Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Hurd Col

After three days working I was itching to get back in the swing of things, so I took an exploratory tour up out of South Lake. I more or less followed the summer trail up to Long Lake. There are a couple of bare spots near the beginning and a fair number of early sun cups, but travel on foot was fast and efficient. I then switched to skinning as the terrain opened up.

Hurd Peak from near the outlet of Long Lake. 

Picture Puzzle Peak (center) and Chocolate Peak (far left).

Fascinating snow sculpture along Long Lake

Majestic Mt Goode with the big face of Trapezoidal Peak to the right.

Looking east to Cloudripper (left center) and Picture Puzzle (right) of the Inconsolable Range.

Amazing Goode

Good skiing here!

Left the car around 8:20. On top of the col around 11:00.  East facing slopes were softening nicely at that time. Anything more northerly was still firm. What a beautiful zone!

Weather Service is predicting anywhere from one to two feet of snow up here over the next couple of days. Interesting!

Saturday, May 4, 2019


Woke up feeling lazy but still motivated enough to get out, so I chose an easy route I've always wanted to check out, the canyon on the northwest side of McGee Mountain.

I drove up the Tobacco Flat Road (high clearance helpful) to a spur that headed up toward the mouth of the canyon. Looks like the road continues snow free to near 8000'.

Left the truck a bit after 8:00. A little smoke lingered in Long Valley from a control burn.

Easy travel, first booting with crampons then skinning, got me up to the ridge extending west from the summit of McGee. Looking over to Mt Morgan North and Esha Peak.

Mt Morrison (right)

The huge middle section of McGee Creek

Fun and fast low angle corn up high.

Just barely squeaked through here without taking the skis off.

Fun skiing here too. A little suncupped but perfectly cooked at around 11:15

Beautiful day. Quiet, warm, with good skiing through stunning rock formations. Glad I rallied!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Virginia Lakes: Black Mountain

Met Alan, a high school buddy of mine, and his wife Tree up at Virginia Lakes. Alan and I skied while Tree snowshoed.

Lots of snow, lots of skiers, and a surprising number of ice fishermen. The vibe was nice and mellow though. We skinned up and skied down the bowl left of center. Headed up at 10:15.

Once to the top of the bowl we couldn't resist taking the short walk to the summit.

Excelsior Peak looking well clad with snow.

Dunderberg not as well cloaked. The south couloir still goes but getting a bit thin. The southeast bowl definitely has plenty of life left.

Pleasant skiing in the east facing bowl around 12:30.

Found even better snow on NE facing slopes lower down. Super day with an old friend!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Onion Valley

After two days of unsettled weather and a nice hard freeze in the mountains I elected to go south and check out Onion Valley above Independence.

The road is clear to the trailhead and there is continuous snow in all three of the principle drainages above. I left the car around 8:30 and headed up near the summer trail towards Kearsarge Pass. 

Shortly these runs came into view. I've been up the left chute a couple of times, so I decided to head up the right chute today.

University Peak

I booted with crampons the entire way arriving at the top of the ridge with fine views.

University again

The east face of Mt Gould and Golden Trout Lake

Dragon Peak (left very dark) and Dragon Tooth (left center)

Topped out a bit before 11:00 and was greeted by a brisk north breeze which was keeping the snow pretty firm. Once I got down a couple of hundred feet the snow softened to perfect velvet. Found good snow back to the trailhead where it was just starting to get sticky. Beauty of a day!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Basin Mountain, SE Chute

Ann, her pup Olive, and I skied the southeast chute on Basin Mountain this morning. We left the truck around 6:30 with mild temps and moderate breezes.

A pleasant 15 or 20 minute walk brought us to continuous snow. 

Looking up the chute.

We skinned the low angle approach.

Then booted with crampons up the chute proper.

Mostly good booting with a little post holing brought us to the ridge with views into the "basin" part of Basin Mountain. Great granite landscape.

Ann, Olive, and Mt Tom

A peek into the basin. The snow slope low is the bottom part of the giant Basin Couloir.

Ann & Olive enjoy the snow.

Last night's refreeze was not as solid as previous nights but the snow still held up really well. We began our descent around 10:15 and found good skiing all the way down. Would have been a bit better a half hour earlier but not much. Another fine day in the hills!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Brown Lake & Pt. 12682

Spring skiing in the Sierra is addictive! Today I elected to stay close to home and tour in the high country.

The road is apparently plowed to South Lake but it's still gated just above the Parcher's Resort. That may change tomorrow with fishing opener - maybe. From the little parking area at the gate I hopped right on the snow and headed up towards Brown Lake. Started around 6:45.

Views of the South Fork of Bishop Creek from the top of the initial slope above Parcher's. I booted up with crampons on firm snow.

Beautiful morning nearing Brown Lake. My tour took me up the bowl in the shade then up to point 12682 (out of view).

Started with boots & crampons here too which was great until around 12000' where I started to punch through, so I skinned w/ ski crampons the rest of the way to the summit.

Views! Vagabond Peak (far left), Mt Agassiz (distant right) and Picture Puzzle (right).

Peaks! Goode (right w/ huge North Face), Gilbert (right w/ snow ramp), & blocky Thompson (far right) among many others.

Looking north down the South Fork.

Tools of the trade.

Pure $$!

Started down a bit after 10:00 and found firm conditions for the first few turns, but once I was able to wrap around to a slightly east facing slope the snow was perfect. I like my corn al dente where it's just soft enough to feel smooth underfoot!

While McGee was fun, today slotted into the fantastic category.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

McGee Mountain

Back home from Europe, mostly recovered from the jet lag, fighting back a slight cold, I felt the need to get up in the hills.

Figured I'd ease into it with a roadside tour up McGee. The lines down to Crowley Lake Drive are dry at the bottom but a short drive up McGee Creek Road brought me to continuous snow.

Left the car at 6:30. Started booting since the party ahead had put in a good boot track.

The main attraction here.

I elected to get off the beaten path and headed up this chute. Booting was punchy so I switched to skinning with crampons - which was efficient.

The chute led to this beautiful bowl.

Views to Red Mtn (left) and Nevahbe Ridge (right).

Sweet views at the top. From left to right White Fang, Mt Morrison, Bloody (w/ Old Man's Bowl in front) and Laurel.

Headed down around 9:00 and found good snow at the top gradually getting softer and stickier further down. A couple of short sections of mank, but mostly supportable. Pretty darn fun overall.