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| | |-+  Nov 22-23, 2008, Red Slate Mtn, E Sierras, CA
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Author Topic: Nov 22-23, 2008, Red Slate Mtn, E Sierras, CA  (Read 3391 times)
PeterC
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Nov 22-23, 2008, Red Slate Mtn, E Sierras, CA
« on: 11/24/08, 11:24 PM »

I just spent the weekend attempting to ski the NW couloir of Red Slate Mtn.  Although I missed the summit, I had an awesome time and did get to do about 2000’ of mostly powder skiing.  If I’d listened to logic, this trip would have never been: the Sierra haven’t seen much snowfall yet this year and certainly none in the last 2 weeks, the one place that has seen snowfall (Mammoth) is a 7 hr drive from my house, and I had no ski partners.  On the other hand, skimtner reported good conditions the previous week in the Mammoth area, my wife was out of town, and work – which had been all consuming for the last couple of months – was finally letting up.  So even though good skiing seemed like a long shot, I had nothing to lose. 

I snuck out of work in Livermore at 3pm on Friday and kept driving until I hit Travertine hot springs near Bridgeport at 10pm.  This trip is a very long in the winter because most of the passes close so getting to the E Sierras involves driving up through Tahoe, then back down.  But sitting in the hot springs by myself and gazing at the stars made the whole thing worthwhile.  I slept that night down the road from the springs.  The forecast was for lows in the mid 20s but I was cold in my 5 degree bag – leading me to bring an extra sleeping bag on the tour since I knew I’d be camping much higher, probably on snow.  I ended up being much warmer the next night, prompting me to conclude that Bridgeport is just weirdly cold…  A similar thing happened this summer when I climbed Matterhorn Pk. 

I woke up the next morning and drove to the trailhead, only to discover that I needed a permit for backcountry camping.  I wasn’t really sure where the ranger station was, but guessed Mammoth Lakes and got lucky.  As I hit the trail, I couldn’t help but feel strange about carrying skis through a sage brush desert with nothing skiable in sight.  Welcome to the Sierra I guess.  The trail is relatively pleasant – moderate uphills broken by long flat stretches.  The downside to this is that it takes a long time to gain elevation.  “50 Ski and Snowboard Summits in CA” says 6 mi from trailhead to summit, but my GPS clocked 16mi roundtrip and I was still far from the top.  The extra mileage caused problems with what was already a poorly planned trip. 



After ~5 mi of walking I reached the wide, flat meadow at Mildred Lake.  As you can see in the pic above, the views were phenomenal and skiing started to seem possible.  I actually did skin almost continuously from here, but much of it looked like the pic below. 



I followed Convict Creek out of this valley towards Lake Wit-so-nah-pah, but I’m not sure this was the best plan as the terrain was made up of a bunch of steep steps.  I’d hoped to reach the lake that day, but was getting pretty worn out and ended up camping by the creek in a heavy stand of woods at about 10,000’.  I like to say that my 2 season BD tent is made for “climbing season” and “skiing season”, but it’s best not to push things, so shelter is good…  I kind of like winter camping because 13 hrs of darkness means you’re virtually guaranteed a solid night sleep.  I had a terrible headache/nausea during the night (altitude? dehydration?), but a long sleep repaired most of the damage and I was ready to go when the sun came up.

When I finally got to Lake Wit-so-nah-pah, I was stoked with the awesome view, but bummed to find that the W side of the lake is blocked by a chossy cliff I ended up downclimbing.  Later in the winter the small cliff is probably covered, but right now it is best avoided by heading to the S side of the lake, then skiing N along the base of the cliff.  I saw my first snowshoe hare near the base of the route.  He was a big sucker with a thick, nappy coat.  We stared at each other for a while.



As you can see in the pic above, the Red Slate Couloir (which divides the face) is in good shape right now.  My route (the NW couloir) takes the broad bowl on the right side of the pic.  The lower section of the bowl went smoothly.  I quickly realized that the fine-textured snow was powder, the coarse rippled stuff was breakable crust, and the smooth stuff was bulletproof.  Near the diamond-shaped shale area towards the top of the lower bowl, though, the featured snow went away for about 50’ of 30+ degree slope.  I was glad to have my whippet and started skinning up, my edges barely penetrating.  I soon decided this was too exciting for me and was a foot from a ripply area where I could switch to booting when both skis started skating.  I set my pick and hammered my edges in until they held enough that I could weight them and move into the crust.  I don’t think I was in danger, but it did convince me to go home.  This turned out to be a good idea because even turning around when I did, I didn’t get home until 11:30pm that night.

I stomped out a platform in the crust, switched to downhill mode, and traversed into the fine featured area.  The ride down was phenomenal – ~1000’ of 6” deep pow on top of hardpack.  The skiing in the trees by camp was even better.  Even with my overnight gear, I was still making great turns.  I was bummed when I hit the flats, but the realization that the number of hours before work was quickly approaching the time required to get home spurred me on.  I got left my high point at about 10am and got back to the car at 3:30pm.  I then drove almost continuously (w/ obligatory stops at Travertine and Big Daddy’s Burgers in S. Tahoe) until 11:30pm, when I finally stumbled in the front door.  Not a very carbon-neutral weekend, but a really good time.  Now if only it would snow a bit closer to home…

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Stugie
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Re: Nov 22-23, 2008, Red Slate Mtn, E Sierras, CA
« Reply #1 on: 11/24/08, 11:52 PM »

Kudos on an awesome trip and some beautiful weather!  Thanks for the stoke and great pics!  Good to see some stuff in the Sierras!  How tall is Red Slate Mtn.?
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"The mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals; the houses where I practice my religion." - Anatoli Boukreev
PeterC
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Re: Nov 22-23, 2008, Red Slate Mtn, E Sierras, CA
« Reply #2 on: 11/25/08, 09:45 AM »

I don't have a map in front of me, but I think Red Slate is ~13,200' high.  Elevations have different meanings in CA vs WA, no?
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Zap
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Re: Nov 22-23, 2008, Red Slate Mtn, E Sierras, CA
« Reply #3 on: 11/25/08, 11:38 AM »

Peter,  Nice TR and photos.  Bridgeport is located in a "cold pocket" in The Sierra. The views from Travertine hot springs of Sawtooth Ridge and the Matterhorn certainly are beautiful.  Big Daddy's in SLT - great choice.   Wink
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skimtner
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Re: Nov 22-23, 2008, Red Slate Mtn, E Sierras, CA
« Reply #4 on: 11/28/08, 05:59 PM »


         That's some real dedication. The photos of your skinning is too much !  I believe the couloir has an angle of 40 degrees. It's the upper part of it that looks to have exposure. If you hit Travertine, have you skied Virginia Lks ? That's my spring spot. Drop me a line come April, skimtner@yahoo.com if you want to get some good stuff
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