Home › Forums › Trail Conditions › South Fork, Dry Lake, Dollar Lake to peak trail status and hazards › Reply To: South Fork, Dry Lake, Dollar Lake to peak trail status and hazards
Yes you are fine to Dry Lake other than a few downed trees that are easy passage. Totally dry up to the start of the Sky High switchbacks a bit up from the Fish Creek junction around 10,000. ONLY the north-facing section had snow but ALL of that section had hard icy snow with varying degrres – but not a lot – of burnout on the downward slope side. That trail has no “side buffer” and mtn composition loose scree and sand. ONLY north-facing switchbacks on both Sky High and Dollar are impacted, as they are flat and shaded, but slope angle severe enough ESPECIALLY on Sky High if you slip you may tumble or likely at least slide a bit down then if you climb up you’re right back in the hard melt/freeze past couple weeks old snow layer. It is very thin maybe inch or max two but that is all it takes.
If you know Tahquiz in San Jacinto area, the hike to the lookout is the Jacinto version of Sky High and vice versa. The Skyline Traverse right up there too. This is why I wrote as I did. Yesterday, the north-facing Sky High section was the ONLY snow/ice section the entire Dry Lake trail over 11 mi to the peak, but it is a severe enough risk to give you pause.
A cautionary winter tale…
My very xp hike lead friend (not person I hiked with yest but we hike with him) almost lost his climbing partner years ago on the similarly dicey Traverse on Skyline in an El Nino winter. Two others in group all top mountaineers could easily be SAR wanted to push, guide wanted to abort and he does craaaayzeeee stuff so 99% sure something bad WILL happen if if he thinks it is dangerous enough to abort. He stayed with them cause he knew the danger and wanted to be there to call SAR or rescue them if needed. They had 12 pt crampons, helmets, ice axes, rope, and were pros at self-arrest and glissading thousand feet plus in the Sierra and climbing super sketch peaks. They were very mindful and careful. In a flash, climbing partner was gone over the ledge spinning like a top. They could hear his ice axe – again EXPERT mountaineer – pinging again and again on the super thick melt/freeze ice. Hike lead was sure he went over the full cliff and was dead and hike lead and other roped themselves to trees and frantically called out. He heard reply; guy grabbed onto a sapling 500 ft down. He had a sat phone and they reached friend in Palm Springs who called SAR.
SAR got there with THEIR 12 pt crampons, several lengths of rope, ice axes, helmets and gear. They had to string several ropes to get to guy and even SAR!!!!! could not grab on ice and had to clamp into the rope.
Guy had several broken ribs and a head injury from hitting rocks. He was so grateful to be alive! SAR took hike guide and other friend up to tram station all on rope it was that dangerous. Hike guide as I said easily could be SAR and he was very grateful for help. They were able to get friend to Eisenhower but he was never the same.
The ice we encountered was thin but reminded me as my poles -and I hit them in hard – did not even bite in some sections. That is why I wrote the post even though ice is just on the trail and the slope is dry.
Dry Lake fits its name now; use the creek before it (4 mi from pkg lot) for water needs; it’s flowing nicely in both little stream sections.
Happy hiking, have fun, and stay safe!