Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Powder Weeks, 2012

We finally got our snow.  The weekend of January 21 brought a pair of storms that delivered instant base to the High Country.  We need not dwell upon what came before, but we can remember fondly the unique access and plethora of icy adventure options we had in the 78 days of November 2011.  Now ski season is here, in some form or another.  I taught a single day of an avalanche course that first stormy weekend.  In the process the students and I scored some soft freshies between the waves of snowfall.

Tuesday the 24th the storms finally cleared.  This first clear powder day of the year found work-places up and down the Eastside vacant.  A rock-climbing friend asked "You all play hookie to ski, why can't I take a day off to climb?"  I responded that "if you could only climb rock a few days a year, no one would judge you for taking time off.  That's how rare stable bluebird powder days are."   

Scott, invoking the Powder Clause

Chad has great timing.   And is a busy man.  He juggles alpine climbing, rock climbing, and now backcountry skiing passions.  He has a girlfriend.  He runs some sort of real-estate business that I can't even begin to understand.  And he loves living, hanging out, and partying in Southern California. He watches football, missing playoff games only for helicopter skiing.  He keeps season passes to multiple ski areas, and travels multi-hemispherically (do "multi" and "hemi" cancel out?  Does Chad travel spherically?).  This January alone he had Mammoth New Years plans, a Utah dude-ski weekend, and had scheduled with me an introduction to backcountry ski weekend on the Eastside.  Chad is, to put it mildly, flexible and adaptable.  He ice skated for New Years, went Heli skiing in Whistler instead of faceting away in the Dry-satch, and was ready to change plans here in late January. Thankfully we didn't have to change anything.  If there's a weather god, he or she came through for us the  27th and 28th.

Hollywood Bowl on any given Sunday.  Chad recommends skiing in winter and wine and concerts in summer.

February 7, more than two weeks post-storm.  Yours truly, in Mammoth Lakes old growth.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Convict to Mammoth: An Exercise in Creativity

Creative skinning.  And this is just one of the shenanigans.
Pretty Girl Climbing Pretty Pass.  It should sound sweet to refer to this pretty girl.
We have joked about this being the year of the two week ski season.  High Sierra skiers, in the past two weeks, have experienced a stormy weekend at the ski area, a day or two of backcountry powder skiing, a few days of corn-in-the sun and facets-in-the-shade, and a week where it has blown and melted off.  That sounds like a full ski season, just raced through, start to finish in two weeks. Through it all the Mammoth Crest area has held reliable and good skiing.

Efforts to extrapolate elsewhere have come up short.  We watched from town as a series of wind events scoured the high country.  Counting on dry ridge-lines, a buddy and myself made an alpine-climbing jaunt into the Palisades without skis.  That endeavor yielded great ridge conditions and unexpectedly excellent coverage.   I hesitate to say we should have been skiing, but, well, maybe we should have been skiing.  Reacting to that adventure, and jonesing for some mileage, Alex and I returned closer to the "Mammoth Snow Belt" and slogged (with skis) from Convict Lake to the Mammoth Lakes Basin.   On this tour we found less-than-ideal coverage and firmer-than-desired windboard surface.  We made it work, covering a ton of miles in a beautiful section of the Range.  More like a spring  ski mountaineering outing this was not what one would call "fun".  This was fun of one of the higher numbered types.

Pretty Pass, Pretty Turns.  But something about saying "Pretty Girl" makes me feel dirty. 
Ram Lakes.  Scoured and shiny.  Warren Miller doesn't use those terms in his dry commentary.
Is that "The Books"?

Last light coming down Pika Pass.  We lost snow and daylight around the same time.  Yikes.

 And then it got dark.  We skied from Duck Lake, over Duck Pass and down through the Lakes to the Lake Mary Road.  Best skiing of the day, there in the Mammoth Lakes Basin.  Just as we turned on our headlamps we came on the tracks of some Mammoth-based skiers.  At the time we were simply thankful to have some depth perception in the flat (yet

Made a little video here: