Ski Mountaineering

Mt Pinos, Jan 17,1998

Leaders: Reiner Stenzel, Pete Matulavich

Ten skiers met at 8 am at the Mt Pinos/Pine Mtn Club intersection on the Frazier Mtn Pk Rd. These were Pete Matulavich, Diann Fried, Bahram Manahedgi, Tony Bird, Mike Rector, Maya Hostettler, Bettina Soestwohner, Ron Geiger and Lynne Frick. After waiting half an hour for four no-shows we drove up to McGill Cpgrd, left three cars, and carpooled up to the Mt. Pinos parking lot at the road end. By 9:30 we skinned up to Mt. Pinos, three of us on Randonée gear, the rest on telemark boards. It was sunny and a bit windy. The snow was frozen crust since it had rained the day before but the snow coverage was adequate (1'-3'). As the group stretched out, the leaders at the front and end stayed in contact with my new toys: lightweight Motorola radios, 7 ozs, 2 mi range.

On the summit of Mt Pinos (8,831') we were high above the clouds covering the San Joaquin Valley. 100 mi to the North the Sierra Nevada rose out of the fog. 50 mi to the South some Channel Islands were visible. The wind disappeared and it became a beautiful day. After a stopover at the Condor Point we descended the steeper Northern slopes of Mt Pinos. Initially, the snow was solid crust, then breakable crust, and finally soft snow on lower South facing slopes. After a snack at the 8,400' saddle we skinned up and climbed Sawmill Mtn (8,818'), another HPS peak. We enjoyed a pleasant lunch with views from Mt Whitney to Santa Cruz Isld. Then it was time to yo-yo on the slopes North of Sawmill.

Initially we had planned to ski down into the town of Pine Mtn Club but this adventure was not possible due to the high snowline. Thus, we headed back to Mt Pinos and by 2:30 pm began our long descent to McGill Cpgrd (7,400'). This involved a lot of challenging forest skiing in all sorts of snow: frozen, breakabel, soft, and mush. Maya showed us how to handle any snow on alpine gear (provided you start skiing right after birth). Although we generally followed the North Ridge Trail we often took XC short cuts on inviting slopes.

Eventually, the snow became intermittent and we headed back to the road. After a half mile walk we reached the cars at McGill Cpgd around 4 pm. Bahram shuttled the drivers back to the upper parking lot. By 5 pm we were all ready to head down home, tired but satisfied from a full day of backcountry skiing. Thanks to Pete for helping to lead this trip with a fine group of excellent skiers.

Reiner Stenzel

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