Ski Mountaineering

Morrison Canyon and Mt. Aggie '98

May 9-10, 1998

Reiner Stenzel

This was a restricted SPS/SMS trip led by Larry Tidball and Scot Jamison with Susan Loftus and myself as participants. Actually there were two more participants, Leila and her buddy, two M-rated K-9s. The original plan was to climb the two SPS summits [Morrison and Baldwin]. But when we gathered Sat morning at Convict Lake the weather dictated a change. Every few minutes a roaring blast of wind came down the valley like a freight train. We would probably be blown off the summits. Thus, we decided to day ski in the protected canyon east of Mt Morrison toward Mt Aggie. After a short hike up the slopes east of the lake, we reached the snow level, skinned up and skied along the East face of Morrison. There was plenty of earlier wet snow avalanches activity, but because of the winds it was cool and safe to ski in the valley. The scenery was beautiful, the wind bearable, the snow a bit crusty but fine for climbing. The dogs were happy and seemed to have unlimited energy.

After a few hours we came toward the end of the valley which forms a big cirque north of Mt Baldwin, west of Mt Aggie. Scot and Larry decided to ski in the bowl while Susan and I headed up to Mt Aggie. As the angle increased and the snow got harder, we switched from skis to crampons.

On the ridge the winds greeted us again with fury.At times one had to stop, plant the poles downwind, bend down and hold on with a little prayer. But we made it to the summit (11,561'), of course did not stay for very long due to the wind and rapidly approaching clouds. While descending a gust caught me by surprise and lifted me a foot off the ground. This was not the day for skiing on a ridge. Murphy's Law struck Susan too: While putting on her skis one of them came off, darted downhill on the hardpacked snow approaching rapidly the speed of the wind gusts. Luckily, it was found in a rock band without damage.

Later, we regrouped with Scot and Larry who began to wonder about our long climb. Together, we skied down the valley, this time outpacing the dogs. The last stretch down to the lake had a nice steep snowfield with soft wet snow, a pleasure to shred with 115mm wide shovels. Back at the cars not only did we feel the 4,000' ski adventure, but also the two dogs expressed themselves by laying flat on the ground. Thanks to the leaders for a fine ski trip in good company.

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