Skiing Muir's East Buttress — Page 8

The Interior Sierra from Mount Muir's Summit

Muir's Summit

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.

Mt. Muir's Summit David Braun Andy Lewicky Looking Down the Upper Balcony

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 the east reminds me of a climbing magazine photo: verticality so extreme it challenges my brain 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:

Anticipation. Excitement...

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.

next: The Upper Balcony

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.