Monday, March 13, 2017

Mt Williamson Ski

For many years I've wanted to ski Mt Williamson, California's second highest peak at 14,379 feet. The trip is only reasonable in big snow years and even then the rugged approach and shear enormity has always seemed daunting. Fortunately my good friends Ann & Ben had the audacity to give it a go and invited me along.

We parked the truck just a touch below 6,000 feet, near the mouth of the North Fork of Bairs Creek and began to hike a bit after sunrise.

The first, and perhaps most important crux of the day was finding a notch that allows travel into the interior of the North Fork of Bairs Creek whose mouth is very steep and choked with willows.

This is the view of our route from the notch.

The next leg involved a decidedly unpleasant downward traverse on loose slopes to get down to the creek.

Finally down to the creek! We should have traversed higher and entered the canyon bottom another half mile or so upstream, but our route worked ok.

After a little more hiking we were on skis at about 7,400'. Here the creek forks and it's crucial to take the left turn here up the slope and ridge above Ben's head.

At around 9200 feet the valley opened up and travel became easy.

Big country!

After a nice spell of skinning we reached the base of the headwall couloir.

The previous party had put in a good bootpack, but an ice axe and crampons were still handy for piece of mind. Ann boots it!

The second big crux of the day behind us, Ben was all smiles!

Then we headed off for the summit (out of view upper left).

Ann arrives at the summit!

Of course the views were stupendous.

Mt Whitney

The Kaweah Range across the upper Kern River gorge.

Mt Tyndall

The Owens Valley 10,000 feet below.

Ben & Ann. Pretty darn happy.

So was I!

Ann took this nice pic of me leaving the summit.

The ski down was a real smogasbord of snow surfaces providing generally fair to poor skiing with shorter sections of fun powder and horrible punchy snow. 

Ben finds some decent skiing on solid windboard.

This little waterfall slowed our progress a bit.

Ben and I at the notch on the way down. Almost there!

We arrived back at the truck as the day got dark and the moon rose, tired but not shattered. Elated for sure. Thanks so much Ben and Ann!