Ski Mountaineering

San Joaquin Peak Tour
May 6, 2000

Mark Goebel

This outing will be remembered for memorable snow and weather. The snow reports sounded good, and the forecast was for settled weather. Well, it was all true to a degree. Ten skiers and two boarders met at the June Lake turnoff and following a short drive to the Fern Lake trailhead, we were hiking up the trail by about 8:30am. The trail traverses most of the first 1000', but finally it became lost in the snow and we kicked steps up the remaining 400'. Continuing over intermittent snow and through the forest for another half mile brought us to Fern Lake, 9000', and our first view of the route ahead, another 2600' of up between high canyon walls to a broad plateau and the final summit cone.

From the lake, most decided to skin up, except for one who had forgotten his skins. Fortunately, the snow was firm. The boarders each had a slightly different method. Wally, a veteran from the Elderberry Cyn. trip, carries his board and skins up on short approach skis. Bill has a split-board that separates lengthwise to become like skis with super wide skins attached. Due to their width, Bill had a little difficulty traversing a section of steep, hard snow during the climb. Going down is of course no problem, and if the snow is very soft or crusty, it is easier to board than ski. On the flats, the boarder must start walking, or switch back to touring gear. Many boarders use a soft boot which might be less secure if they have to kick steps or climb on hard steep snow, but so far this has not been a problem.

Our route continued up the canyon's headwall in a series of steps. Clouds had been gathering during the morning and a strong wind sprang up as we climbed to the more open upper slopes. Over the final half mile to the peak, the snow became hard and crusty, the clouds thicker and darker, I was wondering if we should continue, but the group pushed for the top. From the summit we could look over to Mammoth Mtn, and to Mts Ritter, Banner and the Minarets with their summits in dark clouds. While the views of snowy peaks, particularly north towards Yosemite were grand, I was concerned about the incoming weather and encouraged everyone not to linger too long before starting down. Finally, skins were off the skis, Wally headed down a different way, and surprise, surprise, the snow was smooth and just got better and better.

A short distance below the peak, we came upon SMSer Masiek Malish. He left home in LA at 5am, drove to the trailhead and started climbing at 10am. Looking none the worse for wear, he summited and caught up to the group as some reskied one steep section of silky corn. With many fun turns behind us, we were too soon back to Fern Lake. Continuing down through the woods with skis off and on, then over the brink on steep patches we finally regrouped on the trail. As we hiked the trail down to the cars, light rain drops were felt and clouds lowered over nearby peaks. Nearby OH Ridge campground was selected for Sat. night. Plans were made to meet at the Tioga Pass turnoff Sunday morning for a ski of Mt. Dana, but the weather had other ideas. Wind and rain increased and continued all night. New snow fell down to 8000'. In the morning we drove up towards the Pass only to find many large rocks on the roadway, with continuing poor weather, rain, wet snow, and poor visibility. Turning south, enthusiasm waned as conditions did not improve, and by Bishop, a late breakfast replaced thoughts of skiing for John, Mark, Keith, and Bahram, followed by a visit to Eastside Sports and the Independence Museum.

Thanks to Keith Martin for filling in as Assistant Leader. Participants: John Anderson, Bahram Manahedgi, Bill Seaman, Jim DeRose, Jan St. Amand, Wally Drake, Mike Seiffert, Lorene Samoska, Gene Drabinski, and Craig Connelly.

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