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Author Topic: May 5-9, 2010, Sierra Nevada, Ionian Basin  (Read 2141 times)
iluka
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May 5-9, 2010, Sierra Nevada, Ionian Basin
« on: 05/10/10, 09:37 PM »

With the arrival of May, it was time to head south for another spring ski tour in the Sierra Nevada. Tyler and I flew into Reno and met up with Mark and Lucy (mchin and lucy of t-tips fame) on the east side with plans to ski into the Ionian Basin, a remote section of the northern part of Kings Canyon National Park. After a day spent touring around the Virginia Lakes area getting in some needed acclimatization and the obligatory pre-trip meal at the Whoa Nellie Deli, we were on our way out of the Sabrina Lakes area.

Day 1: Sabrina Lake TH to Moonlight Lake. With the exception of a few short sections at the bottom, we essentially had skis on from the car and never took them off the rest of the trip except for at the tops of some passes. The best route up to Moonlight Lake is to follow the summer trail up to Blue Lake and then to Emerald and Topsy Turvy Lakes but Tyler and I managed to create our own route finding adventure (never mind the GPS that Mark and Lucy were carrying) heading up from the end of Lake Sabrina before eventually ending up back  where we needed to be on the intended route to Topsy Turvy Lake. A bit more skiing over rolling terrain from there had us at Moonlight Lake, high in the Sabrina basin (~ 11,050 feet) with beautiful views of Picture Peak and Mt. Powell.

Day 2: Echo Col to Muir Pass. Getting over Echo Col (~ 12,500 ft) would be the crux of the trip.  After an easy skin to Echo Lake and then a steeper climb into the basin below the pass, we found snow leading all the way up to the col and opted to boot up the steep slope. Once on the pass, we had our first peak into the Muir Pass area of Kings Canyon NP and great views of Black Giant peak. After scrambling down about 50 feet of class 3 terrain, we took a break in the sun for lunch and then proceeded to ski about 1500 feet down to the Muir Trail which we then followed west up another 1,000 feet to Muir Pass. This was a beautiful section, taking us past Helen Lake and great views of the Black Giant, Mt. Solomon and Mt. Warlow. We arrived at the hut in the late afternoon and had it all to ourselves... a nice way to get out the blustery wind.

Day 3: Ionian Basin Loop. When planning the trip, we had strongly considered doing Mt. Goddard as a day trip from Muir Pass but upon closer examination, it seemed like it had death march potential so we opted for something a bit shorter. We headed from the pass over Solomon Pass into the Ionian Basin proper. After a great ski down to Lake 11,592, we dropped our packs and skied up to the Goddard Crest for some great turns in perfect corn snow on the south east facing slope back down to the lake. Packs on again, we dropped down to Chasm Lake which sits at the head of the Enchanted Gorge between Scylla and Charybdis (the names in this area are great). We then headed east from there, skiing right under Charybdis to lake 11,828 where we started a steep climb up to the southeast ridge of Black Giant peak. We followed this ridge all the way to the summit taking in tons of fantastic views. After some time on top taking in expansive views as far north as Banner and Ritter Peaks outside Mammoth and all the way south towards Sequoia NP we skied the west facing slope off the summit in pretty good snow and headed back to the pass for a second night on Muir Pass.

Day 4: Muir Pass to Darwin Canyon. After a leisurely start to the day, we dropped off the pass to Wanda Lake and headed down towards Evolution Valley. Midway through the morning, we dropped our packs for a few laps off east facing slopes on the west side of the valley near Peak 12,086, finding the best corn snow of the trip. We then continued down valley taking in great views of Mt. Huxley,  Mt. Spencer and Mt. Darwin before lunch at Evolution Lake. From there, we traversed the slopes northeast of the lake up onto the Darwin Bench, following some downhill tracks left in by a party that had recently been in the area. There was enough snow to follow the route we took but in a few more days, this may be melted out and it will be necessary to head further down Evolution Valley before turning up onto the bench. Once on the bench, we skied up into Darwin Canyon finding a somewhat wind-sheltered spot at the fourth lake, below Mt. Mendel.

Day 5: Darwin Canyon to North Lake. At the start of the trip, we were aware of the possibility of some weather coming in this day. To this point, we had had nothing but bluebird skies. A bit cold and windy a lot of the time but always clear. We awoke to clear skies again but by the time we broke camp and were heading up to Lamark Col, clouds were building in the east. They continued to build as we ascended. Tyler and I were in a nice sucker hole upon our arrival at the pass but by the time Mark and Lucy arrived, it was blowing a gale and snowing all around with limited visibility. We dropped off the pass finding some new light snow on top of the old crust and some fun turns. A steep shot got us down to Upper Lamark Lake where we then headed southeast to Grass Lake, eventually picking up some skin tracks we were able to follow all the way out to North Lake. Light snow and continued winds most of the way down with some occasional pockets of sun. Skis stayed on all the way until the lake and for most of the way on the road back to the cars at the locked gate (we probably walked about one mile). We packed up in the cold, blustery conditions and headed off for replenishment at the Whoa Nellie Deli again!

The terrain on this trip was nothing short of fantastic. Good ski potential everywhere you looked. Lots of solitude as well... until the last night when we ran into two climbers planning to do the Evolution Traverse, the only other human contact we had were some old skin tracks. The opportunity to see the Ionian Basin covered in snow  was worth every bit of the effort it took to get there.

More Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/iluka1968/IonianBasin#

Link to another TR from mchin: http://www.telemarktalk.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=68691


* MuirHutandMtSolomon.jpg (96.48 KB, 1000x750 - viewed 623 times.)

* EyeingtheDescentoffBlackGiant.jpg (101.68 KB, 1000x750 - viewed 608 times.)

* NearingSummitofBlackGiant.jpg (97.81 KB, 1000x750 - viewed 598 times.)
« Last Edit: 05/17/10, 04:41 AM by iluka » Logged

Yet another trip I've skied up something I can't ski down!
Robie
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Posts: 1344


Re: May 5-9, 2010, Sierra Nevada, Ionian Basin
« Reply #1 on: 05/10/10, 10:28 PM »

Wow! That's some ski touring !
Thanks. I just printed the whole thing and stuck in my retirement file.
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"I bought my rope at Walmart ,my gloves at costco but paid dearly for my dynafits"
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md2020
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Posts: 386


Re: May 5-9, 2010, Sierra Nevada, Ionian Basin
« Reply #2 on: 05/11/10, 09:29 AM »

what an awesome trip. Having just done some hiking in that area last summer, I actually know all those places. Gotta spend a spring in the Sierras soon.
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Mike Metz
Lisa
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Posts: 376


Re: May 5-9, 2010, Sierra Nevada, Ionian Basin
« Reply #3 on: 05/11/10, 03:45 PM »

Thanks for the detailed report Andy!  Looks like a beautiful area and tour, one to note for the future, thanks for sharing.   Cool  Hopefully we can coordinate time to get a tour in before your trip to Denali.
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Zap
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Posts: 2142


Re: May 5-9, 2010, Sierra Nevada, Ionian Basin
« Reply #4 on: 05/12/10, 09:03 AM »

Great TR.  The weather seemed to cooperate for most of your trip.  It has been an "interesting spring" weatherwise in The Sierra.  The "Dweeber" mentioned it may not be over yet.
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