Ski Mountaineering

Robinson Basin
April 19-20, 2003

Randy Lamm

This trip was intended to do Sardine Canyon but due to lack of snow, and storm conditions, it was diverted to Robinson Basin instead. Trip Participants included: Tom Marsh (Assistant Leader), Mike Rector, Bill Lutz, Mike & Lorene, Thomas Johannson, Jeremy Cole, Don Pies, Jan St. Amand, Wally Drake and Craig Connally.

Most of us arrived Friday nite and set up our car camps in the Upper Grey's Meadow campground. At 6am we started getting ready to caravan up the road to the OV parking lot. Over the campground and Owens Valley it was clear, calm and even sunny, but when we got up to the road end it was overcast, cold and breezy. We looked at the dry gully going up the south side of Kearsarge Pk. Then we ran into Bill Lingle, Walt Davie, Bruce Rorty and Bahram who were there as the Alpine Ski Mountaineering Section. The day before, Bill had hiked along the old dirt mining road which runs along the base and hits the OV road on one of the last major switch backs. Bill reported that Sardine Cnyn did not have much snow. They were going up Robinson Basin, which is goes up to the southwest from the parking lot.

The weather was balmy as the sun came out so we started skining up the apprx 300' vert slope at the entrance to Robinson basin. The skinning was on frozen windpacked corn and the slope was a steep angle, and was a little challenging. Jeremy dropped out quick at the top of this slope, due to a combination of the slope angle, his expedition grade arctic mountaineering suit, and the 10 beers he had for breakfast.

Once up on this first slope we saw a group doing self arrest practice on a steep gulley. It turned out they were members of the mountaineering training course. We kept going, heading up into a sheltered series of bowls where the sun was starting to thaw the corn and soften up the Sierra cement. We kept going up another steep bowl until we got into the last big open part with a straight view of frozen Robinson Lake, and the wall of peaks blocking the basin, of which University Pk is the most prominent.

We decided to stop for a break, which turned into a lunch break at the east end of the basin at about 11,000'. The breezy, balmy conditions changed into the strong hurricane force winds that accompany storm fronts crossing the Sierra. There was not any good ski slopes up ahead, so we decided to head down.

We had a variety of conditions from a thin layer of heavy powder on a firm base, to hard wind pack, buttery corn, to mash potatoes slop. The storm clouds were closing in so we headed back down the hill to our campground. Back at upper greys it was warm and spring like. The clouds and winds seemed to stop just at the Sierra crest.

We pulled out our camping lounge chairs, cracked some brews, killed a couple bottles of wine, and feasted on Tom's campfire cookery. In the morning we had decisions to make. The storm clouds were still suspended just hanging over the sierra crest. We heard weather reports of a big storm that was supposed to hit, yet where was it? Tom and the rest of the group decided to head home early and stop for a hike in the Fossil Falls area south of Olancha and just south of the Coso Road rest stop. I still wanted to ski and since it sounded like the storm was hitting up at north, I drove to June. It was snowing hard enough to cover tracks after each run. I had the whole place to myself and racked up 21,000'. Not bad for starting at 11am. On the way back the storm ended at the top of Sherwin Grade. Sardine Canyon will have to wait until next season.

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