Saturday, January 31, 2009

1-30-2009 Wahoo Gully Recon

After my "Basin Mountain Fiasco" a couple weeks ago I figured the road to the Wahoo area would be driveable, so I headed up to check it out. The road involved a little more snow and ice than usual, but wasn't sketchy at all.

I was able to drive nearly to this point, which is close to the "regular" spring start.

The first views of theWahoo (the obvious gully just right of center) were encouraging. There was also good coverage in the approach gully with a couple of inches of fluff over a nice consolidated base. I was starting to believe I had hit the jackpot!

This is the view from the top of the approach gully.

As I climbed higher onto the gully runout the snow was more wind affected. The wind also did a great job of smoothing out the surface allowing rocks to lurk undetectably below.

The looker's right side held a few inches of windblown fluff over ice and/or very firm avalanche debris, which made for slippery skinnng. The center and left side were ok though, so travelling was pretty easy. As I approached the narrow entrance to the gully I encountered some pretty nasty wind crust, so I called it good and prepared for the descent.

Here's the view from the turnaround. On the descent I immediately tagged a couple rocks - aaargh! I moved skier's right to the edge of the chute and found deeper fluffy snow for several hundred feet - sweet! Once I was out on the fan though the snow was thinner and the rock tagging resumed. Below the fan the skiing was good and the coverage was much better, even the approach gully was fun.

All in all I was glad to have made the trip. We need a little more snow and a little less wind here!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

1-29-2009 Alabama Hill Amble

I woke up this morning to a strong breeze and cold temperatures. I thought about heading into work real early, but figured a short amble would do me right. It did!

I scrambled around on the rock piles like a kid at a playground.

I realize it's hard to get a scale on these last two pics. That thing is about sixty feet high!

Home sweet home!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

1-28-2009 Whitney Portal

I got a hankering to check the conditions above Whitney Portal, so I got up early and headed up.

The road is driveable to the trailhead. Fourwheel drive and some clearance is helpful. The road is essentially free of snow up to the first campground.

I don't know the name of this formation, but it looked great in the early morning light.

This is one of the east facing chutes of Thor Peak. It's a real beauty, but awfully thin right now.

I got above Lone Pine Lake to near Bighorn Park. This is one of the views from near my turnaround. The big face on the right is the south face of Thor Peak.

With a few more storms these slopes will be in play. The chute angling up and to the left appears to go all the way to the ridge. Hmmmm!

Snow sculpture is a wonderful part of the winter landscape.

The best turns of the day were in these glades below Lone Pine Lake. There was an inch or two of new snow over a firm, supportable crust. Below this it was down skinning (hey a "new" term!) to the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek on the packed trail. There were a few small bare patches and a few rocks. Below the North Fork the trail was mostly dry with ice & snow patches.

Another fine way to start the work day!

Monday, January 26, 2009

1-24-2009 Chocolate Peak Circumnavigation

After heading up the South Lake Road with Porter the day before and with the excellent suggestion from my friend Jed, we (Jed, Annie, Paul and I) decided to head up towards Chocolate Peak out of South Lake. The tour was more for the scenery, snow depth evaluation and thrashing Paul than it was for turns.

Fresh tracks and a silly photographer! The drive required a reasonably decent 4x4 with some good tires. There wasn't much danger of getting stuck, but there was a little excitement.

Hurd Peak came into view pretty quickly. The classic steep ski decent lies on this north face. It looked like it may be coming into shape with a bit more snow.

Jed and I were dueling photographers. That's Picture Puzzle Peak in the background.

This is Jed skinning across Ruwau Lake with Mount Goode in the background. The weather moved in and out all day.

Here's Jed skinning across Ruwau Lake with a subpeak of Picture Puzzle Peak behind him.

Alas, we reached our highpoint, the saddle between Ruwau Lake and the uppermost Chocolate Lake. The arrival was cause for a celebratory pose by Annie while Jed carefully stowed his skins.

We did manage to enjoy a few turns off the saddle. They were delicious.

Jed even managed a face shot, or was that a head plant? No matter when your having fun!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

1/23/2009 Porter does the South Lake Road

I got a little cabin fever working on the taxes for the bike shop, so I talked to Dr. Porter and he decided we should go for a little cross country ski up the South Lake Road.

This is Dr. P checking out the Parcher's area. Looks pretty thin eh P?

I wasn't sure if the snow here felt good or smelled "good" or both. Port sure liked it!

The snow sparked him up! Cured my cabin fever too!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1/21/09 Mountain Biking in the Alabama Hills

Dawn broke beautifully in the Alabama Hills this morning. I got out on the mountain bike just after first light. I found a wonderful trail hooking up the Movie Flat area with some jeep roads that wind down to Lone Pine.

First light on Lone Pine Peak revealed some cloud activity. Let it snow. Please.

