WHITE MOUNTAIN RANGE SKI AND SNOW CAMP April 4-6, 1980
The Ski Mountaineers offered this trip to enjoy the bristlecone pines and the White Mountain Range. I skied on my three pin set-up while the others from Los Angeles used mainly downhill touring skis. I shuttered a few photos on my drive south along U.S. 395.
Meeting the group in Big Pine, CA, we carpooled up the White Mountain Road, and shortly encountered snow. Shoveling, we made it across a patch blocking the road, then parked our cars at about Sierra View overlook. Our starting weather was pretty good for this time of year. We packed up our loads, and after doing about three miles, chose to camp besides the visitor center, replete with an open outhouse.
Some of us were game for a short tour through the bristlecones. We came to an old cabin, and got some nice views of the Sierra to the west. Weather began coming in, and we had to prepare for a storm. I had my tent facing the wind correctly, having an A-frame, as the others had more modern equipment, dome tents. I did some night photography, with one tent illuminated by a light from within.
We had wind and snow, both. It was simply not right for an attempt on our stated goal, the summit of White Mountain Peak (14,246'). It would be another 20 miles one way, all in chilly conditions. I had my semi-expedition parka, but the others didn't have such warm clothes. We were to try the peak again, but similarly didn't get very far. I noted the dry powder snow, new to me, and then we did a short snow hike about nearby Schulman Grove.
Agreeing that it was just too much for
us, we decided to pack out. I wasn't able to sleep very well,
and the comforts of civilization were just too much to refuse.
The ski out went well, and soon we were
back in Bishop, CA, to get gas. We
enjoyed some fine dining at a restaurant along U.S. 395.
After an overnight stay somewhere for the others, me sleeping in my car, we decided to tour into Hot Creek, a genuine hot springs situated in a natural creek. The USFS had some facilities here, but the gravel road was closed by snow. It then was a nice three mile, one-way, ski for us, great for me with my light touring skis. We soaked in the warm water, pleased with our good judgement. I think that Mammoth Mountain was closed, even, due to the high winds.
So then, we hiked along the creek, back west, and then came to snow, again. The Eastern Sierra made a fine backdrop for our skiing back to the cars. Our spring skiing was over, so I imagine we parted ways, and I drove home. It was worth the driving to experience this range, and most will never see the oldest living things on Earth, or as figured, back then, in snow.
Backcountry ski touring offers a spectacular way to enjoy the Eastern Sierra and adjacent ranges, all part of good exploring. I was to do plenty more ski and snow camping, but then it seemed to have fallen out of favor. Large groups will make a considerable impact, and though we try to do our best not to pollute, some are unable to help it.
I yet have my old gear, although since then, my warmest sleeping bag was stolen. That no one comes forward with any reliable interest to do this, I realize that good gear is expensive, and you do have to get down to the area, a long drive for most. There is very little support for any such activities, now, and even though I have had the best of times, the word doesn't get around.
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