After our adventure on San Gorgonio, I waste no time ordering an ice axe (Black Diamond, Raven Pro) and a set of lightweight crampons. It is love at first sight with that axe - I almost catch myself murmuring "My Precious" to it as I balance the weight in my hand, turning it to catch the light, imagining the ice chips flying as I ascend the frozen ice falls......however the ice falls will have to remain in the imagination for now, as neither the axe nor I are designed for technical ascents.
Eager to try out our new gear and improve our snow/ice skills, we head over to Mt. Pinos - about an hour's drive inland. Initial weather reports are dismal: rain mixed with snow - but we are compelled to see for ourselves.
It is delightful - the whole day: On the deserted mountain, it snows for most of the morning and we hear nothing but the soft ceaseless whisper of flakes, see the delicate grasses bending under the weight of the snow. Tracks of wild hares slither across the trail, smudging into invisibility under the fresh powder. It is cold, but not unbearably so - especially as we set a good pace as we move uphill.
By mutual agreement we turn back before the summit - the winter days are short and there is still the long trek back to the car.
After a reviving cup of hot tea with honey, we head for home. Today there were no frightening traverses with crampons clinging desperately to icy crusts, no dramatic self arrests with new ice axe.... but an entirely different mountain experience: calm, quiet, immensely satisfying.