This was the final stop for the 2018 Mustache Mosey.  Summitpost described it as obscure, remote, and not well documented and more importantly it looked like something we could do in a half day after the morning spent sledding Kelso Dunes.