My second day skiing on this 2010 Eastern Sierra ski trip involved an early start by Sierra standards and one of it’s 14K’ peaks. Our sights were set on Split Mountain (14,058′) and it’s south face today, and although it’s not the uber-sick close-out line of the mountain’s East Couloir, it still offers some fun and steep skiing.
Jon Morrison joined Reed and me for this trip, and we hit the dry trail in our AT boots for the mile or so approach to snowline as the sun came up and instantly had us stripping down to our t-shirts to try to keep cool. Taking advantage of the rock solid and frozen snowpack the Sierras are known for, we walked for about and hour even after we reached the snowline before throwing the skis on our feet. Feeling stronger and more rested than the day before, it was easier to keep pace with Jon, who is know for being fast and strong on his skis.
It was really cool as we reached the upper stretches of the canyon and the colors and striations in the rock faces of the south side of Split Mountain made the 7k’ climb from the trailhead more enjoyable. After about 3 hours, we could finally see the route and Jon commented that it looked much more filled in than in past years. Things were looking good, but the sun was already baking the face and we wondered what the conditions would be like higher up.
The steep skinning resumed, but we switched to booting below a typically cruxy section. The climb was pretty taxing for most of the way to the top, as the snow hadn’t quite transformed to corn snow yet and we sunk in above our knees in snow from a storm about three days ago.
We continued up the face and into a gully, before gaining the ridgeline that led up to the peak’s south summit. With the terrain dropping steeply away on both sides, it was an exhilarating place to be, not to mention a sick location to step into your skis! We were all psyched for the descent and Jon dropped in first.
It was a obvious due the snow conditions and the heat of the sun that there would be some wet slides going on and Jon got one going that ran the whole face, cascading over cliff bands far down and just above the apron below. Fun to watch, not fun to be caught in, so we skied the firm bed surface to minimize the exposure. Once we got off the steeper sections, most of the snow started to stay put and we could relax a little, focusing on the descent, as opposed to survival.
The skiing was much better on the slopes lower in the canyon and off the route itself, and it was everything we could do to try to stay hydrated and/or keep the sunscreen and sweat from stinging our eyeballs. Once off the snow and after a quick bushwhack, we made the trail and began dreaming of cold beers and flip-flops waiting for us at the trailhead. It didn’t take long and we were soon loving the dream and soaking in our buzz from another great day in the mountains.