Forums Trip Reports Powder, Pavement, & Pumice: An Eastside Odyssey
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  • #574972
    jimw
    1421 Posts

    Haven’t had much trip report stoke to post here this season, but I’m about to make up for that. A few weeks ago, I finally did something I’ve been wanting to do for years – I set up shop in the eastern Sierra for a couple weeks. Just camped out in the van, and rode everything from powder to mank to corn to pavement to pumice.

    I’m still on a high from this trip. I’m sold on this as the best way to do an eastside trip if you can get the time off… way better than several consecutive weekends.

    I have a million pictures and tons of helmetcam footage, so it might be a while before I get to a proper jimw-style TR, but here are a few (OK more than a few) pics that will hopefully convey and share some of the incredible stoke I got out of this trip.

    Day 1, 5/18/11

    Carson Pass, Crescent Couloir

    Finally got headed up to the mountains about 4 days after I intended to. Met Tim (scruffy) at Carson Pass, started skinning at the alpine start time of about 12:45 PM. The timing was perfect though, it had just dumped for 2 days, and had just started clearing, but the weather was overcast and cold, so the snow stayed blower even at 5 PM, which is when we dropped in! I’ve been up to this line many times in the past, and I’ve *never* seen it this filled in. Normally from the base of the chute it takes about 30 min or so to climb it. It took us almost 2 hours. Insanely deep, stable pow. Riding it was unreal. Back at the car at 8:15 PM.

    Day 2

    Buttermilks, Emerson North Couloir/Kindergarten Chute

    After about 3 hours sleep in Tahoe, we left at 3 AM and drove straight to Bishop to meet BGnight for a mission to Emerson. Even leaving that early we were skinning about 2 hours after him. But it was another rare perfect late-spring-pow-weather days, where it stayed cold and overcast and preserved the N-facing goods all day. We got to the base of Zebra right as he was dropping… in waist-deep blower pow. Then we climbed the N couloir and dropped that in blower pow… at 4:30 PM. Then back up to Kindergarten in – you guessed it – blower pow. Back at the cars at 7:45 PM. Thoroughly beat at this point, but already had 2 epic days and I’m only 2 days into the trip.

    There’s a TR on this day here.

    Day 3

    Dana Plateau, 3rd Pillar

    Tim and I were completely beat at this point and needed some sleep. We made it to Mammoth before we had to pull over and pass out on the side of the road, where we awoke to an awesome view. We were supposed to meet jbaysurfer at the Mo-mart that morning, and we knew it was supposed to warm up, so we wanted to get started early. But that wasn’t gonna happen. Turned out to actually work out for us though. All the new snow wet slid early in the day. We took our time, had a leisurely breakfast, and headed out to Powerhouse around 10:30 AM. At that point, everything had already slid, and by the time we were at the base of the chutes, things were cooling off and refreezing, and becoming stable again. We dropped 3rd Pillar at 5 PM, and it was pretty damn epic!

    Day 4

    Dunderberg/Green Creek shuttle

    It was now Saturday, and the familiar weekend warrior faces showed up at the Mo-mart. Soon we had a crew of 6 sb.com’ers ready to do the Dunderberg to Green Creek shuttle. There were flurries in the morning, which was nice as it kept things from getting too soft. Dunderberg and “The Triangle” natural half-pipe feature were awesome, and Green Creek was pretty manky. But I’ll take a 3000 ft manky chute over hiking any day! Cool to see some familar faces and meet some new friends. The best part was cramming 6 dudes and all their gear into the back of the van (which was set up for 1 dude doing 2 weeks of camping) for the shuttle back to the TH.

    There’s a TR on this day here.

    Day 5

    Down day, hot tubbing

    The next day we were planning to check out Bloody Mtn, but there was a huge snowdrift after the very first switchback waaay down on Laurel Lakes road. So we chilled out for a while, and decided to bail and make it a hot springs exploration day, since Olly and Issac (silver) hadn’t been to the many springs in the area. It was fun to at least drive partway up Laurel Lakes road too… now I know that the 4wd van can handle it. We also checked out the awesome Mammoth skatepark, which Olly and Issac had never been to. Dropped off my Jones at Mammoth Mountaineering for some work – had a major core shot from the plateau day. Fortunately I had a spare – Ye Olde Burton S Noodle! At the springs, we found one that was empty and set up shop for an hour or so. Note: when you go to hot springs in the middle of the day, remember sunscreen! We all got some pretty awesome sunburns. Also had some nice views of potential zones for the next day… hmm… Parachute looks filled in… hmm…

    Day 6

    Valentine Cirque, Parachute

    Olly and Issac were in town for a couple more days, so we made plans to meet up the next morning in Mammoth. Unfortunately, Isaac had to deal with a little fender bender from a run-in with an immovable object, so Olly and I headed out to try to find our way into Valentine Cirque. I’d never been out there, so it was fun to explore a new area. This one involved a lot of hiking and traversing, but once we got out there, the whole Valentine cirque area was pretty amazing. We should have just done a lap or two in the various chutes in the cirque, which looked like they held nice snow. But since Parachute was filled in, we decided to go check it out. It was in fact filled in… with crappy snow. It was full of mank and roller balls that came down over the previous couple days. Then it went into the shade and we got to ride that as it was refreezing. Pretty awesome. 🙂 Would be a cool place to come back to in better conditions though. Would also be a nice spot to set up a camp.

    Day 7

    Dana Plateau, Gutter chute

    I’m BAAAAACCCK! 🙂 I just can’t seem to stay away from the Dana Plateau. Besides the amazing terrain and quick access, the proximity to the Mo-mart for breakfast, and the fact that I had a bootpack in already made it even more appealing. I had been thinking about checking out Gutter for a while, and when we were up there a few days back, we checked out the entrance, and I knew it went. I also had a crazy plan to also check out Liberty chute, and the “Bermuda Triangle” chute near Powerhouse, both of which also looked way filled in the other day. What the hell, maybe I would go for all 3! So I loaded up with the rope and harness and set off. Once up on Liberty, the snow didn’t look as iniviting as it had a few days before; there was some mank and debris in the narrow part. But Gutter looked good to go. Assuming you turn right and don’t fly off the cliff! Aside from the crazy exposure, once you’re past the hanging snowfield and into the chute off to rider’s right, it’s not too bad. Definitely an experience! What was possibly more sketchy was climbing up 3rd Pillar and deciding halfway up that climbing on the rocks might be better than postholing. Supposedly there is a straightforward route there that rock climbers use to downclimb to the base of 3rd Pillar. I wasn’t on that route… So then naturally by the time I got back up on the plateau, the chutes were in the shade and Bermuda Triangle was refreezing, and unlike a few days ago this time things were actually freezing hard. Not so much fun. One of these days I’ll learn… At least I had the pleasure of hauling the rope and harness around all day for no reason! 🙂

    Day 8

    Down day

    Weather started to come in, so I took a down day. Really needed to since I was out of underwear. I took the opportunity to go explore this huge pumice hill that I see every time I drive past Lee Vining on 395. It looks like a perfect sand dune. I always wondered if it was rideable… Turns out there’s a road that goes right to the base of it, and thanks to the 4wd van, I could drive all the way. As it turned out, the hill wasn’t full of powdery sand, more like large gravel. Still, it seemed rideable. And I just happened to have brought an old rock board. Hmm… might have to come back here… That evening I treated myself to sushi in Mammoth, and drove out to Benton to stay at the hot springs. I’d never been there, and that place is *well* worth a visit. Each camp site has its own private hot tub fed from natural springs!

