Zahniser Peak (10,056′) Snow Climb, Mar 7 2015

I joined the SoCal Hike and Peakbag Meetup for another epic day of hiking and snowshoeing. With the recent snowfall, I was hoping that there’d be enough snow to test my winter traction devices, put in a few miles with my snowshoes and summit one of the 10,000 foot peaks in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. The conditions ended up being the best that I’ve seen in 2 years.

The Plan

The hike was led by JG. We planned to meet at the Mill Creek Ranger Station @ 6:30 and be on South Fork Trail by 7:00. We would hike the trail to South Fork Meadows then take the winter route to Dry Lake. At that point we would pick a route to summit of Zahniser Peak based on the conditions.

The Outcome

We got off to a late start and kept a leisurely pace for the first part of the hike. MICROspikes or similar devices were used within a few hundred feet of the trailhead and were worn until we neared South Fork Meadows. From that point we snowshoed cross country to the ‘staging area’ for San Gorgonio winter climbs, then followed a ridge to the summit of Zahniser Peak. After a 40 min break on the summit, we took a slightly different route back to South Fork Meadows. We backtracked for ~ 1/2 mile, then descended directly to the north and towards Dry Lake. From Dry Lake, we took the Dry Lake Winter Route back to South Fork Meadows, then followed the trail back to our cars.

Snow Conditions

Many of the south facing slopes have very little snow or are bare already. The north facing slopes are holding the snow much better, and we found areas that had 1-2′ of untouched powder. The temperature is predicted to be very warm at the South Fork TH for as far out as the forecast goes (10 days). I would guess that areas below 8k’ that have prolonged sun exposure will be snow-less within a week. South Fork Trail was easily hiked with just MICROspikes or similar devices until you reach South Fork Meadows. From that point to Dry Lake (via the winter route), I would recommend snow shoes or skis.


Being a winter hike, my pack was close to 30 lbs including food, water and my winter gear.

Notable Gear

  • K10 Hiking Crampons
    • Another hiker put approximately 6 miles on them and was impressed with their performance.
    • I have now seen them used with boot sizes ranging from a women’s 7 to a men’s 14, using the same flex/extender bar.
    • While those of us using microspikes or trail crampons had balling issues (snow sticking to chains/spikes), I noticed that snow release skins on the K10s kept the hiker’s boots clean.
  • Hillsound Trail Crampons
    • I put approximately 6 miles on them
      • I think they may be sized a little large. They worked well with my Salomon Quest 4Ds (wide soles), but I had some slippage with my Oboz boots. On a previous trip, I hiked with a hiker whose boot barely fit into the range for a XL sized Trail Crampon. He bought the XL Crampons, and has had some issues with  slippage.
  • Oboz Bridger BDry
    • Kept my feet dry and warm in very wet snow.
    • I had some rubbing on my right heel, but I believe it was due to some socks that need to be replaced. I had previously thought about tossing these socks after a previous hike (different boots), but decided to give them another try. I will not use them again.

I wish I had brought…

  • Hydrapak Stash
    • I left it on my desk at work. I scrambled around the house looking for it, then realized where it was.
  • Convertible Hiking Pants
    • I need to buy new zip-offs. I wore wind pants and they were too hot with their lack of venting.

Geek Stats

Distance: 12.75 miles RT || Duration: 9hr 52m (5hr 40m ascent, 40m lunch, 3hr 32m descent) || Elevation Change: ±3,156′ || Climbing: ±4,136′

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