Mount LeConte's Northeast Cirque — Page 6

Moon Over Owens Valley

Moonlit Contemplations

The wind kicks up as the moon rises over the Inyo Mountains. I fuss a bit with my bivy sack, then settle into my sleeping bag, watching the day come to an end.

Are there any bears in the area? I hope not. Ordinarily at this time of year, the bears would still be hibernating, or at most wandering the lower reaches below the snowline.

Owens Valley Sunset & Granite Sierra at Night

But spring comes early now—it is a fact we'll all have to get used to.

And so I peer occasionally toward my hanging bags of food, listening between wind gusts for grunting sounds.

This activity, of course, is not in the least conducive toward getting a good night's rest.

The moon rises, casting a bright blue glow across sheer granite faces. My mood lightens, eased by the rush of wind through the trees.

I rustle in my sleeping back, trying to get comfortable. My skin still smells like pine.

What to do about tomorrow? Making the summit of Mount LeConte, I think, is out of the question.

My usual M.O. is to camp at the snowline, allowing a predawn ascent on skis and skins to top ephemeral Sierra snowfields before the sun turns them to mush.

That's no longer possible. The simple choice is to head down in the morning. Crossing all that talus won't be any easier going down—probably harder, in fact.

Rockfall pitter-patters down Lone Pine Peak's south wall. I close my eyes and try to sleep.

next: Day 2

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.

Pray for snow.