Ski Mountaineering

Ski Party on Grouse

Feb 20, 2010

Leaders: Reiner Stenzel, Tom Marsh

The weather forecast issued a winter storm warning. That's when they usually close the Pinos Mtn Road. We considered to call it off, then decided to gamble and won. The road was open and the storm was benign.

We gathered at 8am at the road end on the Mt Pinos parking lot. There were a few no-shows and some additions, so that we ended up with a group of 11 when we took off for Pinos at 9am.

The participants were Tom Marsh, Kat Seiple, Bahram Manahedgi, Tim Jones, Jim DeRose, Ken Deemer, Jason Rivera, Matthew Testa, Bill Lutz, Mike Rector and yours truely. We left in overcast weather with light snow fall. Visibility in the meadows was poor but Pinos is hard to miss. We were on the summit at 10am. No point to look for condors in the fog.

Some downhill turns got us into the saddle north of Pinos. Then it was again skinning uphill toward Sawmill. Once in a while the clouds opened up and we had sunshine. It was a fine backcountry scenery with rimed trees and large untracked snow fields. By 11:15am we were on Sawmill Mtn, signed the register (first group since October 09), and enjoyed a short snack break. On a sunny day one would have been able to see Mt Whitney, but not when the clouds swirl around.

We descended to continue the ridge to Grouse. Each peak is preceded by a low saddle, like on a roller coaster ride. At lunch time, 12:30pm, we were on Grouse Mtn, found a nice patch of dry soil just below the cairn. There we settled down for the fun of the day.

The occasion were two birthdays, Jim DeRose's exactly on the day and my 70'th two days earlier. The champagne bottles popped and the happy hour started. We shared an almond cake and everyone was in a happy talkative mood. But little by little it got quieter and soon most of the group was flat on the ground and sleeping in the sunshine.

By 1:30pm, the Siesta time was called off and we started our return with a fine run down through open forest. Luckily, nobody hugged a tree. Uphill appeared more strenuous than before, wonder why? We decided to bypass Sawmill due to incoming clouds, and after more up and downs we finally arrived back on Pinos. The clouds dropped rapidly and we skied down in a whiteout. In the trees we found some powder stashes, but mostly it was crusty snow. The storm did not produce a lot of snow.

We were all safely back at the cars before 5pm. Everyone had a good time and we are looking already for the next Birthday celebration trip. Thanks to all for a good time and especially to Tom for his patient sweep as co-leader.

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