Ski Mountaineering

Rock Creek

March 6-8, 2008

Reiner Stenzel

This was a scheduled CMC outing attended by two SMSrs, Bahram and myself, hence a short trip write-up on the skiing may be appropriate. The CMC Winter Outing was organized by Joe White and Ron Norton and the objective was to review snow climbing techniques, i.e., roped glacier travel, crevasse rescue techniques, prussiking, snow anchors, belays, fixed ropes and winter camping. It was well attended (15 participants), highly informative, blessed with good snow and spring weather.

Although the main event was scheduled for Saturday, 3/7, some of us arrived on Friday for a day tour on skis. Joe White, Ron Norton and I started out at 9am from the East Fork SnoPark (road closure) and skied up the valley, passing by Rock Creek Lodge, Mosquito Flat Yurt and up along the lakes. Steve and Ron had lightweight touring skis with fishscales which were well suited for the gentle terrain but not for climbing. I was itching to ski some chutes. There was a fine chute coming down from Ruby Lake. So we split to meet again at Mosquitoe Flats two hours later. I skinned up the gully to Ruby Lake. There was a wonderful scenery higher up with the snow-covered lake depression below steep mountain walls. On sunny slopes there was great spring snow, in the shade there was powder, separated by breakable crust. I enjoyed my earned turns all the way down to Mack Lake, then back to Mosquitoe Flats to meet at 2pm my concerned companions. We skied down the road, stopped by the Lodge, and back to our tents near the East Fork Cpgrd. Then it was relaxing time and meeting the new arrivals.

On Sat morning the CMC program started. It was very well prepared, organized and instructed. It takes a lot of practice to quickly set up a C-Z pulley system when 4 people travel on a rope and one falls into a crevasse. More applicable to the Sierras was the review of ice axe, snow anchors, belays and fixed rope, typically used on M and E-level Sierra Club trips. The exercises lasted ito the afternoon, after which there was free time before an evening dinner at the Rock Creek Lodge.

Since the sun was still shining on the southwestern slopes I decided to ascend a gully to ski it. It took an hour to climb to the ridge. There was a fine view over the valley and distant peaks, some of which were "smoking" with spindrifts. By 4:30pm it was time to descend before the snow would crust up. Turn after turn it was fun to ski down the 35 deg chute to the SnoPark area. Then I joined the group and we all headed up to the Lodge for a great dinner. It is time the SMS learns from other sections how to enjoy live. The spirits were flowing and Bahram shared a fine bottle of wine with me for the prime rib meal.

After dinner we headed down the road in darkness, i.e. starlight since there was no moon. The pace differed greatly between those with smooth P-tex, fishscales or Vibram under the feet. All happy campers made it down safely and vanished in their downbags.

On Sunday Bahram headed to Mammoth Mtn and I drove south with a detour to heat up at Keough. On the way back I enjoyed to watch the snow-covered Eastern Sierra Crest from Hwy 395 and took several panorama shots. It was a great finale of a fine weekend of skiing and mountaineering exercises.

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