MATTERHORN PEAK (12,264') SKI May 13-14, 1978

Gaining a partner by the chapter, I drove both of us down U.S. 395 Friday night after work to try this classic ski peak. We breakfasted in a nice restaurant in Bridgeport, CA, and then motored to our parking by Twin Lakes.

Starting by about 8 a.m., we carried our skis and gear up the trail toward Horse Creek Pass. There was a use trail to take directly to the snow, but my partner refused, declaring environmental damage. So, we postholed up the snowy trail, losing time, and then we came to the snowline. Putting on our skis, we slid forward past the beaver ponds, and then it was clear all the way to the high pass. I was noting the initially icy snow, and I had waxless mountaineering skis. As the snow softened, they held better, and it was wonderful spring snow that we were to get today.

I veered right to the ridge to ascend the north couloir, but my partner corrected me. We finally came to Horse Creek Pass, and then the snow turned mushy. We left our skis about 100-200 feet above the pass, then postholed up the snowy south slopes of the peak. I was more indifferent to keeping going, so my partner did most of the work. We came to a high area and I hesitated, seeing some difficulty ahead. My partner declared it easy, so when I rested, forged on ahead. I then saw how really easy it was, so followed in his steps. It was truly class 2, as the guidebook said.

I summited a few minutes later, and started with my photography. Gratefully, my own picture was not botched too badly. I read the register, and enjoyed the view. We had bright sunny weather, with a bomber run to expect for the downhill.

About 3:30 p.m., we decided to head down. It was a plunge step down, and we saw a ptarmigan. I took photos, but my partner didn't like that, implying some wildlife harassment. Getting back to our skis, we started our run down. We began our dozens of S's, making broad sweeping turns down the glistening bright snow. Coming to the steepest part, a short headwall lower down, I may have had to make a kick turn. Nearby, I saw that a small slide had crossed my ascent tracks. We had seen two downhill skiers, and we weren't sure about what they had done. My partner, with his skinny wooden skis without even metal edges, complained about falling on his jump turns. I was to return later and ski this section easily, as my skiing had improved.

Descending to the snowline with the resort and Twin Lakes in sight, my partner continued to do aggressive telemark turns on the remnants of snow patches. We had to walk on skis over the bare sections. Running out of snow, we hiked back down the trail. Doing the finish by about 6 p.m., we had done it again.

I drove us back into town, for a nice restaurant meal to celebrate a safe and successful peak ski. Matterhorn is a Sierra spring ski classic. The elevation gain is nearly a vertical mile. Not finished with my weekend, I motored south on U.S. 395 in the night, my partner snoring away. We car camped somewhere, and we had another nice breakfast in Mammoth Lakes, CA.

My intent was to enjoy another easier tour, and we headed for Duck Pass. This is approached by the Lake Mary Road. I saw that we had to get back home, so we didn't make it to the pass. My partner was getting sunburned, not too saavy about Sierra spring skiing. So, with no more great views obtained, we started home. I had to stop at Hot Creek for a traditional soak, and then it was the long drive home.

I had wished to do this ski peak again, but my last chance in 1997 was met with a trip sign-in refusal, mandated by the leader. They climbed the north couloir, and claimed to have summited, but me, without an ice ax and crampons, and then not part of the trip, chose to relax and enjoy an easy snow camp.

Later openly finding that only about intermediate downhill ability was necessary for this ski descent down the canyon proper, people seemed to regard the tour in awe. Matterhorn Peak is only a class 2 scramble in summer, though the name is intimidating. Till recently, I had plans to day hike it 3X for summit digital photos, and with no good companions, I'll decline to do an overnight solo. It is the northern SPS Emblem peak, therefore a good, worthy hike. Held then in high regard by some, if none wish to climb it with me, that is exactly what will happen.