Ski Mountaineering

Patriarch Grove, White Mtns

Mar 14-15, 1992

Reiner Stenzel



Snow conditions in the White Mountain Range are difficult to predict. This year there was much more snow than on our previous ski trip to the White Mountain in March 1990. Eight skiers planned to meet at Sierra Viewpoint on the White Mtn Road but encountered big snowbanks across the road, which could not be overcome by city cars. Luckily, our local participant from Bishop, Catherine Laben, came equipped with a proper 4 WD truck and offered to shuttle us for the last 5 miles. She skillfully maneuvered across the deep snowbanks and when her car got stuck the shovels went into action. By 9: 30am we were all ready to take off from the locked gate at Sierra Viewpoint (9280'). After a few hundred feet the road was completely covered with snow and we could move on skis until we returned. With one exception, we had nonwaxable, metal-edged, double-cambered touring skis which allowed us to kick and glide at a good pace through the rolling terrain of the White Mtns. By 10: 30am we were at the Schulmann Grove.

The view over of the Sierra Nevada in the west was impressive. However, the sky looked gloomy and there was a ring around the sun, consistent with the forecast of an impending cold front. We were wondering what we would get into. We followed the untracked road until we reached a straight power line, which led into Wyman Canyon.

There we left the road and followed along the lines through a long valley until our shortcut met the winding road again near Silver Canyon. In a wind protected place we had a well-deserved lunch break, but by 2pm we were back on skis heading toward Big Prospectors Meadow. A cold wind blew over the open plains.

Our goal, the Bristlecone Forest, was so clearly visible, yet one easily under estimates the distances in the Whites. By 4pm we passed Campito Mtn and entered the Ancient Bristlecone Forest just South of the Patriarch Grove. We set up camp in a wind-protected depression surrounded by spectacular bristlecones some of which may have been several thousand years old. Dinner at a common snow table was enjoyable but as the sun disappeared the temperature dropped into the teens. We had skied about 15 mi and were ready for a good rest. Although it was windy and cold at night (10 deg) the storm did not materialize.

Sunday morning we made a short tour without packs through the Ancient Bristlecone Forest. We enjoyed telemarking around bristlecones on good snow. The time scale of these trees is difficult to comprehend, likewise the vast untouched terrain in the Whites in amazing. Caught in a whiteout, navigation would be a difficult job. By l0am we were packed and began to ski out. Gliding over the open plains was a real joy. We followed the road that climbs high above Wyman Canyon.

After many a break we arrived at Sierra Viewpoint at 3pm. The afternoon snow was excellent and we skied to within 100 yards of the gate. Again Catherine helped us shuttle our gear and some tired bodies for the last 5 miles to the cars. We were very lucky on this trip with the weather, the snow conditions, the transportation, and an excellent group of strong skiers. These were Catherine Laben, Lisa Freundlich, Tom Marsh, Ken Deemer, Mike Rector, Reed Moore, Greg Jordan, and Rainer Stenzel. Greg's patient assistance was greatly appreciated, and Mike's heroic effort to cover 30mi on klistered Tuas will not be forgotten.


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