Monday, February 10, 2014

Backcountry Skiing in Mammoth!

Yep! Winter has finally arrived to the Eastern Sierra.

Somehow, most years, February delivers good winter skiing and this year is no different.

Of course the bar is set pretty low after this most incredibly dismal December and January.

Right around the first of the month we got a real nice cold winter storm which added another 12" to 20" to the snow pack in the Mammoth Lakes Basin.

Problem was the previous 12" to 20" of snow on the ground had been sitting around for two months turning into a weak, rotten mess, so the avalanche hazard was significant.

Steve and I toured up near Blue Crag back on 2/2 under gorgeous skies, light to moderate wind, and cold temps. The snow was fantastic, but we did experience several loud collapses of the snow pack. Quick tests with the ski pole indicated a gradual increase in density with depth to about 18" down, then an alarmingly hollowness for another 20" or so.

We stayed off anything steep, which wasn't too disappointing because the steeper lines were mostly rocky minefields anyways.

Steve skins up with Blue Crag behind him.

We took a couple of fun runs in these nice glades.
Sure was nice to ski some fine powder this season. Twas a long time coming.

Last week stayed unsettled and cold with a few more inches of  fresh snow in the basin, so Nemo and I did a dawn patrol ski on Friday to get in on the fun.

We skied the Hollywood area above McLeod Lake and found more excellent snow.

Nemo skinning, grinning, and digging the winter scene.

It was his first outing on his new powder boards and he took a liking to them right away. Them rocks took a bite or two out of the bases though!

The always picturesque crest was in especially fine form.
The snow pack here was deeper and less hollow, but still pretty suspect so we stayed on the shallower lower slopes. Had a good old time and found some sweet little shots in the trees I had not skied before.

Friday night into Saturday the weather changed, becoming damp and warm. We got more much needed snow, but the light, wonderful snow that we had been enjoying was replaced with classic Sierra cement.

Undeterred and happy to see ANY kind of snow, Anne and I headed up in the Sky Meadows area for a tour.

The dampness and the low clouds made for a pretty cool mood.

The skiing above 9,500' was surprisingly good. The snow was a dense, creamy goodness that carved up very nicely. Didn't get any good pics of Anne turning, but here she is near the bottom of one of the nice little slopes we skied. Black, white and blue!
No collapsing or cracking here, but we did see a little shallow slide where the wind had obviously created a pillow. It did not step down into the lowest layer, which was a reassuring sign.

More smiles at the end of this ski too!

It's been great to get out, experience some mountain solitude, put in a skin track, groove on some good turns, and enjoy the company of my good friends.

Now lets see what happens next during this crazy winter!

No comments: