Ski Mountaineering

Rock Creek Ski Camp
June 1-2, 1996

Leaders: Reiner Stenzel (Private Trip)

This SMS trip was scheduled late in the season, just in case there was a lot of snow. Well, 1996's snow was ok but below average. In June most Southern Californians had packed their ski gear away or headed north. Since nobody called to join I took my trustworthy, four-legged companion Tatanka and ventured on a spring ski-hike into Little Lakes Valley where there is usually late snow below Bear Creek Spires.

On Saturday I hiked to Long Lake where solid snow coverage started and then skinned up to the Treasure Lakes, a place of fond memories. I set up basecamp on the ridge overlooking the upper, highest lake. Not a single soul around this beautiful and usually popular place. Plenty of excellent snow covered the surrounding slopes and bowls. The lakes were still covered but not safe to ski on. In the afternoon I toured below Bear Creek Spire to the ridge above the Dade Lakes. It was a beautiful day with dark-blue sky, intense sunlight, and a great mountain scenery. Then I looked for some excitement and climbed into a steep chute on the north face of Bear Creek Spires. As the angle exceeded 40 degrees, I became a bit nervous since the afternoon snow was heavy and big balls began to roll. I skied down safely, then looked back and saw a monstrous slide coming down the next chute.

It must have started with a cornice break-off high up on the mountain which triggered a wet snow avalanche in the chute that grew into a football field of tumbling big balls. I kept a respectable distance from these chutes and returned on gentler terrain to my campsite. A group of skiers came up, and when they told me that they wanted to ski the steeps I gave them the warning.

Since June days are long I got my fishing gear out and skied down to the lower lakes to do some ice fishing. There were no bites. Well, I had to settle for canned tuna instead of fresh trout for dinner. Sunday morning was relaxing. I toured the terrain around the Treasure Lakes, then packed out and skied out leisurely. Sunday hikers came up the valley. Altogether, it was a very pleasant spring trip which, I am sure, would have been enjoyed by other participants as well. It is scheduled again for June 1997.

Reiner Stenzel

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