guess what. Yup, this will take a minute to load. And damn..I just had to re-write it all, after my computer timed out upon finishing it all! Nope, didn't save it. You are lucky, I'll write less now.
Greg and I skied Mt. Whorl behind Matterhorn on Sunday, and then launched into a 3 day tour behind Bear Creek Spire on Monday 5-3-10. Lake Italy is an amazing spot to base camp, with high peaks all around you. Sierra Snowpack is reported 143% of normal for this time of year! We had to park about a mile beyond the winter gate closure at Rock Creek though. Break out the kicker skins.
Cox Col and Bear Creek Spire visable from the car. It's just right over those trees, how far could it be....
Pointless Peak near the car and it's south facing gullies. Shows you a healthy snowpack right now.
Reel in the flat terrain. In about 8 miles from the car we gained 2100' to Dade Lake. Then another 2300' to Cox Col at 13k.
Ah, nice wind textured, boot deep powder up high on N and NE.
Below Bear Creek Spire 13,713'. I had a fun day climbing this last year with KT from the shop and Tim. TR here:
Cox Col gets pretty steep at the top. We skinned to near the notch and kicked steps to a very windy scene on the west side.
This is one of those pictures you know will be great. You don't even hold up the camera to your face, you just point it quick and grab the shot. West winds pelted us with snow transport, quickly trying to cover us in ice. We really couldn't tell this was going to happen until we got up there, or we would have put on all the shell clothes and ripped skins earlier.
We skied down through some low angle cliffs about 1600' and camped just above Lake Italy. The next day we skied both Mt. Hilgard 13,361' (south side) and Mt. Gabb 13,741 (north couloir), returning to camp via Gabbot Pass. The 3rd day we skied the West and north side of Mt. Julius Caesar 13,200' before climbing over Cox Col and skiing back out Rock Creek Canyon.
Me skiing off the col finding great afternoon corn snow, and winds decreasing as we shed elevation. I'd wanted to ski the SE chutes of Mt. Gabb in this picture since I saw them on a 2005 trip to Mt. Dade. Last year SLT Joe posted his pics of the north couloir, which also made it into the new East Side Guidebook. Sweet, now I knew about two great options.
We camped with some wind protection a few hundred feet above Lake Italy. This is Mt. Julius Caesar's north side on one side of our camp. Gabb and Hilgard on the other. And many more great looking ski options unfolded as well, some un-named on the map. You could also ski the north side of Bear Creek Spire from near the summit with just a little more snow coverage on your way back here. You could also ski Feather Peak or Seven Gables in a day from a camp at Lake Italy.
Afternoon buildup, but no snow. We had bivy gear and fairly lightweight packs. Next year I'd like to get a lighter pack and sleeping bag though, shedding prob 5 pounds! My Scarpa T1's are way too heavy as well, hopefully find some time to fit myself nto Garmont Voodo, which are stifffer and way lighter. More stickly basically.
This pic is from day 3 on Caesar, showing our day 2 route up Hilgard and Gabb.
Getting to the steep part of Hilgard in the morning. This is a great ski. I didn't find any other good lines on the north or east sides that went near the summit.
Skinning right to the top of Hilgard, with a 360 view and short, easy granite scramble to the summit.
View north to our next objective. Gabb and Hilgard look close together when you're far away, but this is big terrain. They don't look so close when you're on one or the other. You can see a nice NW slope of Gabb. The N couloir is out of view.
Zoom in of the west side of Bear Creek Spire, and Cox Col.
This is my favorite shot of the trip. I was bummed I couldn't work it out to join Susan on her Trans Sierra this week. But at least we got a solid 15 miles or more out into the mountains. No tracks anywhere. Our Cox Col crossing is in the center of this pic.
Looking SW. Greg is checking out the first and narrower chute before offering it to me.
We dropped in right near the summit into 2 steep chutes, with just the right ski-width entry points.
After seeing what we believe to be cat tracks of 40 lbs or so, Greg easily convinced me this small lone tree was a huge mountain lion. This pic is zoomed in a bit. The head popping up over the boulder and body trying to hide behind? We had to keep going by it, and got out our ice axes. 20 minutes later I zoomed in on my camera shot to realize it was a tree. There were no other trees visable anywhere, or that would have been more obvious.
Reeling in Gabb on the SW slopes, then W at the top. We skinned to the top and again, like on Hilgard, found a perfect small flat spot on top and a short scramble to a 360 view.
