March 1973: Easter Yosemite Snow Tour scanned from Super 8 film, scratched and blurry, but barely viewable, 109.3 MB, 854 x 480 pixels, (8:56)

Another ambitious snow tour was planned by my optometrist buddy. We’d ski or snowshoe across the High Sierra, starting from Yosemite Valley and go to Mammoth Mountain. In the winter outings schedule, it was advertised as a "snow tour." With the spring schedule, it was changed to a "ski tour." Being poor, I could hardly afford skis and learn to ski proficiently in the short notice that I had. Five other people were going, all with skis. Sensing that I was to be left out, I had already driven the leader’s car to the Eastern Sierra in preparation for the shuttle. Taking the bus back from Bridgeport, CA, I arrived back home to gratefully and generously be given a ride by two ladies who were coming along.

So, we came to Yosemite Valley to have a nice breakfast in the Lodge. Some military also were having food, and it looked like they were shipping out, with one last look at this beautiful country. We began hiking with our full backpacks up the Upper Yosemite Falls trail, and being not loaded with heavier skis, I made fast time to the Valley Rim. I had my Super 8 movie camera, and it started to snow lightly. The others came on up, and put on wax and skis. We shuffled or plodded along and away from the Rim, me capturing sights of Half Dome. Getting a good ways, we set up our first camp.

Navigating on through the forest, we shortly came to the 120 highway at about Porcupine Flat. The skiers could glide gracefully along the roadway in their set tracks, so I became left behind. Passing under an avalanche zone past the vistapoint, I took photos, but I felt safe enough, with stable conditions. They stopped at Tenaya Lake for our second night’s camp. We were bagging and burning our waste, with plastic sheets provided by the leader. This would be a clean adventure! I had my own 8 pound tent, roomy and spacious, although crudely sewn by my home kit set-up.

The next day, we went on to Tuolumne Meadows. The group wasn’t too overly delighted at doing this, but I was having my fun. The weather had been snow and sun, off and on. It was menial work, trudging along. Getting to the old ranger station which had been provisioned as a ski hut, we sat about the fireplace with old wood cut by the leader and his saw. We had resupplied by a food stash placed by the leader in the fall, and I gorged on my bag of Doritos. Another solo skier came on by in the night, and slept with us, inside. The pay phone was operative, so some made calls back to home.

Our fourth day, we set out along the highway, getting grimy from the smoke and traveling. About Dana Meadows, we left the road and headed south, enroute to Kuna Crest. With a windy camp in blowing snow, the leader shared my tent, and relieved himself inside, onto the plastic square, since it was rather chilly to be bare bottomed outside. We are skilled outdoorspeople, so can do a lot of things carefully.

The next morning, it was better, so we climbed to about 13,000 feet elevation, to get the fantastic view from Kuna Crest. I shot my movies, our high point of the trip. The skiers prepared for their run down the other side, and I was forced to wait. They finally took off, and me with snowshoes, was terribly disadvantaged. I couldn’t sidehill like the skiers, very well, so I finally dropped down to more conducive terrain, and plodded on after the others. Having lost sight of them, I had to guess my bearings, and somehow, passed them by. Getting worried, I marched on. It soon became hours after we had separated, then I determined that they had left me for dead. I thought of exiting at June Lake, but then one skier came up behind me, yelling to stop. They stated that they had waited behind some hill, out of my sight, then figured what may have happened. The snow was too wind blown to see tracks, but I was happy to have been found again. We lost a lot of time, and I heard about this from one of the skiers. Camping in a high basin again, the weather improved, and perhaps some of the others declined our poop packing. They were getting tired of the backpacking, but the finish was not too far away.

Going over Donahue Pass, we then got to a creek, and rested and organized our packs. It felt like Spring, with nice sun, and bright blue sky. It was skiing and snowshoeing through the pines, and our final camp was in the San Joaquin River drainage. Nice alpenglow, with our running into a lone snowshoer headed the other way.

The last day, we had to climb up to Minaret Summit, and the leader chose a wrong way. I followed him up, and my heels were getting raw. About halfway up the slope, he figured that we weren’t going the way that we wanted, so dropped down, found the road, and then up to the summit, and then down to the ski resort. I was separated again, and searched the crowds for my group, but it was nice to use a restroom, and it sure felt funny to walk on blacktop!

Because Mammoth Lakes has a lot of parking restrictions, I had left the car in Bridgeport at a gas station. I set out to hitchhike a ride back north to the car, but the others paid some skiers to get a ride in a van. We were dropped off at the gas station, and the car started fine. Driving on home in the night, headlights sure seemed strange, as when you are away from civilization for awhile, things take some getting back used to.

Some book gave our route as about 40 miles, and our gain was probably about 12,000 feet total. I had started with about a 50 pound load, using cascade snowshoes with neoprene webbing, but the others had Bonna skis, which are some 14 pounds a pair. My last time on snowshoes, I was to get skis the next winter, with money saved from a restaurant job, and begin my career as a ski mountaineer. Others had skied a Trans-Sierra, but no one that I know had done as arduous a trip as we did. With snowshoes, I sank down with my load on every step, but the skiers could glide in set tracks. Mine will be our only photo record, as the others didn’t consider photography any priority.

No one was too interested in our adventure, and despite it being the biggest backpack ever done in the snow for the chapter, most ignored it or downplayed it as pure masochism. Their newsletter would lavish on wildflower walk accounts, but backcountry like we did, that took mostly zero as publicity.

My snowshoe webbing started to stretch, so I sold them for $5 to a coworker. My movie film stayed in storage till I got it scanned to VHS and then to DVD. That no one skis or snowshoes anymore by the Club, fine with me. Guide companies would charge exorbitant amounts for a Trans-Sierra, albeit with a plane flight to connect instead of a car shuttle, and despite my experience, never was to do the Sierra High Route from Symmes Creek to Wolverton. I’d say even Everest climbers had it easier, with porters to lug up their gear, and only to ascend the 10,000 feet to the summit. While we didn’t carry 17 pound oxygen bottles, I hear that the Sherpas mostly do the work, so all that you have to do is climb. Expeditions at the time may expend some quarter mil, but albeit a lesser effort, we didn’t pay a penny aside from gas, food, gear, and park entry fees!