The downside is that it's unpredictable and dangerous, and sometimes you have no choice but to turn back.
|Baldy Bowl from the Ontario Trail - December 2012|
We attempted Ontario Peak last December, forgetting that the amount of snow we can see from the city doesn't reflect the amount of snow that's actually on the mountains. We got about a mile past Kelly Camp (just under a mile from the summit) when the soft snow suddenly* turned into ice and there was no way to safely continue (not without an ice axe, anyway).
|Snowy ass Kelly Camp|
On our most recent trip, we'd planned to hike at least Etiwanda and Cucamonga, and hoped to have enough energy to get to Bighorn and Ontario too. It hadn't snowed in a week and it looked like there was barely any snow left. Once again, we were so wrong.
There is much less snow now than there was in December, but the recent high temperatures have turned the snow into a slippery death trap.
|Naked Baldy Bowl - March 2013|
Between the five hikers in our group, we had three pairs of snowshoes, three pairs of microspikes, two pairs of crampons, and two ice axes, but we still only made it about half a mile past Icehouse Saddle on the Cucamonga trail before we decided it was too dangerous to continue. Then we gave the snow one last chance and hiked about a quarter of a mile on the Ontario trail before we gave up and just climbed Timber Mountain instead.
|Ontario from Timber|
We took Chapman Trail back down the mountain to try to ditch the crowds, but there were a few big patches of snow on some of the narrow parts of the trail that were pretty scary. It's a long way down. I'd stay away from Chapman for a while.
*When I say suddenly, I mean Matt thought he was stepping on snow but slipped about 10 feet and had to self-arrest.