    Day 9

    Mt. Wood, Z Chute

    Now that I had clean underwear, I could get back to the business of riding snow. I had driven by Mt. Wood several times during the trip, and every time my eyes were drawn to the improbable line of the Z chute on the north face. Does it go? At Yet Another Mo-Mart Dinner ™ a few days back I ran into Glen Poulsen, who had done it the day before. So I knew it went. And after Yet Another Mo-Mart Breakfast ™ that morning, I had beta from “Powder” Dan Molnar on the approach. After a nice hike to Parker lake, I skinned up, and soon enough was booting up the Z. The crux was a little narrower than my board, and filled with icy refrozen ski-sidestep tracks. Awesome. The top actually held a little powder. The chute itself was fairly protected from the wind, but on top it was absolutely nuking; I thought I was going to get blown off the mountain when I strapped in. But once I dropped in it was great… well except for the crux, but that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. This might be my new favorite eastside tour. It has a bit of everything – nice open steep turns up top, some crux-ey technical riding in the middle, and a wide open bowl of corny goodness all the way to the lake. And it’s a continuous 4k run. Sweet!

    Side note: that same day, Dan was heading up to TPR to do a solo Yosemite to Mammoth tour. This was during the timeframe when everyone was bailing on riding due to the nuking winds… and he’s out there doing a solo Sierra crest tour. If there’s one thing I learned on this trip, it’s that the eastside locals are hardcore. If you ever think you’re doing something cool on the eastside, slap yourself because there are probably 20 locals out there who did the same thing before breakfast last week.

    Day 10

    Pavement & Pumice!

    This was Friday – I was losing track of what day it was at this point. Jbaysurfer and BGnight met up with me at the Mo-Mart, and we had visions of powdery goodness off Dana, fed by a Tioga car shuttle. They had just opened the gate the previous day, and the usual hardcore eastside suspects showed up at the Mo-Mart that morning. But it was not to be… winds were absolutely *nuking* at Ellery bowl. Like blow-you-over nuking. We knew from experience that it’s no fun to be on an exposed ridge in winds like that. So we bailed. BG headed back home, and jbay planned to stick it out for the next day, but what to do today? Well… I just happened to have the Carveboard in the van, and this seemed like too perfect an opportunity to pass up. I had wondered if it was rideable down something like Hwy 120… turns out the answer is YES! It feels way more like riding a snowboard than on a regular skateboard or longboard, because you can really turn tightly, and the tires have great grip on pavement. I highly recommend it for cross-training, and just having fun in the off-season. Jbay graciously agreed to follow me down in the car to make sure I didn’t get run over, but since it was a Friday and they had just opened the road, we only saw a few cars the whole way down, and most of them were just curious about the board. One car came up and wanted to follow us down to watch… while driving the wrong way in the other lane. It felt pretty great to roll into the Mo-Mart parking lot; I only crashed once! 🙂

    At that point we still had some daylight, so I hatched my next plan on jbay – the pumice hill. Jbay set up shop at the van, and somehow convinced me to boot straight up the middle of the thing in my Verts… which I was soon to regret. 45 minutes of profuse sweating/swearing and I was at the top, wondering if this was gonna work. I strapped in, pointed downhill, and… didn’t go anywhere. Eventually I got moving and figured out how to actually make turns. It felt like riding really heavy wet spring snow on a board that hadn’t been waxed all year. You have to point it for a little to get some momentum, then you can actually start turning. It was a trip, but it actually worked! I did it on my circa 1992 Burton Air, my very first board. It’s also the board I used on my first real backcountry trip, to Mt. Shasta. So now it has another first. I think it still has a few more pumice hill rides left in it…

    Day 11

    Down day – Sightseeing down to Bishop

    Well that was fun, now what?? Memorial Day Weekend had officially arrived, Tioga pass road was open to the park gate, there was a ton of snow… it was looking perfect for an epic spring weekend with the usual suspects. Except, Mother Nature had other plans. The winds were, once again, nuking. So, I bailed on the plan to head up Tioga, and took a rest day to do some sightseeing. Drove up Rock Creek road for the first time – yet another eastside TH where I need to spend some time in the future. Checked out the famous Mule Days celebration in Bishop. Unfortunately I forgot my cowboy hat! Our local eastside guru/guidebook author/photographer extraordinaire Mr. bcd was at the art fair, so I stopped by to chat for a bit. Then off to camping in the Buttermilks, which was scarred from a recent fire.

    Day 12

    White Mtns mountain bike ride

    One of the reasons I headed down to Bishop was that I had run into sb.com’er Forrest (dasteeps) at the Mo-Mart earlier in the week (I know, imagine that), and he saw the bike on the van, and mentioned that they might be doing a really cool shuttle ride out of Bishop that weekend. I had brought the bike in case I needed it to head up any dry but closed-to-vehicles roads to get to a TH… I didn’t think I’d actually get to do any real mountain biking. But here was a chance to get the local hookup on a sweet shuttle ride, while weather in the mountains was looking crappy again? Sign me up! Turns out the ride had about 6k of descent, with maybe 1k of climbing, on some great singletrack. Stoked! After burritos with the gang, I took the scenic way back to the Mo-Mart, arriving just in time to meet Tim and Michelle and grab the last piece of chocolate cake.

    Day 13

    Carson Pass, Elephant’s Back

    After passing out on the side of the road somewhere between Bridgeport and Gardnerville, I headed back to where the trip began – Carson Pass. There, I met the elusive Buffy (liketoride). We had tried to do a day together on the eastside, but timing, weather, and forgotten gear had nixed that. So it was nice to finally meet up on my last day. We were both pretty tired, so initial thoughts of heading out to Crescent couloir for old times sake were quickly forgotten. The fact that a couple guys were already skinning up it, and the fact that I had ridden it in the best conditions I’ve ever had just a couple weeks prior, and the fact that I was just frickin’ tired at this point, all combined to made it easier to skip heading out there this time. So we just headed over for a quick lap on Elephant’s Back. There was still a ton of snow, but it was finally starting to show signs of turning to spring. The run was short but sweet, and for once I got done early, and settled in for the long drive back to civilization.

    The End

    I made it back to Santa Cruz in time for dinner with the 2 loves of my life! Big thanks to Nicole and Malakai for supporting me and making it possible for me to do this trip! 🙂 Also, big thanks to all my sb.com friends who came out to ride with me. It’s always fun to share the stoke!

    See ya’ll next time at the Mo-Mart!

    #640881
    russman
    689 Posts

    Fawk fawk fawk YES!! DOOOOD!! YOU RODE A MASSIVE SAND DUNE!

    Holy crap Jim this trip was gangster!

    #640882
    UPGRAYEDD_2505
    127 Posts

    Good stuff. That crux on z chute looks a little…er…cruxy. Is that also where all the exposure is? I was just saying today how I want to ride some of those pumice hills (like the mono craters) in pow, but dirt works too. Good job! The best trips are the ones during which you lose track of time.

    (just got back from music at the mobile mart, expected to see you there :wink:)

    #640883
    nomad
    288 Posts

    Hell yeah Jim!!! Will mentioned the other day that you had gone on an eastside binge. Looks like you rode some incredible lines. You may have inspired me to post a TR or a few from the season out here, which, btw, is still going off!! If you can find a several week stretch next spring, want to try and do justice to Canada? 😉

    Oh yeah – that pumice shredding is all-time!!

    #640884
    fullers2oh
    525 Posts

    :disco: :thatrocks: :headbang: :rock: :clap:

    you got some great lines in amazing conditions, so that is really something to be happy about. although im sure the TR only begins to capture all the great things you did during your trip, good job laying it all out, some great stoke in here man. yeah its one thing to jump down or up to the eastside for a weekend, its quite another to become fully immersed in life on the eastside. glad you took the time to do that. also thanks much for using your van in the shuttle, it was the perfect tool for the job.

    #640885
    silver
    167 Posts

    Well done sir. Really epic trip you had. Stoked Olly and I bumped into you and crew at the Mo-mart. Good times in that van for sure.

