White Mountain Peak
By: Owen Maloy
White Mountain Ski Tour
The first joint ski tour of the Desert Peaks Section and the Ski Mountaineers was unfortunately curtailed by high winds, but was still successful and was enjoyed by the participants, who spent two days touring the bristlecones in the midst of wind gusts and snow showers. The last day we skied to the Hot Creek to warm up.
Skiing the Desert Peaks may seem like a somewhat freaky activity, but in fact the skiable peaks are beautiful in winter and well worth skiing. They present their own special problems, such as the threat of cactus in the sitzmark, but at least there are no rattlesnakes.
The Whites Present a challenge to the ski tourer. Winds can be extreme, and there is not much shelter. In spite of the altitude and inhospitable environment, the terrain along the ridge is open and rolling, much more suitable for cross-country than for Alpine technique. The ability to ski steep slopes is much less important than the ability to move rapidly from one sheltered campsite to another.
The present tour was planned as an exploration of the bristlecones rather than a peakbag, because we wished to stick to easier terrain for the benefit of experienced cross-country skiers who might not have qualified for SMS tours. This limited us to skiing the ridge, and it is thirty miles to White Mt peak from Westgard Pass--although the record for skiing the range is two days, from Montgomery Pass to Westgard!
As a matter of fact, all new participants passed the SMS checkout test by displaying downhill skiing skills.
We were able to drive up the White Mountain road to the Sierra View turnout, where there was a locked gate. The road was skiable a few hundred yards above the gate, and we skied to Schuman Grove for a leisurely lunch and some downhill skiing. Attempting to proceed to Patriarch Grove, we were stopped by high winds at the radio relay station, and turned back to camp at Schulman. This was rather luxurious, since the location is very well sheltered, the picnic tables were usable, arid the johns were open. We stayed for a night of high winds and snow, and toured the grove in the morning. The weather showed no sign of improvement, so we left in midafternoon and camped overnight in Bishop, except for one purist, who camped in his car in Mammoth, swaying all night in the wind. At least the sides of his Datsun didn't flap as much as his tent.
In the morning, we met for breakfast in Mammoth and skied to the Hot Creek, where we congratulated ourselves for our mountaineering judgment as we luxuriated in the hot water while the downhill skiers sat in the lodge at Mammoth waiting for the wind to die. We hiked and skied out along the creek, rewarded by a view of the creek meandering through the snowscape, with Mts. Morrison and Laurel looming through a haze of wind-blown snow.
Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the|
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides
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