Skiing the tallest mountain within the metropolis of Los Angeles

First got here early climate reviews, the forecasts of historic rain and snow headed for Los Angeles. Then got here the storm itself, and by that point Andy Lewicky was too excited to sleep.

Checking the National Weather Service each few hours didn’t assist. Lewicky saved scanning meteorologists’ Twitter feeds, hungry for any morsel of data he may spot.

“That way you can read the buzz as to how excited they are,” he stated. “It’s hard not to get obsessed.”

The 55-year-old author devotes himself to a peculiar passion — discovering hidden spots for backcountry snowboarding within the mountains of drought-plagued Southern California. Could an epic chilly entrance provide one thing really extraordinary, a possibility to cost down the slopes with a view of downtown within the distance?

Sunday morning, as sunshine lastly broke via, Lewicky convened a gaggle of like-minded associates at a McDonald’s in Tujunga for Egg McMuffins and keen chatter. Soon they headed up the street to close by Mt. Lukens.

A gaggle of skiers make their approach up Mt. Lukens on Sunday morning.

(Andy Lewicky)

Skiers make their way over the summit of Mt. Lukens on Sunday.

Skiers make their approach over the summit of Mt. Lukens on Sunday.

(Andy Lewicky)

It was the primary time any of the boys, of their 40s and 50s, may recall seeing Lukens, a 5,000-foot peak on the metropolis’s northeast border, blanketed in a lot white. Strapping skis, boots and poles to their backs, they started a four-hour hike to the summit.

“All the pressures, the traffic and smog … L.A. is not an easy place to live,” Lewicky stated. “When I get to experience skiing and snow in this desert home I’ve chosen, it’s a special thing.”

Backcountry is a distinct segment subset of the snowboarding world. It exists other than dear resorts, high-speed lifts and groomed runs, attracting a breed of skiers who starvation for a pure setting of rocks and bushes with nobody else in sight.

That can imply trekking all day to make however one run down an remoted couloir or a bowl. It can imply braving avalanches and different risks that lurk above, and beneath, the floor of unmanaged terrain.

A small however devoted cadre of native skiers devotes itself to discovering such alternatives in ranges such because the San Bernardinos, San Gabriels and San Jacintos. Lewicky, whose weblog chronicles this ardour, calls it “living with one foot in two different worlds.”

Skiers make their way to the summit of Mt. Lukens on Sunday.

Skiers make their option to the summit of Mt. Lukens on Sunday.

(Andy Lewicky)

Reeling off statistics from reminiscence, he says few individuals notice that Southern California has a formidable “peak prominence,” the mixed distance from base to summit alongside its varied ranges. But these spots seldom get sufficient snow to ski.

Read also  Can Michigan clear the brand new bar it has set for itself?

“Scarcity spawns stoke,” stated Preston Lear, a West Hollywood therapist who skis with Lewicky. “When there is snow, there are people willing to hike for it.”

No one in Sunday’s group of 5 had tried Lukens, which is a part of the Angeles National Forest and ranks because the tallest peak inside L.A. metropolis limits. On the journey there, Matt Dixon, a civil engineer, stated he “almost drove off the 2 Freeway” staring in any respect that white.

Matt Dixon skis on the summit of Mt. Lukens with the downtown Los Angeles skyline in the distance.

Matt Dixon skis on the summit of Mt. Lukens with the downtown Los Angeles skyline within the distance.

(Andy Lewicky)

Though Lukens is pretty tame and accessible in comparison with different locations they’ve ventured, Lewicky and his crew took an array of security tools, together with shovels and avalanche transceivers.

Skiing within the backcountry requires traversing slender ridges with skis chattering throughout ice and snow. Every descent is a minefield of protruding rocks. Even if no avalanches break free, skiers could be swallowed by “tree wells” — deep pockets of free snow surrounding evergreens — and die from suffocation.

Al Preston packed a collapsible steel pole used to probe for fellow skiers ought to they get buried. “I’ve never used it,” the South Pasadena engineer stated. “My goal is never having to.”

Preston Lear skis off the top of Mt. Lukens with the skyline of downtown Los Angeles in the distance.

Preston Lear skis off the highest of Mt. Lukens with the skyline of downtown Los Angeles within the distance.

(Andy Lewicky)

A skier begins his run down the fog-shrouded west face of Mt. Lukens.

A skier begins his run down the fog-shrouded west face of Mt. Lukens.

(Andy Lewicky)

Sleuthing is a part of the joys for backcountry skiers residing in a Mediterranean local weather that tends towards semi-arid. Summer hikes double as analysis as they scan the mountains for topographical options that is perhaps skiable with sufficient snow.

The uninitiated would possibly scoff on the effort required for one comparatively brief run.

“The going-up is actually fun,” Lewicky stated. “You have the mountain to yourself, very rhythmic and peaceful.” Every step nearer to the height, he added, “obviously builds a lot of anticipation.”

Read also  Wrexham to play friendlies vs. Man United, Chelsea in U.S. this summer season

It helps to have alpine touring gear made gentle for carrying. Bindings could be switched from downhill to cross-country mode with heels indifferent. Temporary “skins,” made out of mohair and nylon, could be hooked up to the bottoms of skis for pushing alongside flats and inclines on the way in which up.

Column One

A showcase for compelling storytelling from the Los Angeles Times.

Sunday’s climb started beneath a vibrant solar that softened the morning’s chill. The snow rapidly turned a number of ft deep, slowing progress.

“It was weighing down the brush,” Dixon stated. “We had to crawl through in some places.”

The state of affairs worsened alongside a curving ridgeline at the next elevation. Another entrance was shifting into the area, the primary clouds stacking up towards Luken’s west face. That sought-after view of downtown was now obscured in grayish haze.

“We kind of shook our fists at the sky,” Lewicky stated.

The group waited awhile on the summit, consuming snacks, hoping the climate would possibly clear. They skied the west face a number of hundred vertical ft to a crossing hearth street, then determined to climb again up and weigh their choices.

“You have to see what the mountain gives you on any given day,” Dixon stated. “It’s more about the adventure than necessarily just the skiing.”

A protracted hearth street descended eastward from the height. Perhaps it may lead them out of the clouds.

Lewicky’s benchmark for excellent adventures dates to 2008 when, on a hike via the San Gabriels, he noticed an unfamiliar couloir — a steep chute bordered by rock on both facet — within the distance. Narrow and unsafe, it piqued his curiosity.

Maybe skiable, he thought. Maybe not.

Topographic maps pinpointed the spot at 7,500 ft up the north face of Iron Mountain, however there was an issue. The San Gabriel River, bordering that facet of the mountain, blocked any direct ascent. Lewicky started working on the lookout for an alternative choice.

Matt Dixon flies off a ski jump on the east side of Mt. Lukens.

Matt Dixon flies off a ski leap on the east facet of Mt. Lukens.

(Andy Lewicky)

An strategy from the bottom would require climbing 8,000 ft to the height, descending partway, snowboarding after which taking the identical route again. The roundtrip of 18,000 vertical ft was daunting.

Read also  Ron Rivera: Sam Howell doubtless QB1 for Commanders subsequent season

Over the subsequent two years, Lewicky and a few associates tried summiting an adjoining peak and traversing throughout, however the connecting ridgeline proved too dangerous. Turning again, they bumped into one other skier with the identical thought.

David Braun is a JPL engineer recognized for exploring among the area’s most distant spots. Remote sufficient that he as soon as had a golden eagle dive at him.

“We looked each other in the eye,” he recalled. “Then he figured I wasn’t something to eat.”

It made sense for Braun to affix forces with Lewicky to beat Iron Mountain. Their quest would end in a brief movie referred to as “The Couloir to Nowhere.”

Resigned to taking the good distance, they set out in spring 2010, climbing the mountain from the south, spending the evening there, then summiting and reaching their vacation spot the subsequent morning.

Rivulets and rocks made the couloir treacherous. Backcountry skiers are greatest going one by one; the others dangle again in case one thing catastrophic occurs.

Slowly, they picked their approach down, making fast leap turns throughout the slender, walled area, stopping to contemplate the lip of a slight rise forward. Braun requested: “Is that a cliff or a mirage?”

Matthew Testa skis down the west face of Mt. Lukens in white-out conditions on Sunday.

Matthew Testa skis down the west face of Mt. Lukens in white-out situations on Sunday.

(Andy Lewicky)

After about 1,500 vertical ft, the couloir narrowed and made a pointy bend. The males stopped and, respiratory laborious, determined they’d gone so far as doable. Lewicky thanked Braun.

“I wasn’t going to do it alone,” Lewicky stated. “And nobody else would do it with me.”

Choosing the japanese hearth street on Mt. Lukens rapidly paid off.

Within minutes, it led to a facet of the mountain shielded from the climate. The view cleared to disclose the San Fernando Valley beneath. Downtown skyscrapers glittered within the solar and, past that, the ocean regarded golden.

“It was amazing,” Dixon stated. “You could see several of the Channel Islands.”

Al Preston and his friends play around on a ski jump they formed on the east side of Mt. Lukens.

Al Preston and his associates mess around on a ski leap they fashioned on the east facet of Mt. Lukens on Sunday.

(Andy Lewicky)

The group lingered to snap pictures and idiot round, constructing a hump of snow for taking jumps. But they couldn’t dangle round too lengthy, not with late afternoon approaching and their deliberate half-day journey stretching towards 10 hours.

The hearth street ran seven miles with flat spots and moist snow that made for sluggish going. It took them far astray, terminating at a U.S. Forestry Service station alongside the two Freeway, the place an Uber may accommodate solely two of them.

Arriving again at their place to begin after darkish, Lewicky pulled off his ski boots and jacket, hurrying to get in his automobile and retrieve the others. He regarded exhausted whereas explaining all that had gone awry, however smiled all the identical.

“It was a spectacular day,” he stated.

A historic storm. An opportunity to discover new terrain. A brand new place to ski within the wilderness, in a metropolis the place that appears unbelievable.