Friday, May 14, 2021

Tioga Pass Skiing & Lundy Canyon Hike

Last week I towed the trailer up north, camped at Lundy Campground, skied at Tioga Pass, and hiked up Lundy Canyon.

First day I toured with my friends Jim and Elysia.

Jim at Dana Meadows just below the pass with Mammoth Peak behind.

We were hoping to head up the Dana Fork to the broad valley between Mts Dana and Gibbs, but we ran into a steep & patchy gorge so we turned around and did a little tree skiing. Elysia tears it up!

After some good fun in the trees we cruised back up the meadows to the car.

Pretty day.

Next day Mary, our pup Bristle, and I hiked up Lundy Canyon.

Lots of Beaver activity up there.

Note the Beaver lodge on the back right edge of the pond.

We made it up to this overlook of the falls.

This painted rock has been around for a long time. I like it!

Day three involved a solo trip to Mammoth Peak (right). After skiing down the Dana Meadows for almost a mile, I hiked another mile or so to the stream crossing on Parker Pass Creek.

I took a few minutes to find a good crossing without success so resorted to wading across here.

Soon I wound up and around near Kuna Lake where there was plenty of snow.

Kinda funky photo of the summit. I was able to skin up pretty easily just right of center, then scrambled to the summit. Fortunately there was better coverage immediately from the top back and to the right.

Looking north towards Tioga Pass.

Natural rock sculpture.

West to Tuolumne Meadows (right) and the Cathedral Range (left).

South along the Kuna Crest towards Mts Lyell and McClure (back center).

The hike back up towards Dana Meadows wasn't bad as I was able to find a largely snow free route.

Finally, on day 4, I checked out the Saddlebag Lake area. I was thinking of trying the SE face of North Peak but it looked pretty thin at the bottom.

Lots of tracks on the slopes above Greenstone Lake. I eventually came back and skied here.

The scenery up here is just outstanding.

Steelhead Lake.

North Peak from the East.


I worked my way up to the Sierra Crest above McCabe Lake.

Looking down into upper Lundy Canyon. Skiing up here was fair. Lots of texture and some runnels forming.

The skiing was a little better above Greenstone Lake. The tracks actually helped smooth things out. This bowl skied well right around 11am.

Coverage in here was great. Good run!

Almost the identical tour I took with my friend Ann five years ago. It was my last tour that year. This might be my last tour this year. We'll see!



Thursday, May 6, 2021

Blacktop Peak Ski Tour

I've been pining to get away for a multi day ski tour for a while now but there hadn't been a good weather/conditions window until this last weekend. Sunday I sprung at the chance.

I have had my eyes on the Alger Lakes/Koip Peak/Blacktop Peak area for a long time. I had day hiked Blacktop back in 1998 and had been to Gem Pass, but had never been in the Alger Lakes drainage. It was time!

The tour started near Silver Lake with a hike up the Rush Creek trail.

Looking back down at Silver Lake.

After a bit less than an hour of hiking I arrived at scenic Agnew Lake.

I encountered a few snow patches on the trail around Gem Lake, dropped the hiking shoes at the junction with the Parker Pass trail and roughly followed it up on mostly continuous snow. 

I noticed these odd trail markers along the way. They're old license plates cut in half and nailed to the trees.

The weather forecast called for strong north winds, so I elected to camp below Gem Pass in the forest for protection. I found a workable if not ideal spot on the trail with access to running water and swell views of Ritter, Banner and the Minarets.

The winds did indeed pick up. Clouds built and I even spied a snowflake or two before the skies cleared around sunset.

The following morning dawned bright, clear, cold, and breezy but I still managed to set out pretty early. I quickly found myself at Gem Pass.

A short drop and a little traverse brought me into the Alger Creek drainage. Magical scenery.

Cresting a slight rise I had this view of the main Alger Lakes with Koip Peak (my goal) at the head of the canyon.

Sadly all of the routes on the southeast face of Koip Peak had melted out.

Honestly, I wasn't feeling 100% anyhow. Altitude, attitude, funky backpacking food? I don't know, but I was fine with skinning up to this little bench and calling it my high point.

The timing was right for skiing down as the snow was just beginning to soften. This moderate run down to upper Alger Lake was especially nice.

Skating across the main Alger Lakes was enjoyable too. Note the stunning ice fall here.

One more mellow cruise here brought me to the base of an alternative to Gem Pass which worked out much better for skiing because the snow was continuous down to camp from the top. June Mountain ski area in the distance.

Arriving at camp I felt somewhat better, but still a bit off. I figured I'd see how I felt the next morning and go from there.

Happily, I awoke feeling fine. I got my act together and set out early for Blacktop Peak. Just above camp I enjoyed another great view of the Ritter Range.

I loved the sublime meadows in this zone. San Joaquin Mountain center.

The hazy view to the east. Mt Downs (foreground), the Glass Mountains (middle), and the White Mountains (distant).

Easy travel, perfect weather and more fine Sierra scenery higher up.

Blacktop Peak. My goal for the day. I strolled up on the far right and skied down the open bowl.

Koip Crest pinnacles.

The last stretch to the summit. I found fair to good skiing right from the top, turning to good even very good off to the left and down the bowl.

The views from the top were stupendous. The Ritter Range with Thousand Isand Lake nestled at the base of Banner Peak.

Looking north to Kuna Peak (left) and Koip Peak (right)

To the west are Rodgers Peak (pointy left) along with the duo of Lyell and McClure (right).

The ski back to camp was terrific, low angle cruising. So much fun!

Back at camp I ate lunch, brewed a cup of coffee, and packed up.

Energized, the hike out was a breeze. Along Gem Lake I noticed these fascinating snowflake melt patterns on the frozen lake. Wild.

 Another two hours or so of hiking and I was back at the trailhead.

Simply Incredible. Might have to go out for another multi day tour before the season's over!