Eastern Sierra Backcountry Report
Early April 2019
If April has been anything, unpredictable and transitional might be two good words to describe the backcountry conditions this month. With the weather all over the place, every day seems to bring a new variety of snow and sky for us skiing crazies. The other thing April brings is the desire to leave Tahoe and head for the bigger mountains of the Eastern Sierra. Here is a quick conditions and image report from Johnny and Dave’s recent trips through the Range of Light.
Johnny and crew headed down during the first week of April and encountered nicer weather but fairly inconsistent snow conditions. The sun was shining so they headed down to Laurel and Convict canyon to bag some Eastside classics!
On Saturday, they left the car at 395 heading into Laurel Canyon to hit Bloody Couloir. The road is not yet melted out so they skinned over the desert for an extra 1.5 miles before hitting the canyon proper. In the couloir, they found punchy but cold snow up high and firm but edgeable windbuff on the apron. An excellent day with stunning views!
Sunday morning, they headed out from Convict Lake aiming for Pinner. The day heated up fast and they were sweating up the 2,500 feet of perfect booting. At the top, the crew split with two skiing Pinner and two heading for the Mendenhall. Both lines provided corn up top and mush down low. The day was capped with an icy first swim of the summer!
The following week, Dave and Zack headed down for some similar classics but the forecasts were a little foreboding. The old adage goes something like, “You don’t know if you don’t go”……so we went! Having done many of the Classics, we headed to the Pine Creek trailhead with the goal of getting to the North Couloir on Four Gables peak.
After some crazy, steep skinning, clawing, post holing and groveling, we finally made it up to the main drainage and into easier traveling terrain. It was warm and above freezing in the early morning, then got colder and windier as the day progressed and a quick moving front was upon us. So, what might have made for a nice ski day, quickly changed to grey bird, cold and weird warming re-freezing. But, the scenery of the High Sierra and the amazing terrain, kept our spirits high!
With a deteriorating forecast, cold temps, no new snow and a day to play, we decided an adventure was in store. Something, not in the famous Eastern Sierra guidebook and somewhere with little to no beta. It was decided, Boundary Peak in the White Mountains (highest peak in Nevada) would be our destination. We had a vague idea of the access road we were looking for and basically, headed there in the dark of the night.
About a mile on the dirt access road and then a hard right into the mountains. We skinned up fairly mellow terrain to a ridge at about 11,000 ft. The Bristlecone Pines were really starting to show up as we neared the ridge and they just drew us in at every switchback. Such an awe inspiring feeling weaving in and out of these amazing trees!
At this point, winds were blowing around 40-50 mph, it was actually getting colder by the hour and the grey, storm clouds were all around us. Needless to say, the skiing was not going to be great and we couldn’t even talk to each other from 5 feet away….so, we bailed!
Any day in the mountains is a good day! Adventure, route finding challenges, friends, beer and Mountains! What else can you ask for? Let’s just hope the weather improves at some point this month and we get a good high pressure cycle for some epic spring skiing. Enjoy and safe travels in the backcountry.