Saturday, January 29, 2011

Huarte Creek

Today was the last day of our crazy warm spell, so Anne and I looked for winter corn in one of the huge south facing chutes of Huarte Creek in Pine Creek.

This fine, bold spire greeted us early on in the climb.
Anne slogs on through the narrows.
Up, up, up!
The sheer, rugged granite landscape was amazing.
This is a view from the upper part of the chute south towards Mt. Tom (right) and the Owens Valley (left).
Anne makes her way through one of the steep rollovers.
The snow in the uppermost part of the chute was not completely cooked but skied alright. The rest of the chute consisted of classic Sierra corn and skied quite well.
Good turns were had all the way down.
Nice to get a big, warm day in the hills.

Now we return to winter.
Just hope it starts snowing again!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Eastern Flank of Kearsarge Peak

I went for a quick morning ski before work yesterday.

The Onion Valley Road is passable up to the saddle.
However it does not look like it will melt out above there any time soon.

The old dirt road to Sardine Canyon and Little Onion Valley is melted out in spots.

From the saddle I found myself climbing this gully system almost immediately.
This treed bowl forms the head of the next gully system to the north.
Big views south.
Since these are east facing gullies, I found a whole smorgasbord of snow conditions.

The southeast facing snow was corning. The more southerly the better.

The center of all these gullies was firm windboard which I skied lower down where the southeast facing snow thinned.

The northeast facing slopes held some nice recrystallized fluff up high in the trees, but an unpleasant mix of windboard, wind scultpted, and soft snow below.

The descent gully. I worked that left side as far as I could.
Nice to be back on the planks!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Palm Desert

Mom generously let us use some of her timeshare points for a midwinter trip to Palm Desert.

We planned on escaping the cold, but in fact we escaped the mild! The weather there truly was perfect with highs around 80 degrees and little if any wind.

We definitely appreciated the deluxe digs too.
Huge terrace!
Outdoor shower.
Spent a lot of time here!
We rode our bikes quite a lot.

Too much boulevard biking, which was mostly tolerable as long as there was a bike lane or actually a bike lane/golf cart lane.
We eventually made our way out into the sticks.
And enjoyed big views on quiet roads.
Re-entry was a little weird with huge tracts of dead orange trees and strange stands of sickly palms and tamarisk.
After three hours of riding we needed nourishment, so we headed to the Shields Date Garden.
Got ourselves a couple of date shakes - just what we needed!We didn't stick around for the show however.
Funky old place. Was great for people watching too.
After two days of riding we took a hike in the hills above Palm Desert.
This Penstemon was blooming nicely.
I was struck (but not literally) by the huge variety of cacti.

And the Ocotillo was simply amazing.
After the hike we packed up and headed home.
Pleased as punch!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Down Valley

I spent yet another work week down valley

Took a satisfying stroll/scramble in the Alabama Hills early Tuesday morning.

Had our first significant dust storm of the season.
Just too busy to ski!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Anne, Steve, and I met at Convict Lake for a tour up the Convict Creek drainage and a possible attempt at the summit of Mt. Baldwin.
This is the early morning view across frozen Convict Lake to Mt. Morrison and "Mini Morrison."
The Pinner Couloir looked filled in without significant avalanche debris. This is the exit.
Mini Pinner looked good too.
We tried to climb up out of the main valley towards Bright Dot Lake, but a short, steep section with firm windboard snow turned us around. An ice axe and perhaps boot crampons would be quite helpful for traveling in the high country now.

Anne turned around while Steve and I headed on up canyon to Mildred Lake.
This view of Mt. Baldwin appeared as we skinned up the broad valley.
Red Slate Mountain wore a fascinating cloud veil for a bit as the weather cleared.
This is the fine, unnamed peak south of Mt. Baldwin.
As the clouds parted, the temperature increased dramatically, so in the interest of safety and ease of travel we headed back.
The skiing in the canyon was kinda fun on softened windboard.
Below the mouth of the canyon the snow was mostly rotten, but not nearly as taxing as we had feared.

Although we had not come anywhere near our original goal, we still had a great outing thanks to the amazing scenery and the good cheer of our team.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Saturday brought brilliant sunshine and warm temps for Mary, Simon and I as we skied out of Aspendell.

Mary had not been on her backcountry gear in close to five years and Simon had never been backcountry skiing at all, but they both looked like veterans skinning up.
The hot weather took its toll on the snow, so we elected to head down pretty quickly.

After a couple turns Mary found her groove in the mushy snow.
We had a short stretch of pleasantly soft winter snow here.
Then back to the mush.
Sometimes the toughest part is getting off the skis and onto the road!

Our day was spent in the terrain directly above Simon's head.
Both Simon and Mary did an awesome job skiing in fairly poor conditions and I very much enjoyed getting out with them.