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ski backcountry southern Eastside spring 2017

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kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,837

Some of us getting started for a week or two of skiing. One from Germany, two from Utah, two from New York.

Looks like sustained stable weather. Most of us most of the time based in Mammoth Lakes -- but on previous trips we've ranged from Mt Whitney to the Sawtooths.

Nothing to report yet, but I'm expecting to get out tomorrow.

If you might want to get together, share stories + ideas -- even do some skiing . . .
Send a message to my MP account.

Or post here.


King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 435

Good luck Ken!

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,837
King Tut wrote:

Good luck Ken!

Well the good luck came through today -- so Thanks.

Wonderful snowpack up at altitude -- like a good year in mid-April.

I skied one of the three less-difficult Mt Thompson couloirs almost from the top
. . . (upper 70 feet very wind-blasted with a big big cornice, so we stopped short). 

Gi from Germany climbed and skied the (much steeper) N couloir of Mt Gilbert.

Great just to be out in the sunshine among those dramatic peaks.
Rather fun skiing thru the low trees back down to South Lake, then we returned to the road by skiing all the way across the surface of South Lake.

Deep snow along S side of road. So much that the Vagabond tour looked pretty skiable from its bottom (by the winter closure). In mid-May !?!

Yesterday I explored toward Bloody Mt. Since I was just getting organized for skiing after arriving late the night before, I didn't get started until almost 11 a.m. And then I made the mistake of trying to boot up off-road. Which got me too high -- but had the nice side-effect of showing me a sheltered tongue of snow down low (not mentioned in the guidebook). I ran out of energy and acclimatization long before the summit and decided to turn back. It's a _long_ horizontal distance in to Bloody Mt (like many skiing objectives around Mammoth), so I was thinking that I would not again try it as a spring tour, because not enough skiable downhill to justify the distance. But then with that new sheltered tongue of snow, I ended skiing down to within 120 yards of my 2WD High-Clearance vehicle.
. . . (Might have been great a week earlier -- and with an earlier start and better acclimatization. But the low snow is going to disappear fast).


kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,837

Mt Morrison is the great Sierra "roadside" alpine peak. My first time there on skis, together with Hi + Eric.

Suggestions for what to do there in good spring conditions?

Found some good snow, and some challenging uphill, but also lots of whacking thru low-altitude sagebrush near Convict Lake. Learned a lot for late-spring skiing next time (since guidebook is mainly about winter / early spring).

First skinned up SE face of S ridge -- sustained over 30 degrees, much around 35, some getting toward 40 degrees. High snow not much transformed yet since mild storm around Tuesday.

When we reached the ridge, we saw that a ski traverse of the summit ridge was not going to work for us, so skied back down the SE slope.

Next skinned up S side of mini-Mo / big-Mo col, skied down N side. Very sweet corn skiing, until the snow ran out. Oh well - (we couldn't see it in advance early morn from the boat launch).

Next time w good snowpack in spring, try to skin up to near N summit from the Col, I'm thinking.


P.S. Tomorrow a couple of us thinking high base say Anvil Camp, so we can ski peaks such as Williamson + Tyndall + Keith + Trojan.

Maureen Maguire · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 0

Look on Facebook for San Francisco backcountry skiers page.  Really good community page lots of skiers and snowboarders getting out and posting info and photos from the Eastside. The chutes and tours have been excellent this year.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,837

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kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,837

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kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,837

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kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,837

> San Francisco backcountry skiers . . .
> getting out ... the Eastside.

You think some of them have been skiing around Bishop or Mammoth in the last few days?
Or between now and Friday?

Talked w skiers at South Lake parking. Woman heading out solo said she was from Czech Republic. Guy skiing Mt Thompson solo from Buffalo NY. My partners from Germany + Utah.

Haven't met anybody from the Bay area yet. Maybe over the holiday weekend.


kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,837

Yesterday Gi + I tried to go up toward Anvil Camp + Shepherd Pass to make a high camp to ski some high peaks for next two or three days.

Hauled our full camping packs (with skis + boots attached) to the second creek crossing.
Water was raging, and no bridge.

We dropped our packs explored above + below, didn't find anything we wanted to cross (or even reach) while hauling full packs (and still more than 3000 vertical feet to camp.

So we gave up to camp in the valley and regroup for next couple days.

