Ski Mountaineering

Mt. Wood

April 13, 2002

Reiner Stenzel

Mt Wood is a prominent peak west of the June Lke road between Silver Lke and Grant Lke. It makes a great day trip for ski mountaineers. Due to its popularity we had initially 15 applicants, a body count of 9 at the trailhead and 5 near the summit. It was a joint SPS/SMS trip. The group consisted of John Andersen, Bahram Manahedgi, Wally Drake, Jonathan Meagher, Peter Sporleder, Mark Johnson, Susan Livingston, Craig Conally with family, Mark Goebel, kindly assisting for busy Erik Siering, and myself. We met on Sat, 4/13, at 6:00 am, at the hikers parking lot at Silver Lake. At dawn, it became obvious that there was no snow in sight, no surprise this year. Thanks to a suggestion by Alvin Walter we drove to the north end of Grant Lke where a dirt road leads up toward Parker Creek with a side road heading to the 9,000' plateau east of Mt Wood. With high clearance cars we all made it the safely across the rocks and stream to the road end. By 8:30 am we hiked along a dirt road on intermittent snow toward the eastern slopes of Mt Wood.

The snow coverage was adequate, the sun was out in force and the day looked promising. After a 30 min hike we skinned up on mostly solid snow heading into the big gully on the southeast side of the peak. We encountered a rare sight of a climax avalanche. It was a recent wet snow avalanche which had taken out the snow down to the grass level and left a 200' wide path of strewn balls most of which could brake a skiers leg like a straw. Since it was another warm day we decided to be back by midday. Although we shaved off 2,000' of the 5,000' climb, the remainder was still a good workout. We switch backed up the gully and continuing upper slopes toward the 12,000' ridge. Near the ridge we encountered another specialty of this year: Bottomless rotten snow, in which a skier sinks 1-2 feet in without warning. Since it was on a 30 deg slope, the snow had baked for 5 hours, it was time to get out.

We had a brief lunch on the ridge, enjoyed a great view over the snow-covered back country, and decided to forgo the last 500' to the summit on the partially barren, brown ridge. The view to the west of the Ritter Range, Lyell, Dana, Koip, etc was as gorgious as the blue Mono Lke to the east. Skiing the upper few hundred feet in rotten snow was an excercise in equal weighting, balance and plain luck since even a straightforward traverse could lead to a face plant. Peter from the Lke Tahoe Search and Rescue Team had another approach: If you ski fast enough straight down the fall line there is no time to break through rotten snow. After this initial trial zone we had wonderful spring snow and fully enjoyed every turn. Too bad, the run down lasted only about 30 min whereas the climb up was more like 3 hours. Near the bottom spring snow gave way to spring mush. It was just the right time to come down. By 2 pm we were back at the cars which Susan C. had guarded with her dog. We washed up in the creek, rested and then headed down to the Tiger Bar in June Lke to celebrate a great day of skiing. Later we dispersed to hot springs, Mammoth town, and camping at Glass Creek.

On Sun, 4/14, we skied Mammoth Mtn, maximizing the downhill vs uphill skiing. We were joined by Chris Lohman, Jan St Amand, Leslie Hofherr, and mingled with lots of telemarkers on the occasion of the Mammoth Tele Fest. Snow and skiing were excellent. By 3-4 pm the clouds rolled in and we rolled home on the 395. Another fine ski mountaineering weekend. Thanks to Mark for assisting on Mt Wood.

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