March 5, 2012

Snow News; SMG AK Trip

Snow News; SMG AK Trip

Once again I stayed in-bounds locally with my kids over the weekend. I was tempted to day-trip to the Sierra, but insider info from Sierra Mountain Guides' Howie Schwartz plus Sue's buzzkill avy forecast pretty much quashed any inclination I had to get out of bed early. Though ESAC is calling for low overall avalanche hazard, my read of their advisories is that where you'll find good skiing you'll also find elevated risk.

On the other hand, Howie and Co. have been doing boots-on-the-ground backcountry reports at the SMG YouTube channel, and he's fairly enthusiastic about conditions between Mammoth and June Lake. I did try to divine conditions on San Gorgonio's north aspects from Snow Valley, and my guess is that there might be some tourable snow up there, though you'll have to walk a long way to get to it.

Looking at my calendar, I see that it is now March 5, and—oh my God!—there is dust on my Dynafits. You know, it's tough. I've been finding other ways to keep myself busy, as I'm sure many of you have, including taking good advantage of in-bounds snowmaking. As for the backcountry, I am beginning to fear March isn't going to do much for us, so maybe it's time to contemplate more distant options.

In that regard, Howie again has notified me of a very impressive ski mountaineering trip he's put together to Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The trip takes place May 2-11, and will use the Ultima Thule Lodge as a hub for a 7-day ski traverse of some of Earth's finest ski country, including numerous first descent opportunities. Howie assures me there is snow.

Really this would be one of those trips of a lifetime, but it doesn't come cheap: about $9K, airfare to Anchorage not included. I think odds of me making the trip are pretty low, but I'll have to put something together—maybe Shasta or the Sisters?—to get the dust off my skis. As for you, if want more info about Howie's AK trip, feel free to email him—and be sure to tell him I sent you so I can collect some brownie points. :)

Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow



  1. Matt says:

    What, the 85-degree heat has you discouraged about the SoCal snow outlook?

    Looks like some folks from the SoCal backcountry meetup group hit Charlton Peak on Saturday and found some good snow. I got lazy and just drove to Baden-Powell on Sunday. Snow was just about anything you can think of other than powder or corn, but I did manage to fight my way down to about 6600′ and 1/4 mile from the parking lot. At this point in this season I’ll take a moral victory…

  2. Andy says:

    Matt, nice work! Was it skiing???

  3. Matt says:

    Absolutely! :)

    Did a quick photo dump if you’re curious what it looks like up there. I skied the NNE facing gully that’s just east of the trail. Looked like there might be some lines in the N facing bowl to the west of the summit too, but the view from Route 2 made it look like you’d want to be sure you picked the right one. I’m still pretty new out here so I didn’t want to chance that side without scouting it out. It also looks like there’s some good snow on Baldy’s N face, though annoyingly you’d have to downhike from the summit to get to there.

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