Thursday, February 25, 2010

Whitney Summer Trail Ski

Last night I once again skied/hiked up to the Whitney Portal Campground and spent the night. The road has melted out quite a bit since my last trip, so the journey consisted of about 60/40 skiing & hiking.

I enjoyed the pleasant twilight on the way up.
Dawn revealed the splendid, snow dusted crags above the Portal.
I skinned up the summer trail on deep, hollow snow.

Random snow sculpture.
I think I take this pic every time I pass here!
This chute, on the east side of Thor Peak, is filled in and ready to go except the avalanche danger now is far too high.
The snow pack here is definitely touchy. There is a hollowness just about everywhere I traveled (about 8200' to 10,200'), I experienced several small collapses, and noticed soft slabs cracking during several kick turns.

I eventually arrived at a small box canyon with steep slopes and decided not to go any further. I got to an open, flat spot to remove my skins and experienced another small collapse, which remotely triggered a small avalanche on a steep rollover. Surprisingly, this slope was on the other side of the creek! The crown was 12" to 24" and about 50' across. This pic is lousy, but gives you an idea.
The terrain on the way back was all very manageable, and I actually enjoyed a few nice turns, but the avy antennae were turned to maximum!

I still managed to admire the fine scenery however.

The east face of Thor Peak. The chute in the pic above is the leftmost of the two in the center.
Gotta give some love to Whitney.
Careful out there backcountry skiers.

On a side note.....
My 100th post!!!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tree Skiing Mammoth Style

After experiencing too much bad snow for my taste last weekend, I opted to ski more sheltered terrain this time around. On Saturday I headed around Punta Bardini, across unSolitude Canyon (popular with the snomos this time of year), and up into the treed bowl just west of the Banana Chute.

The weather was unsettled, windy, and moody.

That's what I'm looking for!
The view across Solitude Canyon to Punta Bardini.

Sunday we headed up the treed bowl/chutes between & below Punta Bardini and The Perch. Here's a pic of The Perch and the western half of the treed area we skied.
The winds had been steady and strong for more than a day.

As we neared the top of one of the treed chutes we triggered a small slide. The crown was 4" to 8" and about 50' across. The slab was created by recent wind deposited snow and had not bonded with the sugary, faceted snow beneath. I was easily able to stay standing as it slid by me, but it was definitely an attention getter.

We enjoyed two runs of good skiing in the trees, then high tailed it out of there in somewhat ferocious conditions.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Meadow Skipping

Today Anne and I headed up to the glades south of Habeggar's (SoHa) for some meadow skipping (i.e. low angle cruising).

The weather was splendid again. I skinned up in a t-shirt!

Like the Habeggar's glades, the snow stays good at SoHa long after the last storm.
We reached a broad, open shoulder of the Coyote Ridge and soaked up the warm sun and the expansive views.

Looking up towards Paiute Pass with Mt. Emerson and Mt. Humphreys to the right.
Mt Haeckel far left, Darwin left center, and Mendel right center.
Mt Good just left of center and Johnson to the right.
After enjoying the views we got down to business.
Meadow skipping deluxe!
We had a few turns of slightly wind affected snow up high, delightful, velvety powder below that and soft sugar snow at the lower elevations. All in all we had very enjoyable skiing.

The snowpack at the lower elevations will bear watching as it consisted of one to two feet of sugar snow on top of eight or ten inches of hollow, rotten snow. Not the kind of base that would support any additional load.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Weekend Skiing in Mammoth

High pressure in the Sierra means clear skies, warm temperatures, and longer tours in the mountains.

On Saturday, Anne and I toured from Tamarack to Coldwater Campground, then up to the ridge leading to Pyramid Peak, and over to the Banana Chute.

This is Anne hiking the ridge towards Pyramid.
Looking back towards the Mammoth Crest.
Here we're about halfway along the ridge traverse with Pyramid back left.
We skipped the peak owing to the poor, wind hammered snow and made the long, but quick downward traverse to the top of the Banana Chute.

The first few turns on the chute were wind affected too, but Anne managed to rip some nice turns anyways.
After we got down a bit we moved over into a smaller, sheltered, treed chute (The Banana Peel?) and found real nice settled powder.
The view back to the Banana Chute (curving far left) with "The Peel" just right.We topped it all off with a pleasing short run down the Tele Bowls.

