Here's a great adventure I just went on with two new friends. The main thing I'm looking for when trying to put the posse together for east side trips is simply that high on life attitude. And some athleticism I guess thrown in there, and a few bucks for gas too while I'm listing criteria...but mostly the first one.
I had a cool route planned to go over the Royce-Feather col and ski further back there, but we just got our asses handed to us by a short storm at Royce Lakes. It didn't help that we traded the bomber tent for a megamid shelter.
Here's a shot of what we skied taken last year from the summit of Mt. Julius Ceasar. The Feather Peak Couloir is the fat daddy, and the the shorter Royce-Feather col is between the two peaks.
here's an old post with more feather peak info
http://www.thebackcountry.net/bb/viewto ... ather+peak
Thanks for driving Luca!
We skinned from the car at the Pine Creek trailhead 7600' I think. Don't be in this lower canyon if there is any avy danger, especially from warming. You are traveling through slide paths that go regularly. In 2004 I skied Feather Peak with great snow conditions and just walked up the dry trail through this section. This time we had to work harder to get up above the cliffs.
The mixed white and black granite above Pine Lake 9942' is a huge mountain worth of it. Check out my Meriam Peak rock climb trip report from last year for better pictures of this. Go up there hiking with your kids and you'll be staring at it all day.
Aiming for the Co Co La pass at Royce Lakes, I went a little too far right. Got a great view of Feather Peak, at the expense of an extra 45 minutes of up-down traversing though. I had a pretty poor black and white topo without much detail, and knew the terrain okay from 2 prior trips up there. But below the pass, you can't really see it. Now I see there are 4 ways to go, rather than 3. Go more towards Pine Creek Pass to your left and you'll see the Co Co La better. Avoiding Granite Park on your right doesn't help you enough.
Feather Peak is 13,240'
Arriving at Royce Lakes 11,400' after a long day climbing and we are psyched. No wind, and the report of a MINOR weather disturbance this evening seems to be WRONG. Hold that thought.
We brought the BD Megamid for less weight. It helped us justify a 6 pack of guiness and way too much food. Oh, I also skimped on propane fuel not thinking half would get burned just to heat our toes and dry our stuff out using Nalgene Bottles as a tool. But we're not there yet, we are pretty psyched at this moment. The next day we would go behind Feather to camp much further out.
This is a magical spot for sure
I love Matt's little backyard dry line. We'll get back to that one in a few minutes.
Meriam Peak sits just south of Royce Peak and Feather Peak. All a little over 13,000'.
Well wind driven snow slammed our whimpy, barely guy-lined-out-because-you-can't BD Megamid. The snow seemed to penetrate the fabric, form sheets on the inside, and drop on us SOAKING us all night. CRAP. So in the morning I peer out to see a white out blizard. Okay, time to change our scene before the tent rips open and we are left exposed with our gear everywhere. Doesn't look like it here, but the snow was blowing sideways up to 50mph. I had to stand with my back to it and just wait at times, while walking around looking for deep enough snow to build a snowcave or trench. Thank God these guys had goggles for me to borrow.
Here's some pics from Matt's camera. This is during the morning of our second day. Welcome to Royce Lakes. Love Matt's little drying line, still holding socks, gloves, glasses...!
Matt skied around and found me putting my final deposit on our new condo, and I told him to go get all our stuff and try not to lose anything. Amazingly, they didn't!
Best picture of Luca ever, hands down. right Alisa?
There was a moment in our condo transfer, where I thought there was a small chance we would have to bail on our gear and ski down to the car in the blizzard...then I guess just retrieve it all the next day. My snowcave building was going okay, but I kept having to stop and just stand there engulfed in swirling winds, watching the thing get filled in again.
BAM. new deal is making hot water for nalgenes to warm up our fingers and toes. Not easy when the snow is drifting into the snow trench I made. Matt and Luca blocked up the entrance in mega foul weather, just to the point where we felt there was enough air to safely operate the stove.
Finally happy and ready to try sleeping around 5pm. Only our sleeping bags and clothes are totally soaked. I've been here before, this stuff can dry out "enough" with time and hot waterbottles. But you're still hating it.
Well sleep was a joke, we kind of stayed up having fun with our little party in there and stuff did start to dry out. By the time we finally went to bed, we all had at least a super hot bottle at our feet and a comfortable flat bed. Except Matt, who is so hard core apparently that he brings an 18" square chopped off thermarest foam thing and a tarp. Not much cushion or insulation there. Damn! I wanted to give him my luxury blow-up mat, but hey, we haven't known each other THAT long..
On the 3rd morning it was hard getting out of the cave. The sun wasn't warming up the air much due to an arctic wind. But we didn't have enough fuel to stay another night anyway at this point. So we moved our show out to the sun and began sorting gear to go ski something good before going back down canyon. But by the time we dryed out our critical gear and thawed our extremities, it was about 1pm. Winds were so high that morning I couldn't imagine going up higher either. But things did finally end, and we bolted to go check out the safety of the new snow.
First we climbed gentle terrain up to the Royce-Feather col. Nice soft boot-deep new snow, no wind slab.
At the top I was starting to think we could summit Royce, ski the NE gullies and climb up the SE side of Feather to drop in. Only there wasn't enough snow, nor did it look soft. So into the north side pow we dropped. Silky smooth! This shot is the backside SE on Feather Peak.
Feeling better about the snow, I skinned the lowest angle I could over to the base of the Feather Peak couloir and started a very difficult, slippery skin up the thing. Too deep to boot by a long shot.
in spots it was okay finally to boot.
identify the wind hardened surface layers was alarmingly easy. After wrestling with the various tests and theories, I called it safe and luckily I was right.
Matt takes over the charge near the top. His first Eastern Sierra ski tour. Not bad for a hillbilly with no camp mat, home depot gloves, and a borrowed backpack from his 10 year old daughter.
From the top here's a view of Mt. Hilgard. I skied this in perfect corn last year with Greg, from a camp on the west side of Bear Creek Spire. We skied the north couloir of Mt. Gabb later that afternoon. What a day!
This is not the summit, but a similar formation on the opposite side of Feather Peak Couloir. Summitting is about the same short rock climb, but easier than this (3rd class) to reach the actual summit.
I'll be back for that stuff out there.
yet another surface wind crust formed while we climbed the feather peak couloir. Tricky skiing, but pretty good.
down the guiness cans back at camp at 6pm and bolt for the car. Luckily it was fast cold snow, and covered well to glide all the way back. Just stay high and skier's right all the way! 4000' left to ski from Royce Lakes to the Car.
A few pics of me on Feather from Matt's camera.
Skiing right here...not so good.
What an awsome trip! We dealt with the gear we had. That's probably the 4th or 5th time I've went into a multi-day trip to get slammed with harsh weather not in the forcast. Those other times were hard, but fairly dry and even a little fun being tent-bound. I'm bringing more tent and fuel in the future. You can't get the stove to work well outside, the canisters suck when freezing. Warm them in your jacket and keep swappping them when they start to fizzle.
other tips for high country winter touring if you want to protect yourself is to have a serious down jacket like mine, which helps dry your stuff out and keep you really warm. Then bring extra serious gloves. Dry out your gloves and boot liners with steaming hot nalgene bottles. You need to make water anyway. re-boil water if you already have it in the bottle.
And bring the SPOT personal locator beacon to at least tell the wives your okay. It can call a rescue if you just totally blow it.
And bring a real shovel. a few of our shovels were barely usable due to micro sized T-handle and tiny blades. My G3 Avitech comes through every time, but now I want a harder, more V shaped blade. I'm sold on the D handle though.