Trail & Snow Conditions: San Jacinto & Miller Peaks, January 23 2016

Some friends and I joined S.C.H.P. for their 3rd peak in the SoCal Hiker 6 Pack of Peaks Challenge.

Our route:
We caught the first tram up and followed the San Jacinto Peak Trail until we reached the Sid Davis Route. We followed the Sid Davis Route until about 9,000 ft, then headed more directly towards Miller Peak. After a quick stop at Miller, we also summited San Jacinto. On our way back to Miller, we took a slightly different route, finding untouched snow for much of our trip down to 9200 ft. On our way back to San Jacinto Peak trail, we crisscrossed our tracks several times as we looked to get out of the weather and snow/terrain that would allow us to keep using our snowshoes.


My route, exported from my Delorme inReach.

Some notes on trail and snow conditions:

  • From the end of the ramp for the tram until we reached an elevation of about 9200 ft, everyone in the group used microspike style traction(something that uses an elastomer harness – ie microspikes, trail crampons, yaktrax, ICETrekkers).
  • At 9200 ft, we started postholing, so we used snowshoes. Snowshoes were used all the way to Miller Peak and across to San Jacinto. For most of the ascent, the snow was perfect for mountaineering/backcountry snowshoes; hard enough that our snowshoes had something to grip to, but not so hard we were sliding around. We did find some isolated areas of powder that made the climb a bit more difficult.
  • On our descent, we used snowshoes all the way back to the ranger station. Since the snow has softened significantly, the snowshoes were useful at elevations below 9200 ft. To keep using our snowshoes, we stayed north of the lower sections of the Sid Davis Route.

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The conditions were excellent for testing the winter traction devices I’ve received over that last few weeks:

Winter Traction

  • Yaktrax – both of these models provided adequate traction for the hike to Icehouse Saddle.
    • Pro Traction Cleats
      • Good on flat terrain, not on hills. More on this later.
    • Run Traction Cleats
      • Design of the straps kept the cleats where they’re supposed to be and they worked well on packed snow and ice.
      • I didn’t slip, but for hiking, they could benefit from longer carbide steel spikes. I want to try them in wet snow to see if snow buildup is an issue.
  • ICETrekkers Diamond Grip Traction Cleats
    • After using these last week, I bought a pair for my wife. A friend with small feet used them on this hike and they worked well. If they prove to be durable, they’re a good buy.

Other Gear

  • Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiter
    • Another hiker used these on the hike. Since she had smaller legs than myself, they were much easier to put on. The sizing seems to be a little on the small side, so you if you have large calves, plan on wearing them with insulated pants or are in-between sizes, I would recommend sizing up.
  • Katabatic Gear Helios 55
    • I’m impressed with how well this pack carries the weight. On my last 3 trips I’ve had over 30 lbs and while I’m hiking, I haven’t thought about pack weight at all.
    • Some detailed photos of this pack, as well as a short review are posted here – Under Review: Katabatic Gear Helios 55 Backpack.
  • WoolPro