Joined: Fri Nov 19, 2004 8:41 pm Posts: 1622 Location: Santa Cruz, CA
For the past several years, I've had a tradition of going to the eastside with "grandpa" Larry for some turns over Memorial Day weekend. Larry's birthday falls over that weekend, and it always seems like the appropriate way to celebrate. This year was no exception... except for the fact that we've had a pretty dismal snow year here in CA. So, our thoughts initially turned to Shasta. But after reading reports of long hikes on dirt on the south side, and predictions of it being a zoo up there over Memorial weekend, I started wondering about the eastside again. The Conness area holds snow later than most areas, and if we were going to have to hike anyway at Shasta, the slog up the closed Saddlebag road didn't sound so bad. So we decided to continue the eastside tradition.
Then Larry's back went out. DOH!
Being a supportive friend, I decided that the best thing I could do would be to go anyway and celebrate Larry's birthday on the eastside for him. Plans formed, and soon we had a group with Buffy (liketoride), Dave 1 (wavy), and Dave 2 (fullers2oh).
Buffy had never been to the hot springs in Bridgeport, so Dave and I arranged to meet her there early Saturday. When Dave and I pulled in, there was one other car in the lot, and nobody in the springs. I went over to check out the temp, and after a minute I heard a voice from the other car. "Jim??" Turns out it was Mike (swanny), who we met at the TPR trip a month ago. He was on his way up to Tahoe with his girlfriend. I love those chance meetings out in the middle of nowhere in the eastern Sierra! We talked for a bit, and soon after Buffy showed up and we took a nice relaxing dip in the springs.
Feeling refreshed, we drove down to Lee Vining to meet up with Dave 2 at the Mo-mart for a preparatory feast. On the way, we stopped at the RV park to pick up some tokens for the shower. We were preparing for some serious stank in a few days. Dave showed up right on time for breakfast, and after some major repacking we headed up the road to Tioga pass. We passed the usual suspects on the way:
Dana plateau. Burnt.
Ellery bowl. Burnt.
Things were not looking good so far, but we had faith that the corn was holding out back near Conness. So we saddled up the monster loads from hell and started hiking up Saddlebag road.
Fast and light is for pussies.
View of False White/White area on the way in. False White looks like it's starting to get burnt, though we heard from some folks who had good skiing in that area over the weekend.
The Sawmill/Alpine lake approach to east ridge of Conness. Getting pretty burnt back in there as well.
The road is well graded and completely dry, so even with the big packs it didn't take to long to get to the lake.
Unfortunately, skinning across the lake is out of the question, so we headed across the dam to the trail. Note to self: next time take the path just below the dam, instead of trying to do gymnastics on the dam railing with monster packs. The first part of the trail is mostly melted out, but not completely. This means alternating between hiking and postholing. Sweet. Buffy's "wide load" kept banging into the rocks on the trail. Mt. Dana and the couloir visible in the background.
Finally about halfway around the lake we hit continuous snow, and were able to take some weight off the packs and start skinning. Soon we rounded the corner and the Greenstone area came into view. The sweet diagonal chute above Buffy looks like it still goes.
In trying to find the optimum campsite, we had some detours involving stream crossings. Here, Dave 2 demonstrates proper stream crossing technique. No wonder his skins are thrashed.
We ended up picking a spot near the east end of Greenstone Lake (close to where we camped at the Saddlebag splitfest a couple years ago). Buffy had never been snow camping, so we pitched the tent on a small patch of snow.
Meanwhile, Dave 2 decided to go for a quick lap. He had to work Monday, so he was motivated to get in some turns. The rest of us were staying for 2 more days so we chilled out and watched Dave 2 from the comfort of camp. I should mention, the Thermarest camp chair is much like beer, in that it is clear proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
Dave celebrates with some wine.
We had dinner and hung out while the sun went down behind North Peak. We thought about Larry. Instead of singing him Happy Birthday, we made Chocolate Mudslide Pie for dessert and passed it around. In honor of Larry of course.
The sun came up early and we were treated to some fantastic views.
After a quick breakfast we started hiking up toward the Conness lakes. This area is pretty melted out so we were hiking all the way to the lakes.
What a view! Once we crossed the stream we started skinning.
Soon we were at the playground under the east ridge of Conness. Flinty's is still looking good, aside from some sucker rocks starting to punch through.
Looking across the way at North Peak. Pretty burnt. I heard the chute is pretty much ice at the top.
Snow finger and S couloir looking pretty good.
S couloir has a rock in the choke in the entrace up top, so that may not go anymore.
We were headed out to the glacier, so we continued skinning up. Buffy enjoying the views.
Someone was kind enough to bring up the Pipe Dragon to build the new Conness Superpipe.
Y couloir looked OK. The snow was starting to get a little weird over here, and coverage up top was looking spotty. It probably would have softened up enough to be a decent descent.
I was expecting the Conness glacier to be buttery smooth, which it has been every other time I've been there in the spring. But this time it was different. There was an odd snow formation on parts of the glacier. It wasn't quite suncups, runnels, or wind-effect, but it looked kinda like a combination of the 3. The end result was that it wasn't quite as smooth as we would have liked. Whose idea was it to come all the way out here anyway??
The summit chutes aren't in very good shape. Here's the "Oh Shit":
Fruitcake. Looks OK up top, major shrund action down low.
Main summit chute. Whoa.
