Seeking east side ski touring advice -- is it safe?

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Seeking east side ski touring advice -- is it safe?

by Bemmerswat » Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:11 pm

My partner and I would like to do a ski tour of the Sierra high country from the east side on randonee gear. Our window is this weekend (Saturday the 16th) through midweek (Wednesday the 20th). Informed by options in John Moynier's Backcountry Skiing California's High Sierra, I have in mind a route from South Lake (South Lake Rd trailhead, off Highway 168/Bishop Creek Rd) out and around Hurd Peak, which takes us through the Treasure Lakes. It's rated as Class 2-3 (so not technical), only 10 miles roundtrip and only ~ 2000 ft of gradual elevation change (up to almost 12,000 ft). We are both fit, have strong wilderness experience generally, are mixed-level skiiers (me experienced, she intermediate) and have a bit of winter camping experience. However, I would rate us as still fairly rookie backcountry skiers. This is her first season and this is my third; I'm AIARE level 1 certified and just lead my first tour out to the Ostrander Hut. The question: Is this a crazy, risky plan given this factset? And if not, does anyone know how far the road is plowed toward South Lake (i.e. how much road skinning we'd have to put up with)? I'm open to recommendations on alternate tours if this seems like a bad idea. The goal is just to get some early experience ski touring, have a good time and experience the winter high country.

Thanks for the help!


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Princess Buttercup

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Re: Seeking east side ski touring advice -- is it safe?

by Princess Buttercup » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:53 am

Should be fine, overall. I'm not sure how much snow fell last weekend in that zone, so if you're AIARE L1 you might work in some time with her to actually dig a few pits and practice analysis/testing on different aspects. The road is usually only plowed to South Fork, which I think is about 4-5 miles from South Lake. You may indeed find some bare patches up there: the road to Sabrina and North Lake both had sections which were melted out and only a few inches thick in spots on the weekend of Feb 2-3.

As for conditions up higher, I found acres and acres of breakable crust, sun crust, wind crust, etc. up at 12K in Humphreys Basin that weekend. A few pockets of pow existed on the east side of Piute Pass, but mostly had settled into the basins and low spots in the rollers. Made for decidedly unfun descents below Loch Leven, weaving thru trees and talus. Hell, I even racked my skis and postholed for a while out of frustration.

There are good pockets out there! Buddy of mine caught some sweet vid up above June this past weekend.

I don't think yours is a bad idea, but you might consider some more walking-type terrain at the moment, esp if it's her first time skiing with an overnight pack. A few other options: head in behind Mammoth? Rock Creek is a long road but so much terrain that it appeals to all levels. San Joaquin Ridge for the views?

Hope you all have a blast out there this weekend!


PS: Here's some pics that show conditions just opposite, but close, to where you're heading. ... 692615053/

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Bemmerswat, mrchad9

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Re: Seeking east side ski touring advice -- is it safe?

by jareds » Fri Feb 22, 2013 11:38 pm

how was your trip?

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