Ski Mountaineering

Ski Mountaineer's Peak Remains Elusive
April 20-21, 1996

Leaders: Gerry Holleman, Marcia Male

Editor's Note: Ski Mountaineer's Peak is the high point (13,323 ft) of Thompson Ridge, east of Mt. Thompson.

For the second year in a row, Ski Mountaineer's Peak remained a tantalizing prize that was just out of reach. Last year bad weather diverted us to Baden-Powell where the weather was also bad; this year the choice was going to be Mammoth if the weather was bad again. Two feet of new snow fell during the week, but the weather forecast looked plausible Thursday night. Ten of us met at the South Lake roadhead under sunny skies on Saturday morning with hopes for repeating successful climbs of 1993 and 1994.

We parked near Parcher's Camp and walked up the road which was plowed nearly to South Lake. At the dam we dropped down onto the frozen lake and crossed large cracks which had formed at the edge of the ice when the level was lowered to provide room for the spring runoff. The lake surface was smooth and solid as we skied across the center over an island to the far end where a stream enters from Treasure Lakes, our campsite destination. So far so good, but the sun was getting warm enough to make the fresh snow sticky.

The ascent up the drainage to Treasure Lake is short, but awkwardly steep in a couple places, and the soft new snow made the task of breaking trail more difficult than usual. With some trail-breaking help from Sam Adams, Marcia Male (in from Moose, WY to see if Sierra skiing is like she remembered), and Reiner Stenzel, we soon reached the bench below Treasure Lake, and proceeded to a campsite in trees on the east side below the lake where a stream provides access to running water.

The soft snow required a lot of packing to make a firm tent platform, but our kitchen required digging into a hard layer below the two feet of new soft snow. The weather was still nice enough for Al Christensen to consider sleeping out without a tent, but a few clouds were visible. After lunch we headed up the powdery north-facing slope to the lowest Treasure Lake, and over to a long slope that comes down to the southwest corner of that lake. By now the sun was gone, and RJ Secor agreed at conditions were not good enough for his plan to climb Mt. Johnson that afternoon. In addition, the east facing slope on the west side of Treasure Lake was kind of crusty, but it never seems that bad on the way up.

Marcia, Reiner, Sam, and I climbed about 2/3 of the way up the slope southwest of the lake under peak 12047, while Lawrence Pallant and Al observed from farther down. Reiner made the first turn, and fell; Sam the second, and fell; me the third, and fell. That left Marcia, who didn't fall in the soft crusty snow thus proving the benefit of skiing every day in Jackson Hole. On the way back the crust turned to powder when we skied down the 200' slope leading to our camp and we could suddenly ski again which we did with accompanying whoops and hollers.

Snow showers started at about 3 PM and continued through the dinner hour to 8:30 or so. Pat and I joined Sam and RJ for a cozy meal under their pyramid shelter. The next morning the weather was clear for a leisurely breakfast while we prepared to go out early. Two weeks later our beloved corn snow was perfect in this area, but this weekend was at least a week too soon after the new snow. The variable snow didn't get any easier with full packs so about half the group negotiated the steep terrain back to South Lake with skins on. At the dam, a couple fisherman were anxiously awaiting opening day which was still a week off.

Overall it was an enjoyable trip with lots of beautiful scenery. Our one newcomer, Nora Papasian, had survived difficult conditions, and agreed with the rest of us that just being there was worth the effort. Only Mark Goebel was less than totally enthusiastic, and his problem turned out to be chicken pox which he had managed to avoid in his youth.

Gerry Holleman

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