This is the jeep road just above Lone Pine. Unlike other sections of the Alabama Hills the terrain here is stark and featureless. It's got it's own appeal.

On the other hand, I really love these rock formations!

I had so much fun riding from Movie Flat to Lone Pine I turned around a headed back the way I came. The singletrack was long and fun, and mostly rolling, with a few steep sections.

I cruised into camp around 8am and made it to work by 8:30.
The stoke lasted all day long!

1/19/09 Mammoth Slackcountry

I decided to stick with this week's theme of touring from a ski area and headed to Mammoth for some more touring and exploring. I parked the truck at Tamarack Cross Country ski center and took the free shuttle to the ski area. From there I rode up the Gondola and skied down to an area known as Hemlock Ridge.

A short hike brought me to the top of the ridge and provided these great views of the Ritter Range.

From the top of the ridge I left the ski area and descended northwest through an outstanding stand of mature trees. The snow was soft, faceted snow for the most part with a few patches of sun crust and frozen tree bombs.

I skinned back to the ski area, took a few runs, then ended up on top of Dave's run for the descent off the back of Mammoth towards Horseshoe Lake.

The views of the Mammoth Lakes basin were great and the skiing proved to be a lot better than I expected. The upper slopes were smooth and chalky. The middle section was a little thick, but ok, and the lower section was corn on the open slopes and soft, faceted sugar snow in the protected trees.

Another nice day!

1/18/09 The Negatives & San Joaquin Mtn

My partner Steve and I decided to try something different, so we went up to June Mountain to do a little tour.

After a cold, slow chairlift ride on J1 we stopped in at the lodge for some fortification. The coffee was a bit weak and the icing on the roll was a bit sweet, but they had they're desired effects!

The chutes in this cirque are known as "The Negatives". We ended up descending from the low point just left of center.

The standard approach is through "The Hourglass" which was firm windboard requiring either ski crampons or a short boot up.

This is Steve approaching the summit of San Joaquin Mountain. The dappled snow was beautiful and actually provided pleasant skiing on the descent.

The summit of San Joaquin Mountain provided excellent views of the Ritter Range. These are the Minarets with Shadow Lake in the left foreground.

This is the view south from near the summit with Two Teats (yes, it's real name, check the map!) framing Mammoth Mountain behind them.

The descent down the chute was gorgeous. The snow was a little grabby, but turns weren't hard. The lower slopes provided better skiing on faceted wind blown snow and, eventually, a corn like substance.

Here we are, back to June Mountain ski area. Despite the warm temps of late, the snow was really nice. If you like carving groomers you would have been quite happy.

We kinda decided to try this tour on a lark, but were super happy we did. The grand views from San Joaquin Mountain, the beautiful chute, and some good turns to boot put a smile on our faces!

1/10/09 Basin Mountain Fiasco

Having driven to Mammoth way too much lately, I decided to try something closer to home. The southeast chute on Basin often fills in nicely and gets a bit of sun. I was hoping for some sun softened windboard or semicorn or...?

This was the view of Basin Mountain from the road end. Not encouraging. A smart person would have decided to do something else. The southeast chute is on the far left.

I skinned up a small gully and found these interesting snow sculptures. They were formed by a coyote (I think) walking on soft snow shortly after it fell. The weight of the animal compressed the snow and made it denser than the surrounding snow. Then the wind blew (from top to bottom), eroding the softer snow around the paw print and forming the tear drop shape behind the print. Amazing!

A frontal view of the chute. I was actually able to skin continuously around to the left and into the chute where I put the skis on the pack and booted up.

I got a pretty good workout booting up the chute encountering a wide variety of snow including supportable windboard, breakable crust, sugary faceted snow, mashed potatoes, and corn. The windboard provided a few turns of nice skiing, but generally the skiing was, uh... interesting!

I was glad I got out, although I did some serious damage to my skis down below the chute. I did confirm what I already suspected: There isn't enough snow here yet!!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mammoth Crest 1/3 & 1/4.

Trying to catch up here!
We had great skiing to start the year.

As you can see, there was a some wind damage to the snow. It was worse around treeline than it was higher up.

This is Dave King getting ready to drop a short narrow shot above TJ bowl. The wind was blowing a sporty 30mph and temps were single digits. COLD.

This is Steve coming out of the little chute. The snow was softish wind pack. You can see where I kicked off a small 6" or so slab.

The crew exiting on TJ Lake after a fine day. The runs we skied are above and to the left of the large bowl (TJ bowl).

Headed out again the next day.

Today's objective! The narrow chute on the left is known as Blue Crag chute.

Blue Crag looking, well, blue! Note the inviting entrance to Blue Crag chute. It was still very thin/rocky in it's midsection.

This is Dave skiing the upper part of the couloir we skied. Since the guy is pushing 65 years old I won't say anything about his style. The guy gets it done.