Ski Mountaineering

Skier's Alta & Pear Lake
Feb 20-22, 1999

Steve Hessen

Having obtained five spaces in the Pear Lake Hut lottery, our group had a warm and cozy destination for this west side Sierra ski tour. The Friday weather forecast called for drizzly conditions to 7,500 feet, so we were pleasantly surprised to encounter a clear, starry night as we arrived at the road head Friday night.

Saturday morning brought overcast and cold conditions but without rain or slush. Our group of nine included: Richard Geist, Mark Goebel, Randy Lamm, Susan Loftus, Bahram Manahedgi, Don Pies, Eric Watts, Reiner Stenzel, and Steve Hessen. Four were using AT gear and five were free heelers. As we were preparing to leave, we noticed a group of five skiers departing for the hut. Our group moved quickly with the settled snow conditions allowing for fast travel. As we went up the Hump, we caught up with and passed the other group. While taking a lunch stop at Heather Gap, the wind picked up and it began snowing. Speeding up our lunch, we quickly dropped over the pass and descended to the lakes below.

By the time we reached Heather Lake the snow fall had abated significantly. We continued past Aster Lake and skied down to the hut. It was nice and warm as the hut keepers were in residence. We made good time in reaching the hut in under four and a half hours. Five of us settled into the hut and the four who were snow camping set up their tents nearby. Our early arrival allowed for enjoyable afternoon runs near the hut. Late in the afternoon the other group arrived. They were locals from Visalia who had been to the Hut previously. They proved to be nice people, being both good company and having a good touch (butane blowtorch!) with the pellet stove. We marveled at some of their backpack cuisine which included vast quantities of spaghetti, potatoes, and chorizo. It should be noted that Richard Geist upheld the culinary honor of the SMS by bringing a steak dinner with all the trimmings. The hut proved a cozy base as the weather picked up with snow failing throughout the evening, Our snow campers enjoyed the opportunity to cook, eat, and hang out in sheltered conditions Saturday morning dawned clear and cool.

Only light breezes remained from the storm system. The winds moved the snow around but we had six inches of new powder at a minimum. Skiing with the hut keepers, we ascended the untracked slopes cast of the Hut. The outstanding conditions induced six of our group to forego Skier's Alta for the superb slopes and bowls below it. Susan, Reiner, and I continued on to the peak.

We were rewarded with great views to the north and east. It all looked inviting...perhaps a High Route from west to east someday, While using his Motorola radio, Reiner was surprised to be able to talk with people in Visalia, some 40 miles away. After taking photos, the three of us dropped down to rejoin our colleagues having fun on the slopes below. Given the great snow and the presence of clouds coming up from the Valley below, lunch was reduced to a quick snack, allowing for more turns. We moved to lower runs in the early afternoon. The snow was superb.

Mark Goebel, who has skied this area regularly since the early '70s, pronounced conditions to be the best he had seen. We eventually worked our way back to the Hut, for a n-Lid afternoon soup break. Most people rallied for more runs in the late afternoon. Sunday evening was spent enjoyably in the hut. Tired and happy skiers and good food and drink contributed to the atmosphere. We all plan to return and plans were made for next year.

We were out of the Hut and skiing by 9.00 on Monday morning. We enjoyed good weather and scenic conditions on the way out. Several people took turns breaking trail enabling us to make good time up to Heather Gap. A tree run down to the trail route and a quick run to the parking lot at Wolverton followed. Attracted by burgers and milkshakes, we immediately headed to Visalia. All in all a great trip. Thanks to all who participated, especially assistant leader Reiner Stenzel, who has lead this trip so many times in the past and was successful in the Hut lottery.

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