Lone Pine Peak — Page 3

Inyo Creek Canyon


Self-doubt is an inseparable part of this game. At the start of every trip, I always feel a little jittery, a little pre-adventure nervousness. But this feels different.

I'm really not sure about this one. I park my car near the end of a dusty dirt road below the entrance to Lone Pine Peak's northeast canyon, elevation 6400'. I pack my gear, taking my time, in no particular hurry to get underway.

The start of the route Eastern Sierra: No Trail, As Usual Andy in the Canyon Owens Valley

Not without reluctance, I heft the load and start up the mountain.

Normally, my doubts quiet once I start hiking.

Today, however, my mental alarm won't stop clanging.

Everything seems like a bad omen today.

I press on gamely through the brush, trudging up sandy, steepening slopes, trying to calm myself.

The route quickly deteriorates as I confront the bluffy east rim of the canyon, which offers exposed class 3 climbing mixed with pine trees.

With skis strapped to my pack and ski boots on my feet, the terrain is hardly inviting—and it does nothing to quiet my rising internal storm.

There is something inherently difficult about undertaking an activity that makes no sense.

That's the heart of the matter, isn't it?

None of this makes any sense.

I've already written off the possibility of success.

The best motivation I can find to keep climbing is just to satisfy my curiosity—maybe get in a little skiing in the upper canyon when I find snow.

None of that justifies the effort involved, or the risk. As my experience and my skills increase, my tolerance for risk seems to grow steadily smaller. It is a grim paradox with no easy resolution. Working my way above the bluffs, scrambling as needed, I find smoother ground above. Despite my anxiety, I'm making good time.

The relative stretch of flat soon gives way to more steeps, but this time, thanks to the northerly aspect, snow appears. I estimate my current elevation between 7000 and 7200 feet, meaning—if all somehow goes miraculously well—I'm looking at the possibility of a 6500 vertical foot summit ski descent.

I'd planned to camp right at the snowline, but the afternoon is still early, and I'd like to get father up this deep, winding drainage. The terrain looks exceedingly rough. It's still not clear whether the next thousand vertical feet will even prove passable. That would be a fine irony—if I can't even make it into the lower gully.

next: Deeper and Deeper

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.