Ski Mountaineering

Memorial Day Ski Tours: False White and Sonora Pass

May 29-31, 1999

Leaders: Owen Maloy, Andy Fried, Mark Goebel, Gerry Holleman

This trip was intended to complement Reiner Stenzel's tiger trip to the Palisades, the idea being that the leaders could keep up. No way. The tigers had already been to the Palisades, but not to Sonora Pass. Seeing the roster, Andy and I drafted Gerry and Mark to stay in front.

On Saturday the group met at the Lee Vining Ranger Station and caravaned to the parking lot just east of Tioga Pass, then skied into the Bennettville area via the old road that goes by Tioga Tarns. This is a quick and easy way in, but longer than going up the ridge. We knew from the trip two weeks before that much of the ridge was bare. Gerry and Mark led the group up to the summit of False White (unnamed, 12,002'), which everybody made, except the leaders, who were quite content at their age and state of physical dilapidation to sit below and watch the children play. Nobody wanted to ski back along the ridge, so we all skied back down to Fantail Lake and flat-toured out the same way. Nothing like practicing your kick-and-glide with plastic boots and shaped tele or randoné skis with 100 mm shovels. Actually, they tour quite well, but it ain't skating, at least not for long. There were 16 skiers on this tour.

Sunday we met still more skiers at the Bridgeport Ranger Station, picking up two skiers but losing one (Andy) for a total of 17. We drove over Sonora Pass to the entrance to Blue Canyon, where the upper stream crossings we had used before looked dangerous. After scouting around to avoid some route-finding problems encountered in 1996, we decided to try going in west of the creek that drains Blue Canyon. The snowbridge here was intact. The route went on continuous snow above the creek. A summer use trail goes along here, so the route works even without as much snow.

The faster and more ambitious skiers made Leavitt Peak, and then skied the bowl below it. Snow was a bit crusty, but the snow on the more gradual slope below the usual lunch spot was excellent. I managed to break a pole, and limped out with no turns working.This is a superb place to ski, although the visibility in the afternoon was reduced by growing thunderstorms, which rained on us while driving home. At least half of the group converged on the Tiger Bar in June lake for beer and an early dinner.

Monday morning the drafted leaders took early retirement and went off to ski Mammoth Mountain. Without two rated leaders the official tour was canceled. With instructions as to route, Tani Barbour practiced her navigation skills and led a small group up to the Blue Couloir, encountering excellent snow.

Thanks to Mark and Gerry for helping the physically-challenged geriatric contingent lead this trip. Everybody had a great time, and Mark even got a new peak on the SPS list.

Owen Maloy

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