Ski Mountaineering

White Wing and June Mt.
April 21-22, 2001

Randy Lamm

This trip originally was scheduled as Tour de Peaklet (near Basin Mt.), but due to lack of interest from participants it was changed to an Onion Valley Car Camp. As the date drew closer, the reports from Dr. Howard (Dweeb Report) were getting more certain that a significant storm was heading toward the Southern Sierra. Since I headed up early to do some lift skiing at June Mt., the plan was that I would call Tom who would communicate any change of plan to the others. Driving up the Owens Valley early on Thurs am the weather was pleasant and balmy and it seemed like OV would be a possibility. However, as I took the Mammoth turn off light snow flakes appeared, and as I drove thru town up to the main lodge they got stronger. Getting a late start, I decided to skin up the road to the Minaret Vista. When I got there it was full on blizzard conditions. I met Owen for dinner and by the time we left Matsu the storm was getting stronger. I headed for June Lk before it was too late, anticipating deep powder skiing at June the next am, and set up base camp in the Villager hotel. With more information from the Weather Channel I called Tom and told him to forget OV.

This trip was officially now Villager base camp, and the participants were: Wally Drake, Mike Rector, Tom Marsh, assisting and me as an additional provisional lead. While Wally, Mike and Tom drove up, I had a good powder day at June skiing the top lift while the storm developed. After a pretty good fish taco dinner at the Tiger Bar, I got a call back at the base camp from Tom and crew who were at BBQ Bills in Bishop. They should be there in an hour. A few hours later they showed up -- the blizzard at the top of Sherwin Grade slowed them down even in Wallyıs Subaru. It snowed pretty good that night and the next day we skied June Mt ­ 2nd to the last day before closing and there was a foot and a half on new pow ­ and not the heavy stuff either. We worked the top and then as it started to clear we cut up the bottom. Pretty good powder skiing for the end of april. As we finished up another dinner and a couple of pitchers of beer at the Tiger Bar, we thought it might be a good idea to get a little exercise on Sunday to work off the fish tacoıs, beer and all the sitting around on the chair lifts. So we decided to do some XC skiing (or in Wallyıs case XC snowboarding) up Glass Flow Road.

Behind the Obsidian Dome is White Wing ­ A small volcano that I heard has good powder sometimes. I guess this was one of those times because even though it was a warm spring ­ shirt sleeve kind of day, we were able to find some real fine snow. Wally put his Architectural training and experience to use and built us a perfectly symmetrical Z shaped skin track up to the top of White Wing where we stopped and had lunch on the rock band separating the east face from a north facing gully.

While we munched our jerky and power bars, Mike pulled out his monocular to get a better look at what looked like tracks going up a major peak in front of San Joaquin Pk and behind June Mt. With Monocular we could see tracks of 3 or 4 skiers descending an impressively steep looking bowl/couloir facing east.

The hike up (about 2k of vertical) the east face of Whitewing was not all that easy ­ we encountered hard snow and sastrugi and it was steep enough that doing kick turns was becoming intimidating. We were worried that our descent would be down the same stuff. Wally volunteered to go first on his snowboard. What he found instead was not crust, mank or sastrugi, but fairly lite easy to ski powder. We all dove in. For me skiing good powder on a sunny day with no wind amounted to the best run of the weekend.

We got back to the trailhead and Wally decided to stay an extra day, while Mike, Tom and I headed back home. Tom had a pair of skis to pick up at Wilson's, and we decided to eat at the Taqueria (next to Vons). After an order of chicken flautas and their home made salsa, I rank the Taqueria as the best eats in the Owens Valley (frosty freeze in Lone Pine is number 2.) This turned out to be a good alternate trip. Thanks to Tom, Wally and Mike for joining me.

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