Sorry no one has heard from me much this winter, I got busy with non skiing type fun adventures. I'll post all that stuff soon. But this week it seems the Sierra is looking a bit better with the few recent dumps, espeically up high. With only ONE cough cough... backcountry ski tour under my belt this winter, I grabbed my gear and took an invite I couldn't pass up to ski with Howie Schwartz (SMG guide co. owner) and Davey McCoy (long time Mammoth area local). Sweet! Where we goin?
oh....over Cox Col next to Bear Creek Spire? Um...that's a long way, and I just did that last year for a few day trip. And the road to Rock Creek isn't even open. But I know Howie, this is gonna be good for sure and stuff is going to get DONE.
As typical, here are a ton of photos. Grab something to eat while this loads.
Dave's pack weighs 65lbs with skis and boots. whoops. Mine is 55 with a 30m rope and tiny bit of climbing gear. Howie was almost 10lbs less than that and had the megamid and jetboil! I was eyeballing those Dynafit TLT 5 boots, they are as heavy as my socks.
So as expected, there was no snow on the road by the locked gate, and we were looking at miles of asphalt just to get to the 8 mile valley approach. Luckily we ran into Jan at the gate, owner of 26 years at Rock Creek Resort. She offered to drive us up to the trailhead! I will definitely go buy some meals at her cute little store this summer.
Oh yeah, this is a beautiful spot. Rock Creek is unreal for anyone, any age. Right out of the trailhead at nearly 10,000'.
Mt. Dade's Y Couloir is dead center. Cox Col is 13,000' and just left, and Bear Creek Spire just left of that.
Looking back at where we came from. We left my van at the Convict Lake Trailhead to the north, and planned to come out there 4 days later.
That's Mt. Tom on the right in the background.
Now we are at the pass looking west. Mt. Gabb on the right was one of our ideas as we go north. Last year I went over this col, camped down at Italy Lake, and skied both Hilgard's Southeast face and Gabb's North Couloir the following day with Greg Loring. Then Julius Ceasar and out on the 3rd day. Perfect corn and powder on that trip.
details here from that May trip:viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1701&p=5026&hilit=gabb#p5026
Gabb could have been skied, the new snow was in transition and not really covering the rocks well enough to get us psyched. Lots of other objectives anyway, although I'd like to ski that east face in view here on the far right sometime.
We enjoyed some nice powder and coverage on our descent down towards Italy Lake, and then skinned up to Gabbot Pass on the far right.
Bear Creek Spire and Cox Col are directly over the big backpack There is actually good snow coverage in places I wasn't expecting. It didn't snow much at all this year, but the recent storms were big and less windy I assume.
Howie coming up to me at Gabbot Pass. I tried to help with the trail breaking, but Howie was a bit too strong for me to catch. Next year I'm going to get in better touring shape and buy something like those white tennis shoes he has, chuck some pack weight... but I'm still pretty sure I'm not going to beat him up any hills.
Howie wanted the North Couloir of Gabb, and it looks covered well in this shot as we went passed it, but up close it didn't look great. Most of the snow was very new and dry stuff that we just knew was hiding rocks to scrape around. The entrance looked better than I got last year actually. I know enough stories about people getting hurt on poorly covered ski descents that looked great from a recent cold snow dump. Happens at the ski area every fall and spring. Anyway, it was scrapy when we skied it in a huge year.
Beautiful spot camping at upper Mills Creek Lake, looking back at Gabbot Pass and the north side of Mt. Gabb. Howie's main objective was to climb the steep cliffs above at just the right notch and get into the East Facing glacier skiing on the other side. He used a map and GPS to figure out what spot would be it, and he was right on at the perfect cross over point.
A little heads up on the climb obviously, don't fall. The snow was a little punchy in a good way. I was nervous we would be climbing rock hard west facing snow in the morning, but it snowed a few days before so we got good footsteps going. This slope might have been 1500'? big packs made it slower going on all of our climbs.
Here's where we came over the crest, just a little north of Mt. Mills.
Turning the corner we spied Mt. Mills and started up. This was equivelant I'd say to the Matterhorn East Couloir in width and steepness. The top of the snow was about 13k.
We skinned to the top. Couldn't catch Howie, I got soft this year. Need to do more mt bike rides this summer.
Looking north at the path we would take after this run. This was a really long day. Howie had us leaving camp at first light with plenty of skiing and challenging moments of climbing. Not sure how many mile we went, but our camp that night was WAY north and very close to Red and White Mountain.
zoom in at the south face of Red Slate, another peak we thought we might do. The weather turned and we bailed by the time we got there on the following day however.
Coming down off of Mt. Mills, howie and I both spotted this easy pass into the 3rd Recess. His original plan from just looking at maps was to ski down the 4th recess. Always good to look around and be flexible with your plan. We couldn't see this pass from our crest crossing.
Crest Crossing on the right, Mt. Mills on the left. It would have been nice to get to the summit, but we had a long day ahead of us and we had been on the neighboring peaks to get the same views.
Holy moly. More skiing. We took this drainage down out of view to the right, and then skinned up for miles in a forest of soft snow to Hopkins Pass.
Not to Glamorize Mt. Mills, I just loved the fact that we could keep looking back to the south and see it disappearing over the day.
Mills is in the center and dominates the view from a ski descent point of view.
On the 2nd morning we woke to really flat light and crusty snow. We skinned another hour to Hopkins Pass, just on the south side of Red and White. This is a beatiful spot at the top of McGee Creek. I'm definitely coming back up here in the summer. And next spring. There are amazing ski descent possibilities all around Red and White.
Davey is on the far right
Growing up on the East Side, I'm sure he knows all kinds of amazing places to bike hike and ski
Skiing down to Big McGee lake, the snow was breakable and totally washed out in light. Oh well, it was a cool place to be and we were psyched!
That's the east side of Red and White behind us. There was a great couloir with high rock walls on the right side that reached the ridge. Can't see it from this angle, but it's in there and at least 100' wide I think. There were 10 great line to ski in the area. I haven't heard of people ski touring up here however, as it's not easy to get to with the lower McGee Creek gate below Esha Peak. By the time the gate opens, it's a bit burned out going up there I presume. I'll get back to you on that one next year.
Now we are headed home into Convict Canyon, climbing up to a pass we spied above Big McGee Lake. Nice long easy climb, which could be winter access from Convict if you wanted to base camp around Red and White.
That's the south side of Bloody above Davey's head
We thought about going up Red Slate. Howie wanted another peak to climb but my blisters put me out of commission, and it was a bit warm and still flat light. Snow in the couloir was probably good. Kris from our shop went up there that afternoon so we'll hear it from him! Howie thought about going up Baldwin, but the passage up there above the old washed out Convict Creek bridge was totally melted out and it was just a bit warm and late in the day to go up the peak. Plus he decided to stay with the group obviously, we weren't going up there even in good conditions by this point. I'll start training for my next Howie outing.
Looking back at Red Slate
Ok, here it comes. Miles of schlogging with blistered feet and a heavy pack. I deserve this.
The van is at the end of Convict Lake. If I had brought shoes, I wouldn't have been able to wear them anyway due to feet issues. Maybe some foam sandals in the pack for the future or something like that.
Amazing trip with amazing people in amazing terrain. Life is more than good!Here's what I've been doing all winter