Eastern Sierra Antics: Mt. Wood

After such an epic winter in the Sierra, I figured that the spring corn skiing season would be equally as fab.  What little we have had has been fun, but it keeps being interrupted by a return to winter.

We had heard about the possibility of weather moving in yesterday, but decided to go ahead with Operation Eastern Sierra anyway.  Mango margaritas were taunting me loudly, and after a long week I needed to get outta Dodge.    We met our friend Fred at the Whoa Nellie Deli on Friday night to discuss Saturday plans over fish tacos and jambalaya.  Fred really wanted to hit the Cocaine Chute, a steeper line near the Dana Plateau.   I wasn’t into boot-packing up a chute (ski boot issues make that the equivalent of stabbing needles in my eye), and decided to take the dog and head to the less extreme terrain of the lower apron of Mt. Wood.

As luck would have it, a friend of mine pulled in right behind me not moments after I’d parked, so Soleil & I joined him and his friends.  This made route-finding on the initial climb dead easy, since all I had to do was follow.  The climb up is pretty direct (read: up), and once we reached the lower apron of Mt. Wood it was literally a straight line up.  As my friend & his pals continued up the steep, icy bootpack to the summit (whose steep angle my camera couldn’t capture), the dog & I lapped the lower slopes, which were corning up nicely.

Turns out the descent from the near top of Mt. Wood wasn’t as soft as hoped, due primarily to the cold east winds that had been gusting all morning.  That said, it only about 1,000 feet out of their 4,000+ foot descent though, and the winds did ensure that the lower elevation snow didn’t get too sticky, even at 2.30 pm on our final descent.

All of us milked the remaining few thousand feet of silky corn, including the dog, who had a few spectacular wipeouts as she tried to keep us with us.

It was definitely one of her bigger days of the season, and she was pretty happy to get back to the truck.  Truth be told, so was I.  My ‘easy’ day ended up being about 8 hours with over 4,000 feet of vertical.   And a lot more fun than I imagined.


Eastern Sierra Exploration

We had hoped to spend this past weekend huntin’ for corn snow up around Tioga Pass, but the forecasted precip did arrive, and came in wet enough to encourage us to hit Mammoth for some resort skiing instead.

While we knew it would be a wet storm, we didn’t factor in the ridiculous winds that kept most of the mountain shut and made visibility optional.  We skied anyway, but quit midday when goretex layers had become saturated, and headed to our digs at June Lake, where the weather was windy but not so wet.  Since neither of us had really walked around the town of June Lake, we figured a faux-urban hike would be a way to see parts of the area we tend to overlook for the more exciting hiking trails of the nearby Ansel Adams Wilderness.

In doing so we discovered a bit of history – June Lake, like many other Eastern Sierra towns, had a mining history.  Its history was a mere 5 years (1924-29) but resulted in a fair bit of ore from the various shafts located in the slope above Gull Lake.  Who knew?

Entrance to the mine

Coupled with the first pilgrimage of the season to the Whoa Nellie Deli, where we were rewarded with amazing vistas of clouds and the Sierra Wave along with our fish tacos and mango margaritas, it ended up being a lovely escape from Tahoe.

Celebrating the Environment

Today is environmental blog action day, a day where we bloggers are drawing attention to the environment through our posts.  Since I’m cynical and don’t really see a viable solution to the mess we’ve created on this planet, I’m not one for solutions (don’t procreate? vote democrat? neuter your pets?).  I just play outside a lot and talk about it.

This weekend was no exception to my getting outside philosophy.  With the faux in-laws in town, we headed down to June Lake for some good eatin’, fall-color watching and bonding with my mother and stepfather who drove up from LA to meet us.  The Eastern Sierra is absolutely glorious at this time of year.  Vivid colors, cool temps, and in the case of this weekend, a dusting of snow over the peaks made it all the more spectacular.  While N took his parents and my stepfather into Yosemite, my mom and I had dog duty, so we took the mutt for a hike in the Ansel Adams Wilderness via the Silver Lake trailhead.  It was a 2600 foot climb to Gem Lake, and you can see how high you are for most of the trail, as it’s entirely above treeline.  With big peaks above us and large lakes below, combined with the odd glimpse of Mono or June Lake, we were awed by the expansive views that the Eastern Sierra is renowned for.

(photos courtesy of my mother)

As happens in this part of the world, we encountered a few interesting characters on the hike back, including the South American guy who looked like a real junk-show, wearing a hard hat with headlamp and toting his possessions in various stuff sacks and handbags looped over his body.  He must have been the one to drop his container of lighter fluid (?!) on the trail, which I promptly picked up to avoid encouraging stupidity in the backcountry.  Even though fire danger is no longer extreme in this part of the world, campfires are verboten in wilderness areas, though many people blatantly ignore that rule.