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| | |-+  Jan 31, 2010 Matterhorn W. Coolie, Bridgeport, CA
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Author Topic: Jan 31, 2010 Matterhorn W. Coolie, Bridgeport, CA  (Read 2120 times)

Posts: 361

Jan 31, 2010 Matterhorn W. Coolie, Bridgeport, CA
« on: 02/22/10, 11:50 AM »

Matterhorn Peak on left and Sawtooth Ridge as seen from Bridgeport

My brother and I left his place in Truckee about a quarter to six, and except for some dense fog in the Tahoe basin, the drive went quickly along clear roads.  We were treated to a beautiful sunrise on the eastern facing mountains as we sped south through Gardnerville, past Topaz and Walker until finally we descended down into the flat valley surrounding Bridgeport.  The wind was calm, and thin, whispy fog, not more then 20 feet deep was slowly churning in the morning sun.  I pulled the car over on the shoulder, grabbed the camera and stepped out for a view.  Within a minute my nostrils had frozen in the chilly air.  It couldn't have been more then a few degrees above zero!  The clear night seemed to have sucked every bit of warmth out of the ground and the sun, while shining, first had to heat away the fog before it could warm the earth.

Back in the car, now slightly shivering, we drove into town and turned down the Twin Lakes road.  The road is plowed year round to the end at Mono Village, giving access to Sawtooth Ridge and its numerous couloirs. Our destination, Matterhorn Peak, has a few classic north facing lines, the most popular being the East Couloir and Ski Dreams on the eastern side of the mountain.  The West Couloir, while a little shorter then the East Couloir, is steeper.

At the end of the road at the far end of Twin Lakes, the temperature was ten degrees warmer or so, but still chilly as the lakes sat in a valley.  We started along the track through the summer campground a little before nine, past mostly buried picnic tables, across the bridge over the inlet to the lake and began climbing into Horse Creek.

Aided by nice skin track, we made good time into the valley and soon were smiling broadly at our good fortune.  It was the first time either of us had been in the high Sierra during winter and here we were, blue sky, sunshine, powder and beautiful, clean granite towers all around.  Our pace quickened as our objective came more fully into view, still some distance away and 4000 ft up, not wanting to be penalized for our relaxed start to the day.

Now into the open we fell into a good touring rhythm and skied along the flats, climbed up a shallow draw to a basin below the impressive Twin Peaks, toured up a sunny slope to a minor saddle, traversed along a ridge, and finally wound our way up old moraines to the basin below Matterhorn Peak. We stopped to look at the choices -- the West Couloir was the obvious one since the East Couloir looked thin.  We skinned up to the base of a huge rock below the couloir and switched to booting.

"It doesn't look that far.  Shouldn't take more then 30 minutes," I said.  Unfortunately two hundred feet up I reluctantly recognized the truth: "It's always difficult to judge distance from below, and postholing past your knees up a steep slope always takes longer then you initially think."  We switched leads a few times and eventually made it to the top, into the sun at a tiny col on the border of Yosemite National Park.  We briefly contemplated continuing to the summit but the time -- it was nearing 2pm -- and lack of axes or crampons for the snow and ice covered rocks convinced us that was a bad idea.

Skiing the west couloir of Matterhorn Peak

Brian went first, skiing cautiously at first, making ski cuts and stopping every other turn to check his sluff.  Nothing.  He began to open it up, finally stopping half way down at a safe spot on a minor ridge where the couloir splits.  Now confident in the snow conditions after our climb up and Brian's ski cutting, I skied down to him in one go, the familiar buzz of linking steep powder turns beginning to take hold.  Brian decided on the right line and I watched as he skied down and out of view, traversing left at the bottom to the spot where we had transitioned to booting.  I skied the left line we had climbed, again skiing it in one go, finally stopping at the base of the rock.  We looked at each other grinning ear to ear and let out a few shouts of joy into the still air.  Then high speed turns down the apron, through the basin and down a series of bowls, dropping hundreds of feet at a time in the soft snow.

Skiing the bonus couloir

One of the wonderful things about this ski tour is the bonus couloir that drops a thousand feet or so back down to Horse Creek.  Brian again went first, and having skied most of his adult life in touchy snowpacks in Montana approached it cautiously, making ski cuts from safe spot to safe spot.  Again nothing, not even sluff this time.  He turned and called out "What do you think?  Gutter it?"  "Looks bomber to me."  Down the gut, he swooped high speed turns on his Megawatts from one side of the gully to the other.  I followed, now fully intoxicated on powder, legs burning but unwilling to stop the flow, until it opened up into lower angled trees.  A few more shouts of joy as we dropped the last few hundred feet to the creek and slid out the long valley, finally descending below the last storm's snow line into crusty glades just above the car.

Back at the car, we had descended in an hour what had taken us five hours to climb.  We drove down into town and carefully up the icy road to the hot springs.  We toasted our good fortune with a long soak, enjoyed the sunset with a view of our ski tracks then drive the hour south to Mammoth.

Posts: 255

Re: Jan 31, 2010 Matterhorn W. Coolie, Bridgeport, CA
« Reply #1 on: 02/22/10, 03:45 PM »

I love the 'bonus couloir.' That thing cuts through the lower cliff bands like a granite half pipe. Very very cool.

Glad you had a good ski on the Matterhorn!
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