Didn't find a summit register, not that I looked real hard. Hilgard in the back. Hilgard had a summit register starting in 2006. A number of August entries, and a few late June hikers.
Looking NE, Mt. Abbot on the right. Cox Col appears to be the only way over the Sierra Crest in this area. The west side is huge granite walls. Peter Leh said he went over one time from the bowl above Dade's Y couloir.
This shot from Gabb shows our tour on Julius Caesar the next day.
Zoom in of Red Slate and Baldwin to the NE.
View into Gabb's N Couloir. Looked filled in!
You can't see down the couloir until you ski down a few hundred feet. The snow was soft and low angle enough where we felt comfortable that walking back up would be possible, should we find it out of condition.
Joe reported similair conditions. A bit boney at the choke up high. We side slipped 10' and then hip slid/ski scraped another 10' on a 35 degree slope. We could tell the snow was edgable, and getting better as we went down.
Awesome positive, winter snow in the couloir. Good thing, as it got a bit steeper. One more choke that was about ski width wide.
Fantastic skiing down low on a long apron.
BCD's pic of Mt. Gabb's N. Couloir. Looks quite a bit different than my previous pic. His pic is zoomed in obviously, I'm curious from where. Anyway, thanks for sharing the beta dude! Gabb is in the new east side guidebook too. (we sell it at the shop, and it is a must buy - really nicely done)
Skinning up 30 minutes or so over Gabbot pass, and finding perfect corn snow back to camp.
Great evening light, but I'm out of my boots and done for the day. No more pics.
The 3rd day at Italy Lake, this shot is looking back at the West side of the Sierra Crest, and our Cox Col route in and out.
Here's a shot near the west end of Italy Lake looking up at the SE side of Hilgard.
Now we have rounded the bend, approaching Italy Pass (out of view on the right), and staring at the west slopes below Julius Caesar's summit. I knew this was going to be firm snow, as the winds were fairly strong. Get out the ski crampons.
The low saddle behind Greg is Italy Pass.
There were some polished patches, where one side of one ski crampon held you to the slope. I started to make the kick turns near solid granite so we could hold on if we had to. I liked the look of this lower un-named peak on the right, which we passed on the way up. Mostly for it's ski-off-the-summit factor on corn, then wrap around to a little steeper east facing stuff lower down. That steeper couloir on the right was a bit twisted the wrong way to ski safely.
At the summit it appeared you could ski SE and down Pine Creek. The snow was perfect corn, sheltered from the wind. Too bad we didn't have a car down there and our camp gear. Oh well, I knew we would find nice powder on the lower North side of Caesar..and also when we got near Bear Creek Spire.
Greg skiing away from the summit about to turn right onto the west facing upper slope. Feather Peak on the right in the background, Mt Tom on the left.
We are psyched! 4 successful days, 4 peaks, and great snow still ahead of us on the way out.
Looking NE from Julius Caesar. BCS on right, Dade to the left, and Mt.Abbot more left. You can see the cliffs you have to negotiate below Cox Col. They aren't that steep, and I enjoyed finding a good route through there.
Feather Peak zoomed in from the summit. Solid Gold, you out there?
Greg skiing down the west slope, about to bang a right and re-enter the north side for a 1000' powder shot back to Italy Lake. I spied a zig zag through the cliffs from the bottom, and we could tell the upper slope wasn't as steep as it looked from below now...so feeling it out was easy in soft snow. Climbing back up would have been easy.
View of Mt. Goethe's N facing gullies and Mt. Darwin to the left. BCD put some really nice pics of doing both in an overnighter last week on splitboard.com.
Self Portrait with Feather Peak, Royce, and Meriam to the south. I'd like to try to ski the later two and then go out further to Gemeni and Seven Gables next year. Anyone?
We were packed and skinning away from camp at 1pm, and the storm clouds looked like it could start snowing any minute. Here's Greg catching me on the west side of Cox Col near the top. It was pretty windy again up there, so I ripped skins still standing in my skis and just skied over with them strapped in my waist belt. Nice and quite once I got down a little on the east side.
Great snow beneath Bear Creek Spire, all the way down to Dade Lake.
AT Dade lake the north exposure and wind kept snow hard, which made for a fast mile.
But then we hit the flats in isothermal conditions. Push, skin, skate, sink in a little here and there...good thing it's a beautiful place.
Ya, Cox Col, it's just right over those trees...