Ski Mountaineering

Memorial Weekend 2002: San Joaquin, Leavitt, and the Blue Couloir
May 25-27, 2002

Randy Lamm

This trip was originally titled Sawtooth Ridge Ski Tours, but due to a lack of participants the leaders decided to do an alternate private weekend of car camping day trips. Once the word got out about this more comfortable alternative, the participants came out of the woodwork and included Mark Goebel and myself, Tom Marsh, Reed Moore, Leslie Hoffher, Russ Hasswell, the Hollemans, and Dave King. Friday was a warmup day at Mammoth with Mark, Pat and Gerry and myself. Around 3pm we were skiing down Stump Alley when we heard Russ calling us from the lift. Russ had flown from Kansas to Reno in the morning and driven down to Mammoth to meet us for the weekend. He couldn't believe he wasn't in Kansas anymore. Watching Russ rack up about 10k of vertical in about an hour we could'nt believe he was from Kansas. After eating at Giovanni's we caravanned up to the campground at Deadman summit. The next morning we hiked up the Fern Creek trail leading into the drainage for San Joaquin Peak. Reed, Mark, Russ and I had a nice hike to the top and encountered good corn snow. Side note -- After doing San Joaquin in April by not following the Fern Creek trail, but going with skins straight up the hill, I recommend following the trail - much easier. That evening we met Tom and Leslie at the Tiger Bar in June. Owen stopped by to have a beer and show off his new Subaru.

After dinner we caravanned north to a flat spot just east of Sonora Pass. We picked this spot because it was big enough for all of us and it had two porta pottys. Tom and Leslie showed up after soaking in the travertine hot springs, and then proceeded to cook a couple of huge steaks over their camp fire for dessert. The steaks were tasty and provided the necessary protein for our Sunday tour up Leavitt Peak.

After waking early we all drove over to the west side of the pass in search of a crossing point. After seeing that the usual crossing was now a raging river we drove back up towards the pass. Reed and Mark found a snow bridge that looked passable. We all had an adventurous crossing and then proceeded to bootkick the frozen corn on the hill on the south side of the stream. Pat waited behind and the rest of us toured up a drainage that I don't think any of us had been on before.

The coverage was good and the snow softened as we climbed. Reed and Russ set a burning pace up a series of bowls and proceeded straight up the main Leavitt bowl. The rest of us followed and now the snow was getting mushy as it was receiving the full noontime sun.

While eating lunch on the summit we watched Reed and Russ do laps on the main bowl. The snow was a bit grabby near the top but as we went down it got better. As we followed our path back there were a series of medium angled slopes and bowls with smooth corn. We arrived back at the stream at around 2pm.

Luckly the snow bridge was still holding up and we all crossed safely to the other side (unlike the day before when I stepped on snow between two rocks while coming back from San Joaquin Pk. and fell in a swampy part of a lake). On the way back we stopped at the Tioga Pass Mobil station for some gumbo and fish tacos.

That nite we camped again in the Deadman Summit campground and regrouped on Monday morning at the Coldwater campground trailhead to Blue Couloir. Just as we were heading out Dave King showed up. Dave recognized Mark from trips they had done together 20 years ago. Dave provided a traveling commentary on a variety of topics ranging from real estate trends and local gossip in Bishop to a run down on the local touring conditions on the east side -- all while leading a very fast pace even for Russ and Reed. After a lunch break at the top we made our way down the creamy sierra corn. We were back at the Coldwater campground by about 1 pm with plenty of time for a happy hour and to relax after a long weekend of backcountry skiing before the long drive home. Thanks to all who participated.

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