Lone Pine Peak — Page 4

Lone Pine Peak & Inyo Creek Canyon

Deeper and Deeper

With the typical Southern Sierra approach, just getting to the start of the route can be a bigger challenge than anything that happens farther up the hill.

If you make it to the snow, you may still never ski your intended route. The walls of the drainage are growing ever steeper, and I'm approaching an obvious bend, making it impossible to see what lies ahead.

Skis and Skins Looking Back at Owens Valley

One nasty close-out is all it would take to abort this venture.

Until I see this narrow gully open up into a broad spit of snow streaking upward, I'm taking nothing for granted.

It's a pleasure to get my skis off my back and switch to skins.

But the drainage is quite steep and exposed.

Thankfully I've got ski crampons with me today, and they prove invaluable.

Shadows are starting to creep toward Owens Valley.

I work my way carefully upward, choosing to stay in thickets of trees rather than risk a fall on more open slopes.

Looking back, I see I've already gained quite a bit of elevation.

But Lone Pine Peak still towers overhead, a constant reminder that my ultimate objective remains far, far away. Patience is a virtue here. I focus on keeping my skins firmly attached to the snow, breathe deeply, put one foot in front of the other. Time passes, and the shadows grow longer, now pushing their way across Owens Valley.

I'll need to find a place to camp soon, but I still want to get over that bend in the drainage, so I press on. The drainage presents a series of false rises, forcing me to keep going until at last I see I'm about to crest the final wall. What I see on the other side will in no small measure determine what happens next. Will I be able to go higher, or is it time to turn back?

next: Camp Doom

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.