After a long and windy drive through the beautiful state of Nevada, Reed Finlay and I arrived in Bishop last week and have had three great days of skiing in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California so far. We’ve been lucky enough to hook up with some veterans of the range, which really makes things nice for us, since we haven’t had to think too much about route finding and what not.
Our first day was really fun and we got out with a rather large group or skiers and set our sights on the north sides of Mount Thompson and Gilbert in the South Lake region. I think both of these peak are over 13K’, but the trailhead starts about over 9K’, so it makes summitting them easier and allows for great car-to-car skiing in the spring time…or any other time of the year for that matter.
As we toured toward Mount Thompson and the three north facing Trident Chutes, it was obvious the snow was in great condition and we would have soft powder to ski on the way down. Impressive views to the south were had as we reached the top and we all split up, each choosing our own way down. Jon Morison and I investigated a line that was a bit more technical to the skiers left of the Trident Chute (North Couloir?) and sneaked in below a cornice to access its womb.
After regrouping with the others, we turned our ski tips towards Mount Gilbert and its steep North Couloir, which tips up to close to 50 degrees. There were still 7 of us climbing and skiing this couloir, so it was bit crowded, but which proper skier management, we thought we’d be able ski it with relative safety. The climb went well, especialy since I didn;t do an ounce of trail breaking and we deeked around a cornice at the top.
Once we reached the col at the top, Jon Morrison was anxious to get going and opened up a spicy entrance to the skier’s right. Rob Gaffney followed suit and they both dropped-in in style. That entrance seemed to be deteriorating quickly, so the rest of us down-climbed under a cornice and clicked into our skis on the steep slope of the couloir.
One by one, we all skied the couloir and managed not to kill each other in the process, as well as not crossing each others tracks on the apron below. Something that many backcountry skiers despise…myself being one of them. The powder snow transitioned nicely to corn as we lost elevation and we soon found ourselves poling and skating back across the lake and on to our rigs parked below.
I have to say, I was felling a wee bit tired after the long drive and the trip into the Wind River Range earlier in the week, so I was hoping to regain my strength after a few après beers at the trailhead, some food and a good night sleep. And since the next day we were shooting for a 14′er, it was imperative that I would. More later….