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Routes in z. Ski mountaineering

Description

Some great ski descents and ski mountaineering tours around Mt Whitney, so this area is well worth visiting in springtime when there's a good snow year.

Many of the ski approaches do well at holding snow at low altitude, so the season for big tours with little hiking could go later than expected.

. . Atmospheric springtime camping options around the main wide valley below east from Whitney Portal trailheads. With fun interesting easy/moderate sport climbing just off the approach road at the Alabama Hills.

. . If using Mammoth Lakes as a (logical) base for Eastside Sierra spring skiing (with big lift-served downhill marvelous on a powder day, and cross-country skating trails, and shuttle-bus-supported cheating-the-vertical backcountry turns) ... consider that Whitney parking is only two hours easy driving from there.

Some descents and tours ...
. . (from S to N, which is left to right as look from rt 395).

Meysan Lake drainage

Mt Mallory SE face and ENE gully - roughly (N36.5478 W118.2600) - 35-40 degrees

Mt Irvine SSW slope from lower ESE slope - (N36.5515 W118.2602) - 30-35 degrees

Mt Irvine NE couloir - around (N36.5573 W118.2599) - 35-40 degrees

other places to try exploring (not checked by us):
  • NE gully of South Fork / Meysan Lakes ridge - (N36.5849 W118.2296) - Needs low snow down to near Whitney Portal campground.
  • Mt LeConte NW side

South Fork Lone Pine Creek

Arc Pass (N side)

Mt Irvine traverse (up WSW gully from N side of Arc Pass, down SSW slope and E to Meysan Lakes.

Schneider Crest (NE slope w optional lower SE) - (N36.5548 W118.2787) - steepness 30-40 degrees

Trail Crest (NE slope) - (N36.5590 W118.2912) - 35-40 degrees

traverse of Mt Whitney summit - (hike N from Trail Crest to summit, descend
NNW face or Mountaineers Gully - but finding Mountaineers Gully or down-climbing to it from the summit without first having climbed up that way could be tricky).

Wotan's Throne (ESE chutes) - (N36.5673 W118.2772) - 35 degrees narrow
. . (perhaps climb up the NE chute and on up to summit, ski down the narrower Central chute).

Map - see selected ski routes on Map . . .

other places to try exploring (not checked by us):
  • ENE slope of Thor Peak
  • NNW couloir of Mt Irvine
  • tour around Wotan's Throne
  • E couloir of Mt McAdie

North Fork Lone Pine Creek

Mt Whitney Mountaineers Gully (sheltered E) - (N36.5796 W118.2920) - steepness 35 degrees

Mt Whitney NNW face from summit - (N36.5786 W118.2963) - 35-40 degrees

tour around W side of Mt Whitney - (up N Fork to Iceberg Lake, cross ridge W down to Arctic Lakes + S to Guitar Lake, next up SE + E to Trail Crest, cross E + finish down S Fork Lone Pine Creek.

Mt Russell - Carillon Pass (SE slope) - (N36.5913 W118.2810) - 30-35 degrees

other places to try exploring (not checked by us):
  • NE slope of Thor Peak
  • Cleaver Col SE side
Access limited from May to October every year Details

Getting There

The main trailheads are around Whitney Portal which is W up from the town of Lone Pine. The road up to it gets lots of sun, and the upper section faces SE, so it tends to melt out early, but need to watch out for fallen rocks on the road. Often can drive up to within a mile from the summer trailheads in springtime even before the road is plowed to the end.

North Fork Lone Pine Creek tours: First ski or walk on the road to the summer parking at Whitney Portal - GPS latitude longitude approx (N36.5863 W118.2411). If there's good snow cover down to near the parking, can just ski W up into the North Fork drainage (N36.5868 W118.2474), and roughly just follow that up toward your desired ski peak or descent. If the creek is well-covered, no need to use the Escherbacher ledges up high along the N side, just ski the creek. Later season when the creek is not snow-covered, flow might be so deep and strong that accessing ski objectives is impossible (so consider skiing in South Fork instead).

South Fork Lone Pine Creek tours: First ski or walk on the road to the summer parking at Whitney Portal - GPS latitude longitude approx (N36.5863 W118.2411). Most of the lower sections of the summer hiking trail face SE and get lots of sun so they lose much of their snow cover early, and in late spring or low snow years the hiking trail could be the easiest way to approach. But if there's good snow cover down to somewhere in range of the parking, the strategy for big skiing vertical is to exploit low sheltered snow on the NW-facing slopes of the lower valley. Key to connecting to those slopes is a footbridge over the creek at (N36.5861 W118.2405) between S side of parking and summer picnic area.
It's nice to check those slopes out first on ascent, and they're sustained steep (like 30-35 degrees) up to Lone Pine Lake (N36.5764 W118.2474), so consider bringing ski crampons / harscheisen / cutters / couteaux, or even boot crampons. If not much snow down low, likely better to avoid some difficult dense vegetation by first hike directly steep S from the footbridge up the slope about 500 feet to say around (N36.5850 W118.2400), before traversing SW.

Meysan Lakes basin tours: Trailhead - roughly around (N36.5880 W118.2252) - is S from the access road before its end, through a summer campground. Disadvantage of skiing in this basin is that the lower trail sections are on SE slope so lose snow quickly, and there's not much alternative, so plan on some hiking carrying skis.

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Thank you, Sep 3, 2017

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