Ski Mountaineering

Stanford and Morgan

May 17-18, 2003

Reiner Stenzel

Leaders: Mike McDermitt, Alvin Walter

Preface: This was Mike McDermitt's second provisional lead trip. Alvin Walter served as assisting evaluator. The trip was very popular and attended by Ted and Sheryl Lenzie, Stan Huncilman, Thomas Johansson, Jason Rivera, Angel Ocana, Mike Seiffert and Lorene Samoska, Leslie Hofherr, Daniel Sommer, Susan Livingston, Reed Moore and Reiner Stenzel. The XC tour started out of Rock Creek and went to Hilton Lake where a basecamp was established. Part of the group climbed and skied Mt Stanford, the rest enjoyed skiing the slopes above Hilton Lke. Similarly, on Sun most skied the slopes while two climbed and skied Mt Morgan (North). The trip was safely guided and went well. By afternoon all of us were back at the cars to drive home. Below is a supplementary report on the peak climbs.

Summit Climbs:

After the group established basecamp at the lower Hilton Creek Lake (10,300') we skinned up around 1 pm toward the slopes east of Mt Stanford. We ascended the drainage west of Hilton Creek Lake 10,353'.

After a while it became obvious that a faster group wanted to rush for the summit while a slower group preferred the more relaxed skiing on the excellent corn snow. Alvin and I led Ted, Stan, Jason, Angel and Reed up the drainage over a partially corniced ridge just east of a small Lake 12,000', which drains into Stanford Lake (11,436').

To the west there was an obvious peak (12,800') which is close to, but not the summit of Mt Stanford (12,838'). The latter is just a rock outcrop on the west end of a long ridge. To the north was a noticeably higher and distinct peak (12,931') which some thought was Mt Stanford. A continuous snowfield led up to it. So why not ski it first. The first were on the summit by 4pm. The view was outstanding. Red Slate (13,123') and Red and White (12,816') stood clearly out in the west.

Of course there was no peak register, which disappointed some while others did not care. Angel and I decided to head for the real Mt Stanford below us. Since the ridge was not skiable it turned into a mixed rock and snow climb on foot. The ridge is almost level and we walked right by the "summit block" without realizing it. After we reached the 12,800' south peak of the ridge and found no register, we were reluctant to return to the 12,838' bump. After a while Alvin followed us. By radio we gave him directions where the suspected summit block was. Sure enough, he found the register. Well, Mt Stanford is one of those bumps on a ridge, which does neither deserve to be called a peak or be on the SPS list. After descending below the rocky terrain we strapped on our skis and skied down the way we came up.

Unfortunately, after 5 pm the snow had turned into breakable crust and it was a slow and tricky 1600' descent. Most were back in camp by 7pm; Alvin arrived just before it got dark. We joined happy hour and ate dinner in our community kitchen sharing our adventures. The plan for Sunday was to get up "early" to climb and ski Mt Morgan.

On Sun we got up at 5:30am to a beautiful, cloudless spring day. For the large group it took till 7:15am before we got started. From camp we traversed west over a small hill to the drainage of Hilton Creek which drops steeply down to the upper Davis Lake (9,852'). The pace was slow and it was obvious that the group would not make the summit and be back at a reasonable time. Furthermore, the 3,200' ascent of Mt Morgan required climbing steep dry slopes with forest and rock. Alvin predicted a 7-hour round-trip. The group had a change of heart and preferred to ski corn snow instead of climbing the peak. Reed and I thought that at a reasonable pace we would make the summit before noon. Mike requested us to sign out, which we happily did and then took off. We skied down to the Davis Lakes. At the west side of the lower Davis Lake (9,808') we ascended through forest and brush to the 3200m level where we found continuous snow. Passing through low trees we could ski to the runout of a long snow-filled gully which went up the east side of the mountain right to the summit. It was a looong gully requiring many, many switchbacks. Finally, by 11:30am we summitted and enjoyed a spectacular view from this 13,000' peak. Signed in as the first this year, took pictures, snacked, and talked by radio to the rest of the group.

Then the fun started to ski down this long gully. At the top the angle is near 40 deg, which Reed handled with parallel turns and I did with more exhausting telejumps. But it was wonderful corn snow. We laid two parallel tracks of free-heel turns down this 2500' gully.

Then we had an intermission, hiked on dirt for 15 min, and continued to ski down to Davis Lake. We decided to ski to the opposite (east) side of the lake where the return would be easier. Skiing around the lake was not only long but also questionable since there was open water at both inlet and outlet. Thus, we crossed our fingers and skied carefully across Davis Lake on this warm spring day. With newly gained confidence we also took a straight-line short cut across the upper Davis Lake, then skinned 500' up to our Hilton Lake basecamp. We arrived at the promised time of 2pm and joined the rest of the group in skiing out.

Climbing and skiing Mt Morgan was 6 hours of sustained action except for a 30-min break on the summit. But skiing the grand alley on its east face was worth all the effort.

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