Post subject: Off the couch into the high Sierra part 1: Mt. Gilcrest
Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 11:33 pm
Joined: Fri Feb 05, 2010 11:33 am Posts: 179 Location: Auburn, CA
So this hasn't been the best year for the Sierra Nevada. Despite my intention to make the best of underemployment by getting after it, the snow didn't really ramp up until March which was precisely when work started demanding more of my time. The result has been a serious lack of backcountry riding or even the motivation to properly train for those long Sierra days. I just didn't think it was going to happen this year. Anyway, after watching March and the beginning of April go by with a series of big storms while I slaved away unable to get free, I finally had a work window last week. Despite my general lack of fitness I was determined to make the most of it.
I finished work on Tuesday April 17th around 7:00, got home, packed my things and my dog and drove 5 hours and change out to Mono Lake to meet Olly (OllyL) who was driving up from Santa Barbara. I got in at 2:30 and to bed by 3:00. Not exactly ideal for the alpine starts required for spring in the Sierra Nevada but I'd have to make do. Four hours later I was up and we set off for our first objective, the NE couloir of Mt. Gilcrest.
I'd seen this line many times driving south on the 395 and on the advice of George, our kind host on the shores of Mono Lake, decided it was time to ride it. It fit our criteria of North facing, high altitude and close by, so Olly and I were primed for a good day.
Unfortunately, we didn't get off to the best of starts. We didn't get to the trailhead until 8:00 and whether it was lack of sleep or just general stupidity, I managed to leave my skins in my roof box. Of course we didn't discover this until we were probably at least a mile from the car so we figured, we'd just boot it, what the hell. Our ascent route was the east facing gully to the left of the two rock outcroppings visible in the picture above. It was brutal. We postholed through the the crust and slush for another several miles and at least 3k vertical gain. The best we could do was try and divine the location of stronger crusts that would keep us on top but we basically took turns wallowing at least to the knee in heavy wet snow the whole time. With all the gear on our backs (crampons, split crampons, axe, etc) it was one of the more grueling 3k climbs I've endured. In any event we persevered and eventually reached the shoulder.
Here Olly and Odin relax while we refuel and ready ourselves for the payoff.
Fortunately, cloud cover kept the N facing aspects in much better condition and Olly dropped into the chute on a nice firm but edgeable windboard.
Things only improved as we descended dropping steeply down towards Lundy Lake.
The chute was a nice pitch probably around 40 degrees and with the soft snow made for some great shredding down to the lake.
The last few hundred feet were pretty manky, but overall the descent was in remarkably good condition considering the warm temps.
Here is a POV video showing all but the last few hundred feet of the descent. If you hate POV don't watch this as it is 6 minutes long and was edited more for showing non-mountaineering family/friends what a BC descent looks like than for the more jaded splitboard.com audience. Still, I think it tells the story better than the pictures can and is worth a watch if you want the best sense of what the day was like. Enjoy.
All in all it was a beautiful day in the Sierra high country. Part 2, adventures in Horse Creek Canyon to follow shortly.