Seems as if it has been one of those years for ski trips; make plans, change them, have people drop out, more come in, adapt and then have the weather change it all.
So it was with this trip. Started out as a Monarch ski, but as numbers dropped the logistics and expenses of flying back increased. There are getting to be fewer and fewer charter companies around these days. So the trip morphed into a loop from Paiute to Echo Col with Dennis Sargent and Craig Sherman. Craig has done lots of trips over the years – decades actually- and at 65 is a great example of what we can all do if we keep in shape and with a good attitude.
We started off in light snow on May 3. The winds were strong and so we camped below Loch Leven in the trees for shelter. The next day it was till blowing hard so we left gear and headed back to Bishop for a shower, fresh food and a beer. Up early on the 5th we headed in under better skies, picked up the gear and headed over Paiute Pass to camp at Goethe Lake. From here we climbed over Alpine Col and descended to lovely Darwin Bench and camp on the dirt and in the trees at the mouth of Evolution Valley. There is still a lot of snow back there! From here in the Owens Valley it all appears dry, but to the west of the crest it still looks like winter. Snow was variable and even in a “low” snow year we skied everything we wanted. The lakes in Evolution Valley were still hard frozen and easy travel. We headed to Muir Pass, checked out the hut briefly – it is a cool hut but an icebox and mouse infested. We spent the night camped above Helen Lake and then climbed Black Giant the next day. The slopes were steep and icy so we elected to ski the lower two thirds and hiked to the summit. This was Dennis’ first big Sierra peak and it is great one. The view is fantastic from near Whitney to the Clark Range above Yosemite. We spent a while here enjoying the Sierra before having a great ski back to camp. We picked it up and climbed up ever softening slopes to camp on the west side of Echo Col. We wanted to cross it early the next morning when it was firmer with less avalanche issues.
We did so, but the east side was still soft and we were glad to get off the slope. The descent down the Sabrina drainage went well – until about 10,500 feet when the snow started to run out for skiing , but was still too much for easy hiking. We picked up the trail but still had a flog through soft snow and plunging into holes.
Eventually we hit the dry trail and it was easy back to dinner and refreshments at Whiskey Creek. A great trip and a beautiful place to be.