The splendor of the Sierra Nevada range is unsurpassed. Though crowded in summer, spring offers solitude with an even more spectacular snow-covered landscape. Our snow-free high camp near the headwaters of Tyndall Creek allowed us to ski anywhere in this world of incredible beauty. What freedom! What pleasure!
On May 3 the Sierra High Traverse group will arrive over Shephard Pass. We are already fully acclimatized from our week of fun at our high camp. We watch them arrive as we ski chutes on the side of Mt. Tyndall. Some climbed Tyndall; a few climbed high on the mountain; most simply skied down to our camp. I thought I was saving my nice K2 She's Piste skis by not climbing through the boulder strewn snow high in Tyndall's gully; little did I know what would come later in the trip with the sparse snow cover we were to face.
On May 4 nineteen ardent skiers dropped to the headwaters of the Kern River. Many were Kirkwood ski patrollers; others were forest rangers; one was the avalanche forecaster for the state of Colorado; a few, like us, were clients out to share Dave Beck's great mountain wisdom on his last official traverse.
The photos tell the story. From the Kern we climbed directly toward Milestone Mountain, led by extraordinary climber Jay from South Lake Tahoe. Steep snow slopes led to a small notch just below the summit of Milestone. The backside offered terrific skiing down to a snow camp below YouGottaBeKidding Pass. We enjoyed sleeping in the Boudoir, snuggled in amongst the trees, again on bare ground.
The next day we climbed steep snow to Glacier Pass topping out above yet another spectacular ski bowl. After another easy pass we dropped to Glacier Lake at the head of Cloud Canyon. Wow! How incredible! The snow looked like clouds! The corn snow was perfect for us to carve our way down into the canyon's upper slopes after setting up camp. Life cannot be better than this!
In the morning we delayed our start for our level 7 avalanche course taught by Mark, the Colorado avalanche forecaster. After several hours, the sun had barely warmed the snow, as we dropped below rock outcroppings on the frozen surface. Our traverse took us below a large cornice overhanging Coppermine Pass which separated us from Deadman's Canyon. The route down from the pass was quite icy when the early leaders arrived. Leaders rigged a rope and cut steps in the steep icy couloir. By the time we finally could decend the ice had softened, making the descent far less treacherous than anyone expected. We happily skied across the top of Deadman's Canyon to Fin Pass and a camp at Lonely Lake at the edge of the Tablelands.
The last day was long and varied. We crossed numerous ridges and passes high on the Tablelands leading to the headwaters of the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. We followed the river down past Pear Lake until the total lack of snow forced us to hike. At the Woverton trailhead, a smiling Dottie greated us serving very welcome beers and fresh fruit. After a fun group dinner at Three Rivers we headed our separate ways. Half the group returned to Kirkwood while the rest took the ride around the base of the Sierra back to our cars at the Shephard Pass trailhead. A hearty breakfast in Independence followed by relaxing in the hot springs completed our amazing adventure.
Jim and Dave shoulder top-heavy well-loaded packs at the trailhead. Independence is far below.
Delicate footing required to cross streams is at first awkward in ski boots, but we grow skilled at this before long.
Super Bowl will be our first ski run.
Dave cranks some classic Telemark turns down the bowl.
Louise prances down the easy part of the slope with the outside ski leading. It reverses automajically on steeper terrain
Snow overnight reminds us that Mother Nature may have some surprises for us.
Shephard Pass has an easy trail in summer. We have some steep snow to ascend.
Jim stopped to put on crampons to get out of an icy corner. I followed in the buckets that Stefan kicked and chopped. There is an advantage to being a client, which is a new experience for me in the mountains.
Once over the top of Shephard Pass we have magnificent views of the Great Western Divide with the Kaweahs lurking behind. This is the wide open spaces for skiing!
Our bivy sacks are laid out comfortably at our Tyndall High Camp. Running water is just a step from camp. The view is so lovely that we can almost see it while sleeping soundly.
Jim invested in new ski equipment and found it worked superbly for climbing and descending. We eye the gully for a possible ascent of Tyndall. The top looks blocked.
Visiting the famed Forester Pass, high point of the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest trail, makes a fine late afternoon destination from camp.
As we start towrad the Whitney area the view of the Kaweah's is unsurpassed.
Mts Russell and Whitney as we ski toward Wallace Creek and Tulainyo Lake.
We make nice tracks in the soft afernoon snow.
Jim turns on the descent of Tyndall's northwest ridge.
Louise cranks parallel (oops) turns on Tele skis.
Lake on the way to Wallace Creek.
Skiing up Milestone Creek toward Milestone.
Climbing the lower part toward Milestone.
Climbing the upper part of Milestone.
Others follow as we approach the crux of the climb.
Milestone view to the east with Shepherd Pass in the center.
Skiing Milestone Bowl with the Kaweahs in the distance.
Looking back up at Milestone from the Bowl.
Spectacular view of the Kaweahs from Milestone Bowl.
Nestled in the trees of the famous Milestone Boudoir.
The morning climb toward YouGottaBeKidding Pass.
Leader Jay lounges and watches climbers ascend pass.
Ty Climbs the steep YouGottaBeKidding Pass carrying his split board.
Dave climbs with the skill of many years.
The climb of YouGottaBeKidding Pass from below.
Ty nears the top of the pass.
View down Cloud Canyon.
Making tracks in the perfect afternoon corn snow.
Jim climbs back up Cloud Canyon. Note that the distant snow looks like clouds!
Sunset over Cloud Canyon is superb!
Sunset over the Great Western Divide is spectacular!
The start of the Traverse of Cloud Canyon drops below a rock then climbs to Coppermine Pass.
Dave traverses below a large cornice on Coppermine Pass.
Downclimbing into Deadman Canyon was exciting and seemed eery. Who was the dead man?
A large wet snow avalanche had fallen before we crossed Deadman Canyon.
Another dry camp, this one at Lonely Lake below the Tableland.
View of the Kaweahs from camp at Lonely Lake.
View below camp to rock formations of Valhalla.
Leader Jay spies on the mountains to the south of us.
Colorado avalanche forecaster calls attention to the Mares tails in the sky.
The whole gang above the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River before dropping down to Pear Lake.
The decent To Pear Lake is fun while the snow lasts.
The marmot requests a few scraps be left behind as it was a long winter.
Skis come off for the final time on the hump. We hike down the last 4 miles to Woverton.
The end of the last of a series of 35 High Sierra Traverses for Dave Beck.
Whoopee! Party time in the parking lot at Woverton!
We return to the roadhead where we started a couple weeks later.