Ski Mountaineering

Onion Valley
May 9, 1998

Leaders: Keith Martin, Owen Maloy

Onion Valley Road We met at the Upper Gray's Meadow campground on Saturday morning. Besides the leaders, our crew included Tani Barbour, Eric Lane, Richard Orloff, and Dick Saum. We were able to drive to the last switchback before gaining sight of the valley, near the big trees, and skied by Tani listening for our avy beacons. The skis came off when we rounded the next turn where the full sun had hit the road and melted it out. We walked up to where the road meets the snow and then goes uphill, and crossed the creek.

Onion Valley Group We skied up the drainage toward Kearsage Pass, turning around early at the first bowl after the ridge above the parking lot because of rapidly softening snow. Most people went up the ridge, but Owen, feeling ornery, looked for the bowl familiar from previous visits. The bowl had a weak layer about a foot thick a few inches down, so Owen bailed and followed the group path after some delay (what the hell, assistant leaders are supposed to be behind, right?). Some folks had a nice run from a point above our lunch spot overlooking the bowl. The snow was excellent in the morning, but softened into deep glop after lunch. The condition of the bowl was not a good sign. We skied down the creek, which was firmer as long as one did not get out on the south-facing slope. Wearing an avy beeper is no substitute for commmon sense.

Skiing this stuff took a lot of effort. Owen had difficulty breathing after having broken two ribs in a clinic at Alpine Meadows three weeks earlier. Other folks did very well. The trick in this stuff is to ski the fall line, which requires strong steering skills and proper balance.

Ski Tracks We don't need no stinkin' ice axes! On the way down we passed a tent. A woman emerged to tell us there was a bridge across the stream on the old road. She turned out to be Desert Peaks Section Chair Barbara Reber, who had come up with an Angeles Chapter group practicing ice axe. Looking back, we could see the tracks of Tani and Richard right below the training site in a chute below Independence Peak. See the photo.

At dinnertime we ran into Mark Goebel and his friend Russ, who had attempted to climb up Piute Creek to ski on Mt. Bradley. They had been defeated by brush, not to mention 6000' of gain carrying skis. Everyone enjoyed a campfire with much talk about skiing, climbing, and cycling.

On Sunday we were forced to cancel the official trip. Owen was clearly not sufficiently recovered from the broken ribs, and Keith had left his skins at the previous day's lunch stop! Mark, Russ, and Dick skied Sardine Canyon as a private trip, and experienced excellent snow for most of the 5000' run. Richard and Tani went off to do something called "work." Not exactly a bold showing, but we had fun, and that's what counts.

Owen Maloy

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