After skinning over to check out that crazy schrund formation, we dropped down the riders left side of the glacier, where the snow seemed to be a little smoother. It was pretty decent. Not the smooth butter we were hoping for, but still good - and this is the end of May in a record low snow year after all. Here's Dave taking a smoke break at the bottom of the run. He claims it's more effective than Gu.
As we were skinning back up, we saw a couple skiiers climbing up the summit chute (the only other people we saw the entire weekend). They checked out the second schrund, then put the skis on and traversed off the lookers left side of the lower schrund.
Back on top of the glacier, we put the boards on and started traversing over toward the snow finger. At this point, Dave 1 headed back to camp to pack up. The rest of us decided to traverse over to the top of the snow finger. Here's Dave 2 with the cool north ridge of Conness in the background.
We did the long traverse, hit up the Conness Superpipe for a run, then finished off with the snow finger, which was in great condition! Dave 1, you missed out! At the bottom, we took a break and hung out briefly with the two other skiiers, who had also done the same line. They were from Mammoth, just out for a day trip. A safety meeting may or may not have occured at this point.
After a quick break to refill the water bladders, we booted over the short ridge to the small bowl beneath GPS chute.
Dave and Buffy dropping in.
Soon we were at the end of the snow, and after a bit of bushwacking and stream crossing shenanigans, we were back on the hiking trail to camp. Back in camp we got ready for feast #2. The nice thing about camping near the stream - no melting snow! Oh yeah, and nice views.
We changed out of our stanky clothes. Here's Buffy modeling the latest in backcountry fashion - cowboy themed long underwear. "Check it out. It's got little wagons, and here's a cowboy hat, and there's a boot..."
These little guys paid us a visit from time to time over the weekend. They were very polite though, they didn't touch our food. They didn't even get into the trash! So well behaved. The critters in the valley could learn something from them.
More lounging, wine, and dessert followed.
We were pretty beat, so sleep came easily.
It got cold that night (my thermometer read in the 20's), so when sunrise came we welcomed the warmth. Nice view from Dave 2's tent:
As we set the boot liners out to dry, we tried to figure out what to ride that day. Hmm, what to do, what to do...
Unfortunately, Dave 2 was out for the day due to a forearm injury from biking that had started acting up.
Buffy and I skinned up the main Greenstone bowl. It was hot as hell with the sun reflecting off that snow surface, and no wind! Fortunately the skinning was pretty easy so it went by quickly. We were able to skin to within a few feet of the top.
On top, we were treated to a fantastic panoramic view from Mt. Dana to North Peak.
Nice view of the White mountain area. There are some good looking lines over there!
We dropped the packs and started hiking along the edge of the ridge to check out the various chute options. Here's the entrance to that sweet notch chute we were looking at back in camp. The top is steep and narrow, with towering walls on both sides.
Very aesthetic line. But... someone had snuck in the day before while we were out at Conness and put tracks in it. So, we opted for the diagonal chute next to it, which connected into the same line about halfway down.
Having decided where to drop in, we went back to retrieve the packs. On the way, we saw a coyote pop out of nowhere. It headed over to the top of Greenstone chute, jumped in, and started hauling ass straight down it. I think he and gimpy's dog would get along.
Back up at the diagonal chute, I decided that with the steep and narrow entrance, I better put the Shart Shorts (tm) on... just in case. It was another productive Shart Shorts testing weekend. Aside from the actual product testing, Dave came up with a new tagline - "Fart Without Fear!" Buffy pointed out that we should also add a women's-specific model. We discussed a g-string version, but decided that might sacrifice too much actual functionality.
The snow was nice corn, and we had a good ride all the way down to the stream. Here's Buffy opening it up on the lower section.
Back at camp, checking out the day's work and trying to avoid packing up.
But, all good things must come to an end, so we packed up and started the slog out. At least the views didn't suck.
... but the hiking/postholing sections did.
Soon we were back on the road, with more non-sucky views.
You would think that since it's downhill on the way out, the hike back on the road would go faster.
It doesn't. I think it's actually longer on the way out. The Tioga Pass Triangle phenomenon or something. But eventually we got there.
This was followed by a dip in a freezing cold stream, and a great dinner at the Mo-mart, which was packed with tourists. Oh yeah, and dessert. For Larry, of course.
It was a great trip - great turns, great company, and great scenery.
Ha Ha. Another great jimw line. And you back it up by packing lounge chairs and wine. What no disco ball? I've got one that you can bring along next time! I was telling Buffy that I was bummed out about missing this corn-ness trip but after seeing all that walking/postholing I'm not so sure. Plus your partners have been dropping like flies lately. Hmm... I guess I'm still up for Shasta, though...
Joined: Fri Nov 19, 2004 8:41 pm Posts: 1622 Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Yeah Chris, I kept thinking about our previous trips out there with every chute we passed. You should have a good time, the corn is holding up pretty well all things considered. S couloir should be good, I wanted to do it but oh well. You might even be able to do it from the top, not sure how much of an obstacle that rock is. North Peak chute is supposedly icy at the top. Major schrund air in the summit chutes! Lots of lines around Greenstone still going too. The approach is kind of a slog. Supposedly Saddlebag resort is opening on the 9th. Dunno what that means about the boat taxi, can't imagine all the ice will be gone by then. But the road will be open which is nice.
We'll be switching places... heading out to Shasta this weekend!