Ski Mountaineering

Pear Lake Hut
February 8-9, 1997

Reiner Stenzel (Private Trip)

I played the lottery and won a weekend reservation for Pear Lake Hut. We were five skiers, Steve Hessen, Duncan Livingston, Felix Betschard, Britta Stenzel and myself. On Friday we drove up to the Lodgepole Visitor Center which is now closed during winter. We car-camped, got our permits and the hut key, and to our delight, a few inches of fresh snow during the night. In the morning we drove with chains up to Wolverton where the tour started at about 10 am. Clouds drifted in and out. At the Hump (9,400') we had our lunch break in a whiteout. Shortly thereafter, at Heather Lake, the clouds broke up for a while and the beautiful panorama of Alta Peak in fresh snow appeared. Equipped with avalanche beacons and spread apart we ascended along the high route to Pear Lake Hut (9,200') arriving at about 3:30pm. The snow conditions were superb: 4-8 inches of fresh powder on a firm base. After treating some sore feet we went out to carve the slopes.Sunset turned the westem sky and some mountain tops into a red glow. The hut was full of nice people, it was warm, and Britta prepared a delicious dinner. We talked with the ranger lady and other guests about the best skiing and decided for a Sunday tour to Skiers Alta (11,328') northeast of Alta Peak (11,204').

On a crisp clear Sunday moming seven skiers started the ascent toward Alta. Near the top we had a spectacular view of the Great Westem Divide beyond the Tablelands. Duncan dared to ascend the summit which involved ascending a corniced wall.

The rest of us watched from a safe distance. Then we all started a great run down the northeast facing slopes which had excellent powder snow. At lunch some of the skiers had to descend to the hut to return home. Four of us decided to head into the Tablelands in the afternoon. After ascending for a couple of hours we reached the plateau. It is a vast open terrain of untracked rolling slopes. But time ran out and we had to return after 3 pm. Powder gave way to breakable crust. Felix crushed it with his randonée skis while I tried to stay above it with my fat powder/crud skis (Dynastar BIGS). Before darkness we were back at the hut just in time before the clouds rolled in from the valley. The last act of the day was the ascent of Pear Lake Hut. The snow covered the entire roof. After some sidestepping to the chimney it was a short, fast and steep run down the 45 degree roof. At last, we can say to have skied Pear Lake Hut.

Monday morning we had to ski out. It was a pity to leave such a beautiful place on a gorgeous day. The upper route was fairly icy. Beyond Heather Gap breakable crust was abundant. The run down on narrow forest trails with full packs was character-building. But everybody made it safely down to the cars. After all, it was a great weekend of backcountry skiing with a fine group of people.

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