Skiing Muir's East Buttress — Page 8
- Dav's Line
- Of Sample Paths
- The Rock Garden
- The Southeast Face
- Muir's Summit
- The Upper Balcony
- Lower Balcony
- Exit Couloir
- Over the Rainbow
It is 12:08 p.m when Dave and I reach the top of Muir's south shoulder and the High Sierra Crest. Mount Muir's 14,012-foot summit is a short Class 3 scramble above.
Just a short walk westward and down is an escape route, should either of us wish to take it—the Mount Whitney Trail. Also westward is the expansive view of the incomparable interior Sierra, countless white snowy peaks gleaming in the bright Southern California sunshine.
The Interior Sierra
We drop our backpacks and unstrap our skis, glance alternately east and west, option A, option B.
"Well," says Dave.
"Well," say I.
That fierce dropoff to our east reminds me of a climbing magazine photo: the crazed verticality is so extreme it challenges the mind to make sense of it.
But the snow looks inviting, even though I know it's all hanging over the southeast face's massive cliffs. And the sight of my skis seems to awaken a new emotion in me, one previously dormant but which now begins to rise:
You don't get many chances like this.
Life keeps our feet firmly rooted in the mundane most of the time. It is only on those rarest of occasions that we get even a chance to try to climb up and touch the sky. Do we dare take it? Of course we do. Dave and I both know we're going to ski this mountain, hanging snowfields, steps, and rock gardens be damned.
On the subject of ski descent details, there is no point in carrying skis to the summit, as there is only bare rock above us, and the south-aspect snow below is getting softer by the minute, so we agree we'll begin our descent right here, right now, from the top of Muir's shoulder. As for speeches and poignant thoughts, we'll save those for later. Now it's time to ski.