Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Eastern Sierra springtime is here! Mt. Morrison climb and ski descent

After several weeks of nearly continuous snow, spring had finally arrived!  Jeb and I had been flipping through guidebooks looking for something that would be fun and in good condition with the new snow. Mt. Morrison looked good to both of us, so we planned a quick 1-day outing to give it a go!


5:00 pm - Squaw Valley USA  We clicked out of our skis at the end of a day of work.


7:30pm - East Shore Lake Tahoe After a quick dinner and packing, we were treated to a beautiful sunset over the lake on our way out of town.  The familiar peaks of Squaw silhouetted agains the sunset waved goodbye and good luck.

11:00pm - Convict Lake We were asleep in the bed of Jeb's truck, hydrated, fed and excited for the morning.

5:00am - Convict Lake After crushing a quick breakfast and chugging water to pre-hydrate, we clicked into our skis and started climbing, 12 hours since leaving work.


6:30am - Below the North face of Mt. Morrison S The sun broke over the horizon just as we rounded the ridge of Mini Morrison and got our first look at our planned climbing and skiing line.  Beautiful!

Approaching the base of the climb, we could see that the snow didn't quite connect and we would need to cross some rocks to reach the top.


8:45am - Rocky traverse After taking the wrong line through the rock band, it took nearly an hour to negotiate.  We had hoped to be nearing the top at this point, and the morning sun was starting to melt the snow.

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Photo: Jeb Mirczak
As we moved higher, the aspect of the face turned more northerly, away from the sun.  The snow was cold and powdery, but every step we sunk almost to our knees.  This made for sloooow bootpacking.

Jeb, with a look that shows his excitement for deep snow bootpacking, as we neared the summit.  He was feeling strong and led the way up the final steep chute to the ridge.

11:00am - Top of the ridge An hour later than we had hoped to be there, we made it to the top.  You can see the trench we dug thrashing our way up the final 10 feet of climbing.



Jeb making the first turn at the top of the chute.


I think we were both feeling a bit intimidated by the exposure below us, and we made conservative turns down the chute until it widened into the upper snowfield.


We found nice wintery snow for the upper half of the ski, which Jeb enjoyed as he cruised into the lower choke section.

Photo: Jeb Mirzak
Nice windblown pow!


11:45am - Rocky traverse This time, we found the correct tongue of snow that almost connected across the rock band for our descent.  As we prepared to cross, the lost time from routefinding and postholing began to show its teeth.  The eastern facing slopes above had been absorbing solar heat since sunrise, and we watched as a natural wet avalanche poured down the slope we needed to descend.  It was time to get off the mountain!

Happily back down to the lower angled terrain on the valley floor, we milked corn turns back towards our car.  Jeb showed off his ski-school perfect style.  Gosh that guy looks good.


1:00pm - Convict Lake Cold beer on the tailgate of Jeb's truck, our feet were happy to be out of ski boots as we gazed up at the Mendenhall couloir on Laurel Mountain, just across the lake.  Happy to be done with one mission, and already thinking of the next!

7:00pm - Tahoe City A quick soak in a natural hotspring in the valley below the mountains and a few hours in the car brought us back home, 26 hours on the road and an awesome goal achieved!

More photos at http://www.tuckercunningham.com/Skiing/Backcountry/winter-wandering-2011/15580855_BJkq6

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