Friday, March 5, 2010

Telegraph Peak, South Couloir

Telegraph Peak (8985 feet) is a striking peak, especially when snow-covered, in the San Gabriel Mountains of southern California. Having never climbed it, I was inspired by a recent photo of a big couloir on its southern aspect.

The South Couloir is the big one in the photo's center.  Telegraph Wash is on the right.  [Photo by Patrick Moran]

Though the couloir has probably been climbed and/or skied, I could find no information about it. At around 7:00 AM yesterday (Thursday, March 4), Dave Gillanders, Patrick Moran, Norma Ryan, and I gazed up at it from Icehouse Canyon.

The South Couloir as seen from Icehouse Canyon.

Our first problem was finding the path of least resistance through the jungle of Manzanita and Buckthorn at the bottom of the couloir. After a small amount of thrashing (just enough to realize that this route would be awful in non-winter conditions), we followed a finger of snow on the right for a few hundred feet until it opened into the broad couloir. From there, the couloir reared up for over 2000 vertical feet at a 30 to perhaps 40 degree angle. Since the snow was hard and somewhat icy, we donned crampons, ice axes, and helmets early. Two additional reasons for helmets were the loose rocks far above and the constant stream of rime ice tinkling and careening down the slope.

Dave and Patrick near the bottom of the couloir.

The snow conditions were more or less perfect. After a long, continuous snow climb, we emerged happily (except for David, who tweaked his foot) onto the fairly narrow summit ridge.
Norma and Dave nearing the top of the couloir.
Norma on the summit ridge above the couloir.  Mt. San Gorgonio is on the left and Mt. San Jacinto is on the right.

The video above was taken from the top of the couloir.

By 11:00 AM, we were being whipped by chilly winds on the summit of Telegraph Peak.

Patrick, Norma, and Dave on the summit.

View of Mt. Baldy.

In keeping with my preference for loops involving descents with a margin of uncertainty, we headed down to the corniced saddle below Thunder Mountain. From there, we descended Cedar Canyon on perfect, knee-nurturing snow for over one mile until the snow petered out revealing loose rock and unaccommodating brush. After some tipping and thrashing, we stumbled onto the Chapman Trail and zigzagged back to the parking lot.

The numbers: 4000 feet of elevation gain, 8 hours round trip.

1 comment:

S Kay Murphy said...

Sam! This is so great! Thanks for taking me with you! I see it every day driving home from work and always wonder what it would be like to stroll (ha ha ha ha ha) right up it!