Lone Pine Peak — Page 10

Lone Pine Peak from Owens Valley


Some unknown number of turns later, I at long last come to a stop below camp, where I pop off my skis and scramble up the rocks to my tent.

Here I drop my pack on sandy ground and stare back at ski tracks, following them higher and higher until they simply vanish in the distance. If I hadn't just come from that summit, I would not remotely believe such a route was possible. Heck, I'm still not sure I believe it.

Back at Camp Doom Northeast Drainage: Ski Tracks & Route Overview Inyo Creek: The Exit Andy Lewicky: Identity Unknown

It is beyond question the most stunning line I've ever skied.

It is also one of the most challenging, technical, and committing.

And I've still got 2000 vertical feet to go.

I'll be able to ski half that, I figure, making for a relatively easy out.

Baring a spectacularly unlucky mishap, I will indeed be coming home, ambiguous warnings notwithstanding.

But already I feel a heavy dose of soul searching coming on.

I pack up my tent and gear, toss it all on my back, and begin a cautious ski descent down the steep slopes of the lower canyon.

Time to head home.

The snow is soft, making for challenging turns with a heavy pack.

I take my time.

Around 7000 feet the snow comes to an end.

The skis go back on my pack.

I find my footsteps from yesterday.

Today I hope to find an easier way down, so I traverse a little higher, and I'm rewarded with a faint use trail that bypasses the worst of the bluffs over Inyo Creek. This adventure is almost over. I tromp downhill through the scrubby trees, angling east to find my car. There it is. My car is parked a hundred yards off, in a grove of trees at the edge of the desert.

Kicking up little clouds of dust, I pick up the pace, eager to get this heavy load off my back. And then something seizes me. I stop, turn around, look back at the rocky spectacle looming behind me. The High Sierra.

A surge of raw elation sets me ablaze like a lightning strike. I raise my poles over my head, bang them together, shout in triumph like a lunatic. I have done it. I have found a skiable route from Lone Pine Peak's summit to the Owens Valley desert. Whatever comes next, whatever happens in the unknowable future, I will never forget this day.

I've found my route—but have I found myself?

People climb mountains for many reasons. Some believe that mountains provide a path to enlightenment. Not being much enlightened myself, I cannot say if this is so, but I do find that mountains have an uncanny ability to boil away one's illusions. The process is not always painless. In the darkness of Camp Doom, it was thoughts of my family that sustained me. I am eager now to return to them and share this adventure, even if they won't understand. Even if I don't understand. It's what I do.

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.