Seems like with the sudden warming after two weeks of cool, and fresh snow in the last week, water crossings need to be planned carefully.


kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,837

Today we switched to single-day touring. Into South Palisades, toward the
N couloir on Norman Clyde peak.

First some easy hiking on the trail, then left trail for rock scrambling (longer than it looked) on N side of valley to reach continuous snow. Next direct skinning up "the flume" of the drainage.
. . . (I like scrambling, and my pack felt light after yesterday, and I like being on snow in the flume, so I think I would do the uphill that way again -- but not downhill).

Then gentle into the Norman Clyde NW valley, up that with moderate skinning with slopes and flats. Reached a gentle hump below N couloir.

Gi continued up from there, all the way to the top of couloir w skins on. Said it was an excellent downhill ski. Note that there is a less steep pass lower on W side of Norman Clyde, another possible excuse to visit this spectacular side-valley (or perhaps Scimitar Pass?).

I just skied down from the hump -- delightful corn snow. Mushy down toward Willow Lake. Next I decided to avoid the earlier rock scramble . . . skinned up E then N over shoulder. Skins off, then nice turns off to S from main creek.
Down to meet the main hiking trail.

Entertaining creek crossing on snag of willows (Gi later found a snow bridge). A little more gentle skiing, chat w hiker stopping at snow-line, then easy hike out on trail.

Fun varied + spectacular day out.

. . . (then drive to Lone Pine to get permit for tomorrow).


kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,837

Trail Crest is the key high pass for non-technical climbing / hiking to the Mt Whitney summit.

Today I climbed and skied its E side, starting from Whitney Portal parking and going up and down South Fork Lone Pine Creek.
. . . (and got much more lower-altitude skiing by staying on the south side of the creek).
. . . (to avoid manzanita/willow thrash low on south side, go up higher on slope to that side very early).

Snow on steeper sections was plenty fun, but the gentle stuff was eroded w substantial sun-cups, or hiker footsteps. 

I always like to visit S Fork Lone Pine, but I think the Schneider Crest [photos] offers more interesting skiing than Trail Crest.
. . . (We were also noticing an interesting snow line down into S Fork on the NW side of Mt Irvine). 

Low slopes on S side of creek below Lone Pine Lake are rather steep, like sustained 30-35 degrees. Could feel pretty strenuous and difficult first thing in the morning. Other idea is to go up on N side of creek (much easier slope but do not reach snow until much higher), then ski down on S side (after steep slopes have softened, and get to check if the S-side snow does down low enough to be worth skiing). Advantages of going up on S side are: Get to check out the descent route in advance, and shade during uphill labor.

Choice above Lone Pine Lake: More interesting to go more toward North side via the H meadow and Mirror Lake, but has three steep "steps" to negotiate. Or continue up along S side slope with only one steep step (just past Lone Pine Lake), then long moderate slog. Similar choice on descent: whether to take the steeper E-facing shot down to Mirror Lake (or side trip to the SE chutes of Wotan's Throne).


kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,837

Mt Lamarck North couloir today did not turn out to be a good _tour_ - (at least not as described in the print guidebook) - though it had lots of good skiing.

The main shortcoming is that it has a long approach (4.5 - 6 miles depending on road conditions) -- but the views along the approach are not so spectacular (compared with other skiing places around the southern Eastside).

Second shortcoming is that the route shown on the map in the guidebook (roughly following the hiking trail to Lamarck Lakes) has significant SouthEast-facing sections at non-high altitude. In late spring they lacked continuous snow, so I had to take my skis on and off two or three times on descent. One idea for solving this would be to do the tour earlier in the season, but then the approach is much longer because the North Lake road is not plowed.

Another idea is to go first to Grass Lake, and from there directly to Upper Lamarck Lake (skipping Lower Lamarck Lake). Has anyone tried this?

Anyway the non-South-facing slopes had rather good corn-snow skiing. And the refreeze was so good that I was able to boot up most of the way.


P.S. If planning to follow a GPS track, likely will help if it includes a point near lat-long (N37.2092 W118.6585).

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,837

Whitney - Trail Crest

with ski tracks over the trail switchbacks which hundreds of Mt Whitney summit hikers use each year.

In wider context with Mt Muir . . .

And even wider context with ski tracks low in South Fork Lone Pine Creek valley . . .

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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