Cottonwood Lakes Loop — Page 4

Diaz Creek Drainage & Owens Valley

Diaz Creek & Owens Valley

It's been a strenuous climb up this short chute, 1000 feet of climbing up some of the crankiest talus I've ever seen. I've heard rumors about this mountain's powdered granite.

Porcella and Burns call it the ultimate 'high desert'—but seeing it in person makes you appreciate the geology's uniqueness. The massive blocks of talus at the base of Langley's Southeast Ridge gradually give way to smaller boulders. Soon, boulders and gives give way to a fine, sandy granite that makes me very glad I'm wearing my ankle gaiters.

Nearing the top of the Chute Looking Down Peak 12891

I'm just below the notch at the top of the couloir, waiting eagerly to see what views await atop the ridge. I always get a thrill when I'm approaching a notch like this.

In moments, a new vista will open before me, revealing the Diaz Creek Drainage and the entire Owens Valley.

Though my heart is pounding and I'm out of breath, the cheers of a phantom crowd urge me to quicken my pace.

There is more climbing ahead, of course, but for now, gaining the notch is all I'm thinking about.

A last few steps up sandy gravel and talus take me to the top of the notch, allowing me to look out over Owens Valley.

It's a magnificent vista.

Below, the Diaz Creek valley stretches toward Lone Pine, a tiny collection of buildings and trees on the valley floor.

Even though it is summer, I can't help thinking about the skiing possibilities as I look out upon this remarkable valley. Surely the Langley Region ranks among the finer backcountry skiing terrain in the Southern Sierra. I'm eager to stand here in winter, when the talus is covered with snow, snap into my bindings, and push off downhill. Oh yes, I'll be back.

I can see Peak 12891 in its entirety now, and its sheer northeast walls are every bit as steep as I remember. The sight answers a question I've had since turning back last year: was there any easy way to get from the top of the Peak back to the Langley Route? Answer: Nope.

Not unless you're into free-soloing exposed Class 4-5 rock. For now, however, there is a summit to climb, and more skiing opportunities to scout. I want to look at Langley's grand northeast couloir and see if it looks feasible for a return trip in winter.

next: Moonscape

About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

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