Ski Mountaineering

Horton Lakes
May 10-11, 1997

Leaders: Tom Marsh, Owen Maloy

Basin Skiers The eight of us met at the corner of 168 and Buttermilk Rd. at 8:00 am on Saturday morning, May 10. The group consisted of Owen Maloy, Matt Doody, Don Goodwin, Randy Lamm, Doug O'Neil, Eric Watts, Denise Huibregtse and myself. We piled into four vehicles as we rode the rocky firm road to the trailhead. The sky was blue and the temperature was a balmy 60 degrees as we started our slog up the road to Lower Horton Lake.

The day before, Owen and Walt Boge scouted the road to the lake. It was helpful to know that we would pass two large snowfields on the way up. They appeared to be remnants of an avalanche. Most of the walk was on dry road. Upon arrival, we discovered a nice large campsite near the outlet of Lower Horton Lake. It took us about three hours to get to the campsite. After a long lunch, we all strapped our skis on for the first time and skied the north side of Lower Horton Lake. We did have to walk through two snowless areas, but upon reaching the west inlet to the lake the snow was quite continuous. We followed this continuous field up a canyon leading towards Upper Horton Lake.

Because of the lateness of the day, we stopped before the last final mile (and 1,000 feet of gain) from the upper lake. We did find a nice north-facing slope with about a 20-30 degree pitch. The snow was fairly good corn at that point, maybe a little past prime. Nevertheless, it provided a nice 500-600-foot ski down. At that point the clouds had started to form rain pockets, so heading back seemed like a good idea. It was after 5:00 pm anyway and folks were hungry. To make things interesting, six of us decided to climb back up the north slope and ski the upper east side of the canyon. It provided some fun and exciting descents down to the west inlet of Lower Horton Lake.

Skiing Up Above Lake Sunday dawned much like the day before, warm, sunny and pleasant. We got about an 8:00 am start on our quest to bag Mt. Basin. In retrospect, a earlier start would have been ideal. We found a man-made log bridge crossing over the outlet from Lower Horton Lake. At that point, we started our ski up the broad canyon. The firm snow pack provided a good base for the climb. Up to that point, the ski up was quite gradual. We stopped and broke before the next section. The next part was more exciting with a steeper climb on hardpack. This led up to the upper shelf. At that point Mt Basin and the entire ski was quite visible. Owen arrived at this point to watch a number of us ski the last patch of snow up to the ridge. This north-facing bowl proved to be quite icy and steep, so we decided to post the skis and scramble on the rocks. Eric and I were the only holdouts at that point. Two of our group, Doug and Randy, had Randonneé gear and preferred skiing on the slopes. The rest of the group napped.

Eric and I found one large snowfield on the way up. At first it was quite gradual and soft. Before we knew it, we were in a 40 degree icy slope with no arrest equipment (we had decided not to take our poles). Needless to say, we worked our way to the nearest exit from this ice field. Unfortunately, it deposited us to the far right of the summit route. At that point, it was getting quite late, so we decided to lower our objective to the ridgeline. We were able to peer over into the Owens Valley from a very steep narrow chute.

Denise Teles Randy Lamm The descent back was most delightful. After sliding down a scree slope, we gathered as a group and skied down to where Owen had been napping. We continued skiing (and taking pictures) down the steep north-facing slope climbed earlier in the day. The north face of the slope was quite unconsolidated and deep. Some of us sunk down 6-8 inches. Owen summarily warned all of us off this area and onto the more consolidated southern bowl. It was a great pitch for tele skiing. The rest of the ski down to the lake was quite moderate and fun.

Upon arriving at camp, Doug broke the news that Owen had an impromptu swim crossing a snowbridge over the lake. It was a warm day, so it must have felt good. Too bad Owen did not invite any of us to jump in. Anyway, we packed up and broke camp at 4:30pm. The hike down was not without excitement. Thunder, lightning and some shower activity graced our route out. We finally got down the road to Bishop by 8:00 pm. It was going to be long drive home for some. I decided to stay back and ski Mammoth with Owen the next day. Owen and I had dinner at a very good Mexican Restaurant in Bishop (Amigo's). Special thanks to Owen on this trip. His knowledge and expertise were most indispensable on this trip. It is good to have individuals like Owen with resident knowledge of the Sierra.

Tom Marsh

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