Another drought year. Another Trans-Sierra trip down the drain? No way. Our six day trek across the Sierra had: -perfect, perfect weather -the best skiing ever (honestly) -a steep, thrilling ascent of Mt. Lyell (and a 3,000 foot ski run) -lazy, sunny 9-10 am morning start times.
If you get nothing more of this article, remember this: The Mammoth to Yosemite Trans Sierra is definitely more interesting and much easier when skied from East to West. Just ask Andy Fried.
We had arranged for the trip to consist of two parties; one starting in Yosemite (Andy/Dianne Fried, Eric Schumacher) and the other starting in Mammoth (Greg Jordan, Howard Schultz, Nancy Jensen and Eddie Nunez). We had exchanged cars before the trip so our own cars would be waiting for us at the finish.
The Mammoth to Yosemite trip is often done in four days. We had planned for seven days and planned to use the extra days to climb a few mountains.
Sunday. Day 1 We spent Saturday night at the newly purchased Fried/Russ luxury condo. We had a comfortable breakfast at the Stove restaurant and returned to the condo to pack. We walked 10 minutes to the bus stop, caught the shuttle to the Mammoth's main lodge and began our trip. We chose to climb along the San Joaquin ridge rather than go through Agnew meadows. What a route! Dave Beck refers to it as the best Ski tour in California. No wonder. Banner/Ritter/Minarets on the left, Mono Lake on the right. It's spectacular. We skied along the ridge and topped out on San Joaquin Mtn late in the afternoon. We skied down the north side in fine snow and camped thirty minutes later.
Monday. Day 2 Clear, perfect weather. from our camp. Getting west slopes were melted set up camp on the west saddle and skied in and We could see our destination, 1,000 Island Lake there would be harder than it looked. The the out and we had to occasionally carry our skis. We end of the lake, climbed up the the Ritter/Banner around the slopes -- again good snow.
Tuesday. Day 3 We elected to forego climbing Ritter in favor of using this day as a set up for climbing Mt. Lyell the next day. We climbed over Island and Donahue passes and instead of descending down into Lyell Canyon, turned west and camped at the base of the canyon leading up to Mt. Lyell.
Wednesday. Day 4 Good Choice. Mt. Lyell (13,000+ and the highest point in Yosemite Park) is an excellent climb. We left our tents and heavy packs at camp and skied up onto the Lyell Glacier and up to a saddle just below the peak. The next 200 feet is quite steep. Ice Axe steep. with the steep slope and spindrift blowing it was definitely an alpine moment! After topping out, and lunch, we began to ski down to camp. The first 1,000 feet were so-so, the next 1,000 feet was the most perfect corn snow ever.
We packed up camp, climbed out of the canyon and skied down Lyell canyon, whooping and yelling at the good snow and our overall good fortune. Near the bottom of Lyell canyon, the good snow turned into frustrating sugar -snow. We reached the base of Lyell canyon and camped at the first campsite.
Thursday. Day 5 There wasn't a lot of snow in Lyell canyon, and we spent the day taking our skis off and on for literally the entire day. Near noon, we stumbled upon the Fried/Schumacher team who had yet to ski single moment downhill. We reached Tuolomme meadows late in the day, found the "hut" had only two available bunks, and skied down the road an hour and camped in a spectacular meadow with views of the Unicorn and Cathedral peak.
Friday. Day 6 On the sixth day we woke up to overcast and windy skies. The weather had finally changed. The klister I vas using on my Karhucomps continued to work well (I had used it since arriving in Lyell canyon). We. skied down a long downhill grade (yeah), and past Tenaya Lake. While resting at Olmstead point we heard a faint noise. It was the the snow plow working its way in from Yosemite. The plow left us a 2 foot section on which to ski. It was enough. We skied to the snow creek turnoff, had lunch and descended into the valley, a long 20 plus mile day. No sooner had we reached Greg's van when it began to rain. At that point we postulated the Fried/Schumacher team was somewhere in the 1,000 Island Lake area, huddled in a tent with snow piling up outside, perhaps second guessing their decision to travel from west to east...
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