    #640886
    Rico in AZ
    559 Posts

    Wow, that was rad Jim! Too bad you had so much wind; I know the feeling, it really kills motivation.
    Lots of great photos, snow AND scenery; since I’m a little familiar with that area, really made me feel like I was almost there. I really love that area too. Great write up too!
    One of these years I’m gonna organize my life to do something like this. It’s been a dream for a long time. I hope my wife will agree.
    That bike ride: was that really in the Whites? It looks like Sand Canyon near Wheeler Crest.

    I’ve boarded on pumice/cinder hills too! I’ll try to find the very old photo tonight.

    Congrats on your lasting stoke high :mrgreen:

    #640887
    keffler
    319 Posts

    @jimw wrote:

    This has my vote on best picture I’ve seen all year! Unreal Yo!

    #640888
    Verts
    3 Posts

    Sweet pics Jim !!!

    Will sent me a link to this one. Good to see you’re still killing it on all front 🙂

    Cheers,
    Pete
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Verts/193628857328141

    #640889
    tiltedworld
    406 Posts

    :disco: :headbang: :thatrocks: Wow what a fun looking trip. I had that 92 Air too, but was my second board, first was the ’87 Cruzer. My Air was the 5.5 though. Way to get after it on an extended trip!

    #640890
    adeptsol
    27 Posts

    :drool: :bow: Sweeeeett!!!!!!!!! That’s all time man! One question, How can I be Down!? You ripped the eastside! What a dream trip! I’m stoked to the max. Memorial day weekend I got stuck on the wrong side of Sonora pass (fun little trip though), and was dreaming about the eastside stoke during the rain showers.
    Would love to hang and ride some time! :disco: :thumpsup:

    #640891
    spruce cabin
    263 Posts

    Great report!

    (Nice van! :drool:)

    #640892
    schwalbster
    321 Posts

    ur crazy 😉

    After much research, experimentation and consideration, I have decided adulthood is not for me. Thank you for the opportunity.

    #640893
    bcrider
    4149 Posts

    The return of Jimw!!!! I thought you gave up on us but you were just too busy shredding the gnar! 🙂

    So much epicness in these pics, thanks for sharing! :thatrocks:

    ps. I miss riding with u. Maybe a July Crystal Range pond skim?

    #640894
    bs.
    246 Posts

    damn. after 2 reads through that TR, the word “epic” seems like an understatement. there really is no better snowboarding tool than a van you can live in, and it seems you are using yours to the fullest! very inspiring, indeed. how did the verts work in pumice scree? i remember hauling a board up the eureka sand dunes in death valley once and being amazed at how slow the ride down was (and how much it sucked riding with sand in my boots).

    i must admit your TR rekindled my frustration that my van’s poor old engine cracked, causing me to spend most of the money and time i had allocated for a similar eastside mission rebuilding an old volkswagen engine instead. well at least my van got me up to my new home in seattle…. hopefully it will get me back down to bishop next spring and maybe i’ll run into you at momart.

    (oh yeah and i’d love to see the POV footage of the Z and gutter lines!!)

    #640895
    rughty
    620 Posts

    I think 3rd pillar is my favorite plateau line. Great pic!!! I drove by the plateau that day you hit it late. Looked like the plateau was crying. Wish I had a pic. Good work on getting after it on what appears to be a very successful eastside binge. I thought we had it good on our linkup of north couloir and kindergarten. I was soooo jealous when I saw BG’s footage when he added zebra. That was effing RAD!!! Keep up the good work. We should hit up Shasta soon!

    #640896
    wjb
    163 Posts

    Thanks for sharing the stoke. Very inspirational!

    #640897
    snowsavage
    312 Posts

    truly living the Range of Light dream man; thanx for keeping me inspired to live life to the fullest.

    #640898
    Ecobrad
    2068 Posts

    Awesome Jim. Great to see you post a tr again!! You’ve convinced me, next year I will spend a least 7-straight days living out of my truck on the east side.

    #640899
    BGnight
    1382 Posts

    Magic Carpet Ride (gutter) makes me shart just looking at it. Thanks for the ride down S chute the other day and helping me unsand my vajayjay. I still feel like a nervous mom watching you hop around checking out the steep entrances to gnarville up there on the plateau

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