Thursday, May 26, 2016

TJ Bowl

Between working a little and the funky weather, it's been over a week since I have been out skiing. Had to scratch the itch, so I headed up to the Mammoth Lakes basin.

The road up Coldwater Creek had not been plowed, so I went with plan B, Lake George.

I endured a little tedious hiking to get to the back of George, where the snow was deeper and I was able to start skinning.

A somewhat more wintery scene at TJ Lake with TJ Bowl behind. The lake was a big old margarita, sans tequila and lime and all that, so I hiked a little more along the shore.

Made a couple of navigational errors on the way up, but nothing serious. Took a run down the treed bowls east of TJ bowl proper to check the snow. It turned out much better than expected - about 2" of damp snow over a soft, but totally supportable base.

The sun made a brief appearance, instantly triggering several small but not insignificant wet slides along the crest. Ambitions for heading up vanished!

TJ bowl skied nicely though.

Good run.

Back to the car around 11am. Glad I got out early 'cause it certainly wasn't getting any better with the sunshine and rising temps.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Kidney Chute & Dana Couloir

We had one nice day forecast this week, the last for quite a while, so I hooked up with Ben for another tour up Tioga Pass way.

We started at Tioga Lake then jumped up onto the Dana Plateau.

The north face of Mt Dana with the Dana Couloir left in the shade and Solstice couloir to the right.

We made fast time to the top of Kidney Chute, dropping in around 10:30.

What a beauty! Timing was good as the snow was soft, but not too soft.

First time for me.

We then donned skins and headed up out of the Kidney Lake drainage.

The sweet view looking east from the head of the canyon. Mono Lake distant and Kidney Lake center.

From there it was easy skinning to the top of the Dana Couloir, notch up right.

We hung out at the top of the couloir for a good long while, maybe not long enough though as the snow in there was still quite firm.  We dropped in a bit before 1pm.

We side slipped the steep throat before summoning the courage to crank turns. Not the most fun skiing, but certainly exciting and quite an amazing locale.

The skiing out Glacier Canyon was a little tedious with several, short hiking sections and a bit of skating. The final slopes down to Tioga Lake were fun though.

Awesome day in the mountains! Looking forward to a few more before I hang 'em up.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Koip Peak Attempt

The road to Tioga Pass from the east opened up Thursday. It's been a good while since I've skied up there so, I decided to check it out. Being the weekend, the popular spots were well populated. I elected to avoid the crowds and cooked up a plan to go long and attempt Koip Peak.

Skating and gliding down Dana Meadows to start was good, fast fun. 

It was a beautiful clear and cool morning. Mammoth Peak.

After leaving the meadows I wandered around in the forest, reaching Parker Pass Creek. Raging!

After a bit more less than pleasant travel, I reached the upper meadows and pleasant views of the Kuna Crest.

Ran into a guy with skinnier skis and tighter pants. Nice guy.

Higher up on huge snowfields the views really opened up. Looking back along the north end of the Kuna Crest with Mammoth Peak right.

Mt Lewis from Parker Pass.

Loved the big country around the pass.

Took a right turn after the pass up into a gentle drainage leading to the northwest face of Koip Peak. I was a little disappointed by the view. Nothing very enticing for skiing.

On the other hand, I was amazed to find a sizable glacier at the head of the canyon. This pic is kinda over exposed, but the streaks in the center are bluish, exposed glacier ice. I skinned up to the top of the glacier along the left side, descended on the right side.

Quickly back to Parker Pass. Signs!

Zoom shot back to Dana Meadows.

I enjoyed very fast travel back until I hit the forested/patchy stretch. Probably should just continue down until reaching the lower Dana Meadows instead of "cutting the corner" and traversing through the trees. Next time!

A sweet long day on the race skis. Glorious country I had not visited before.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Fool's Ridge 2

I am a creature of habit I suppose, so when Sunday morning dawned bright and clear I headed back up to North Lake. 

Fool's Ridge again! Our previous day's work could be seen on the diagonal snow field beneath the cliffs.

Yesterday's gem.

Another real beauty save for the giant chockstone near the top.

I was able to skin from here after about an hour and fifteen minutes of hiking.

The lower section of the chute.

 and the beautiful upper section.

The snow was staying cold and soft in the shade while the booting was pleasant without any of the postholing we "enjoyed" yesterday.

Lots of local attractions caught my eye at the top. First off was this nice chute (right) and broad bowl (left) at the head of the Wonder Lakes drainage.

Nearby is "Fool's Peak". Enticing, but with the sun, rapid warming, and forecasted afternoon showers I was eager to head down.

Especially alluring is the north couloir of Mt Lamarck.

Looking north toward Mt Emerson.

The skiing in the chute was good, although, like yesterday, there was a patch of avalanche debris that was skiable but funky. The snow on the apron was getting thick providing so-so skiing.

Once off the skis the weather came in quickly.

Glad I got an early start and did not dilly dally!

Fool's Ridge

On Saturday, being the weekend and all, I figured it would be nice to get off the beaten path a little bit and do a quick tour out of North Lake. 

The most recent backcountry ski guidebook calls this "Piute Pass Ridge", but climbers refer to it as "Fool's Ridge" in reference to the Aiguille du Fou (Fool's Needle) a favorite climb of the late, great Smoke Blanchard. Read more here.

A fresh dusting of snow and cloudy skies greeted Ben, Ann, and I. Just after this creek crossing we headed up an attractive couloir.

Ann boots up into the clouds.

The booting was "variable" with a few sections where one would randomly punch through - as Ben is experiencing here.

Fortunately the clouds cleared a bit when we reached the top.

Happy Ben with Lower Lamarck Lake behind.

Looking down the chute.

Mt Emerson and the Piute Crags.

Some of the skiing was pretty good, but the patches of avalanche debris were tricky.

Ben took this pic of me searching for a little smooth snow.

Ben further down.

Ann opens it up a little.

Ben negotiates a steep section.

Looking back to North Lake.

The apron held the best skiing of all. Ann all smiles at the bottom!

Winter moved back in as we walked back to the truck.

Sweet!