This year there were seven of us: John Anderson, Wally Drake, Angel Ocana, Bahram Manahedgi, Pat Orris, Mark Goebel assisting, and I as the lead. In contrast to last year we had fine weather with a high pressure system over California. On this trip we encountered conditions ranging from wet crust, to heavy powder, to superb corn snow on the south and west facing slopes.
Everyone met up Friday at the Wolverton trailhead at 7:30 am for an 8:30 departure. Due to the good weather and well-worn track we made it to the hut in good time arriving at about 1:30 taking the high traverse from Heather Lake. Arriving at the hut, we were greeted by our new neighbors from Fresno and Mendocino, who were overlapping our stay for one night. After everyone picked out a bunk, unpacked and had a snack, we headed up to take a few runs down the hut slopes. The snow was crusty in the sun, but the east facing slopes still had skiable powder.
Saturday morning we headed up to Skier's Alta, climbing the 2000 feet of vertical in about 2 hours. Just about the time we got up to the top, the fog that we had watched boiling up from the San Joaquin Valley finally reached us, and we peeled skins and headed down in between intermittent whiteouts. We headed down some draws on the west side of the ridge separating the Tablelands from the Skier's Alta Alta Peak ridge. Most of the time we were skiing in the fog so it was kind of hard to see what we had skied. We skied down another draw which curved to the east for a few hundred feet and then bottomed out, where we traversed to the west and wound up on the east ridge of the slope running down to the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River that runs up to the Tablelands. As we put our skins on and headed up to the tree in the spring basin for lunch the clouds cleared.
After eating we all headed up again. Angel, Wally and I headed back up to Skier's Alta for another run, while Mark, Pat, John and Bahram went up to the bench above the middle bowl run above the spring, but below the start of the diagonal ramp to Skier's Alta. On the way down we found good snow on the east facing slope to skier's left below Skier's Alta, and then a little grabby, but still good snow down the middle bowl above the lunch spring. When we got back to the hut, we met our new neighbors, a couple of doctors, and their friend, all from Fresno. Pat got on the list late so she had to camp out the first nite, but got to move out of her Bibler and into the hut Saturday and Sunday nite when a member from the second group did not show. After dinner on Saturday nite, I pondered goals for Sunday. I felt like I wanted to try something other than more runs down Skier's Alta. On the way in, I noticed the 10,000' ridge separating Emerald Lake to the east, from Heather Lake on the west. It looked like it could have some good east facing snow. But on Sunday morning it felt like a bright warm spring kind of day, and thought maybe their would be good corn snow on south and west facing slopes, so I decided we should head up to the Tablelands.
As we progressed up the Marble Fork drainage the snow felt like it was "corning up" we topped out on the north side of the tablelands had lunch near a protected rock wall. After a quick lunch we decide to go up the slope above us facing north. Proceeding from Tableland north peaklet at 10,695 we headed up to the pass to the east of Peak 11,462. Mark had said he always wondered what was up thereŠ What we found was a very steep vertical cliff facing the north. Off in the distance about 100 miles away was Ritter and Banner. But closer was a huge jagged rock spire sort of resembling Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite (the picture does not do really show how dramatic the spire and cliffs were). Mark commented, "Doesn't really show up on the map." We were careful not to get too close to the edge when we snapped the pics. After the pics and skiing down some not quite cooked snow, we met up with Pat, who decided to wait at the lunch spot.
Mark, Pat and Bahram skied back down the way we came on what they said was some excellent corn snow. Wally, Angel and I decided to do a big traverse from the Tablelands along the ridge which goes by Moose Lake and connects to the Alternate to Skier's Alta. This was a great tour which took us across some billard table smooth south facing corn slopes. We climbed up the ridge which looks down on Buck Creek Canyon and followed in south in the general direction of Farewell Gap towards Mineral King. About 4:30 we topped out on the Alternate to Skier's Alta. We checked in on our radios with the hut and had one big ski run down to the Marble Fork, around the pass below the Matterhorn and down the west facing slope to the hut. Tired, we cooked our dinner, played Trivial Pursuit, and relaxed with the stove cranking out the heat.
The next morning we cleaned up the hut, packed, and had a quick 3 hr ski out. As we got closer to the trailhead the warm weather had already melted a few bare spots in the tobogan track. A much lower snow year than last year. We estimated about a 7-8' snow pack at the hut. After loading and cleaning up we reconvened at Alejandras restaurant at 314 W. Main St. in Visalia where Wally had Rum with his Flan, and we all had some good Mexican food. Another successful trip to Pear Lake where we found great corn snow, had nice hut neighbors, and expanded our knowledge of the area with a grand traverse from the Tablelands to Skier's Alta.
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