Sunday, Anne, Steve, and I again started from Tamarack and toured up Blue Couloir, down a nice chute to near Skeleton Lake, then back up to "The Perch" on Sherwins.

Blue Crag with the Blue Couloir on its left shoulder.
Steve motored up the firm windboard in the couloir sans ski crampons. Impressive.
We took a pleasant break at the top.
The broad, hanging valley just beyond the Blue Couloir had a distinctly alpine feel.
Anne and I had spied a beautiful chute the day before on our way towards Pyramid Peak, so we headed over to its entrance.

Steve makes the first turn into the chute on the steep, firm windboard.
Fortunately we found some pleasing soft snow lower down.
We quickly skinned up half cooked corn snow to the crest of the Sherwins.
And hiked over to the blocky knob known as "The Perch."
Looking back at our route with the Blue Couloir on the far right and our chute far left.
Odd rock pile that is the summit block of "The Perch."
We found decent skiing off towards the northeast for a few hundred feet, then dropped into a steep northwest facing chute which had nice snow for about two turns before turning to nasty crust.

Better skiing would have been found in the trees, but we were lured by the pretty line.

No complaints however, twas a fine day in the mountains!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Portal Campground Chute

After work yesterday I headed up the Whitney Portal Road with a pack full of overnight gear and camped at the Portal Campground - which is officially closed. Here's my little bivy spot.

The morning light on the nearby crags.
Ever pleasing Sierra granite.
The deep snow made skinning a chore.
The deep snow made skiing a blast!

Lookin' up.
Lookin' down.
The view of the chute from the Portal Road.
Packed up, got out of there, and made it to work by 10:30.

Monday, February 8, 2010

More Skiing - Of Course!

It's that time of year.
If I'm not working I'm likely skiing.

Friday Steve and I headed up to "Habbegar's" which is a series of nice glade runs above the small community of South Fork in the South Fork of Bishop Creek.

The slopes are moderate and the runs are short (500' - 800'), but the snow stays nice for a good while after a storm and the trees are handy when the visibility is limited as it was Friday.

Low clouds, light snow showers, and light winds greeted us on the way up.

The glades once again delivered some nice skiing on 4" to 6" of new snow on top of the previous, denser powder. Old ski tracks occasionally threw us off a bit, but didn't dampen the fun.

Saturday Mary and I headed up to June Mountain for some lift skiing. June is the small, somewhat neglected local ski area just north of Mammoth and is the perfect place to find lasting powder.

Mary rallied and joined me up on the hill. This was her first ski area outing in over two years due to her hip injury and subsequent surgery and she was justifiably nervous.

The snow was perfect though and she found her groove instantly. Here she is enjoying the 6" to 8" of fresh, light snow on top of the groomed snow.
I hooked up with a coworker, Brian, and we had a complete blast. I hadn't skied that hard that long in quite a while and by the end of the day my legs were totally gone.

To top off the weekend I joined Steve and an ex-local friend Chris for a tour back up in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. Chris had toured with our friend Anne up to the TJ area the previous day, so I knew a skin track was in.

Although the track was drifted in here and there, we had easy traveling up to the top of TJ Bowl. We all felt good about the stability so we gave it a go.

The skiing was simply superb on a good foot of light, dry snow.

Here's Steve enjoying himself.
There was just enough light to see the texture in the snow. Here's Crystal Crag with Chris barely visible bottom left in a cloud of snow.
After a short breaking admiring our tracks and smiling a lot, we headed over to the boot track that heads up to the Sherwins. The views up were stunning. Crystal Crag is just right of center and TJ Bowl is just left of center.

We expected to see other folks on the boot track and we did. Friendly types.
Even ran into an ex-coworker friend of Chris', Mike, who joined us. Mike and Chris catch up while hiking the windswept top of the Sherwins.
We dropped into this little bowl then headed right into the trees where the skiing was nothing short of outrageous.

Chris dropping and rocking!
A cloud rolled in just as Steve started.
Play time!
What a day.
Thanks guys!