Sierra High Route
Saturday, May 1 – Thursday, May 6, 2010
Geoff, Barry, Mike & UCL (Nick)
All photos in this TR were taken with my camera. Most were taken my me, but the pictures of me were taken by other members of the team.
We were embarking on the Alpine Skills International (“ASI”) 2010 6-day Sierra High Route, from West to East. The trip would be lead by Geoff Clarke, an ASI Guide and former Chief Telemark Examiner for the PSIA.
The planned route crosses the Sierra Nevada over 9 high cols and passes, beginning at old Wolverton Ski Resort on the edge of Sequoia National Park and ending at the valley floor outside Independence (off 395). The planned route starts at approximately 7,200ft., climbs to around 10,000ft. and holds the line between 10,500ft. and 13,000ft., until dropping down on the Eastern side of the Sierra.
I attempted the same route last year with Geoff, but we turned around near Copper Mine Pass due to High avalanche conditions. A TR of last year’s attempt can be found here:
Based on Geoff’s running GPS, we traveled approximately 47 miles and climbed over 17,000 of vert over the course of the 6 days.
DAY 1 – Wolverton Ski Bowl to Table Meadows
Sorting our gear for the next 6 days and 5 nights in the parking lot of former Wolverton Ski Bowl.
Unlike last year, we were able to skin immediately from the parking lot and trailhead. As a general note, the amount of snow in the Sierra is mind-blowing this year. In and around the trailhead, it was clear that it was going to be a great trip with great snow coverage.
Skinning through the giant forests of Sequoia National Park on our way up “The Hump” (towards Pear Lake Hut).
The first of many, many scenic shots in this TR. There is plenty of skiing shots as well, but the terrain and beauty one encounters on the Sierra High Route is breathtaking. Although this TR will have a massive amount of pictures and I have done my best to sort through and only offer what I believe to be the best, I hope that the viewer appreciates the natural splendor of the Southern Sierra.
Geoff looking out in the distance from the top of “The Hump”.
After climbing “The Hump”, the route takes you through several cirques offering picturesque spires of amazing ski terrain. Although we were only passing through during this trip, many of these zones can be accessed by staying in the Pear Lake Hut. Having that said, one should be extremely confident in the snow stability before skiing in these areas as it is all prime avalanche terrain.
Several pictures of the cirque around Emerald Lake.
When skiing in this area last year towards the tail-end of our trip, Geoff and I had noticed a steep couloir in the Emerald Lake cirque (from a descent of Skiers Alta). Here I am noting how much more it is filled in this year.
It goes…. But comes along with spiciness, steepness and a variety of other committing factors.
Moving around Aster Lake and then past the Pear Lake Hut, we continued working our way along the Kaweah River.
When traveling along the Kaweah River and in the vicinity of the Pear Lake Hut, one almost always seems to encounter mid-day fog. I am sure some research would turn up the explanation for this phenomenon, but I will leave that for another day. In any event, almost on cue, the fog started to roll up from the valley chasing at our heels.
We continue to move quickly, but not fast enough to out-run the fog.
Over-run by the fog, we are engulfed in a white-out of “sauna-like” proportions. The fog traps long-wave radiational heat from the snow, but also allows the short-wave sunlight to engulf us. I swear, it felt as if it was 95 degrees while skinning in the white-out.
Fortunately, we are able to find our Day 1 camp (the “Waterfall Camp”, complete with running water) via GPS. Shortly after arriving, the fog clears, leaving us to amazing views back down towards the Kaweah river.
The clear skies also show some recent avalanche crowns.
After a long first day of mostly uphill traveling, we are happy to set up our Mid for a nice night on the cusp of the Tablelands.
Day 1 ends with an amazing sunset, hot drinks and rest for the weary.