Ski Mountaineering

Local Tours - Mammoth Lakes
April 22-23, 1995

Leaders: Paul Harris, Nancy Gordon

On Wednesday, the local report was, "Breakable Crust." Obligation and a little optimism got us to the parking lot of the ranger at 7:30. There we met five other incorrigables. A very short conference, and we started off to Morrison Canyon.

A good day, sunny and cool, snow from the parking lot at Convict Lake, Indeed a little crusty. We stopped to eat and ponder at the base of the first large bowl in the canyon. Maybe there's some blown-in powder in the trees behind the cornice on the left margin? Nancy Gordon and Gerry Holleman sped off. Following on, the rest of us notice what they, heading straight up the bowl had clearly noticed, the snow In the middle here is softening up.

Leaning on the poles and looking up at the ever smaller Gerry, one realizes that the top is a lot farther than it looked from the bottom. But then it always is. Gerry reappears, skiing down, it looks like pretty good snow. Gerry climbs back up with the slowest of the rest of us and on arriving says "gee, that wasn't very hard" With all the witnesses around he is safe. For now.

Skiing back down, It is pretty nice snow, we get some good tracks. Lunch in the warm sun. Nap time? No, the other side of the canyon, up through the trees must surely be good snow. A desperate trudge (for some of us) to the top of the ridge, a grand view of the back side of McGee covered with post-card snow and a ski back down through heavy and excitingly variable snow. Time to get back down to the cars before the sun is off the snow. At least the crust had thawed into something less treacherous. The best snow of the day? The last hundred yards of corn, making turns around the sage brush to the cars. Those of us who were not sure we still could ski were reassured.

Why not Duck Pass tomorrow ? Forget that It's more or less North-facing. Minor Collinsworth, capping a sterling effort with good sense, allowed that he would go and practice the art somewhere a little less exciting and would see us later.

The ski up was fine, sunny and warm, In good company. Until the last slope to the pass, where breaking through the wind crust into the cold powder our skls immediately acquired unshakeable lumps of snow the size of large cats. There are people in this world who have very small vocabularies of very bad words. Some of them are women.

Lunch at the top. The ski down was a hunt for the least bad snow most of the time. A couple of really elegant egg-beaters were demonstrated. Through the trees down into ColdWater Canyon, sometimes on nice snow and sometimes on what appeared to be nice snow, from a distance. Lawrence Pallant and Ken Harris, new to us this trip managed this descent with elan and speed. When we reached the road, Gerry said and we all concurred; " These guys have passed the test".

The Lake Mary Road had become a mire In the late afternoon sun. Slogging along watching Pat Holleman glide effortlessly off into the distance.

A good trip, thanks to all who showed up and especially to Nancy Gordon my fearless Assistant Leader and to Gerry Holleman, for breaking all of the trail.

Paul Harris

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