I met Tyler at the general store in Toms Place, CA. We moved his gear into the back of my truck and drove up Rock Creek canyon. After a few miles the road was blocked by snow about one to one and a half miles from the trailhead, so we geared up at the pack station. The skin up canyon was pretty mellow with only a few steep sections. The easier terrain afforded us the opportunity to talk and catch up. We stopped at Long Lake which was frozen solid and discussed our options. I had not told Tyler about my ski accident in February, I wanted to keep my head in the game and not voice my fears. I felt that if I talked about it I would in a way be making an excuse to bail or at the least cheat myself from overcoming the inhibition on my own. We talked about doing Hour Glass couloir but Tyler had done it before. To the lookers right of Hour Glass though was a sweet looking peak. I asked Tyler if it had a name – he said it was Treasure Peak and that he had not done it before. It was decided we were going to climb and ski it.
The climb up started mellow but got pretty steep. We were able to find a way through the exposed rock on the skiers right side but then the exposure and snow got the best of us and we booted it for a while. Back on lower angle softer snow we donned our skis again and continued up. At the next cliff band near the top we decided to boot pack our way to the summit. The guide book said the face was only 35° but the deeper snowpack had filled in many of the cliffs visible in the guidebook photo so we felt the face was easily 40° and possibly a few degrees steeper than that in spots.
Tyler is a mountain guide living in Mammoth at almost 9,000′. I am a gravel cyclist living in San Diego at 190′. Consequently around 11,000′ I really started slowing down. Thankfully Tyler cut a nice skin and boot track to the summit for me. Thanks Tyler 😀
In under five hours we had skied from the truck to the summit of Treasure Peak 12,800′ (Technically speaking the true summit is 12,975′ and is accessed via a very exposed ridge line. It is not possible to ski from the true summit. Personally I would not want to navigate the ridge line wearing ski boots and so we were more than happy to top out on the skiers “summit” of the Treasure Peak).
After soaking in the views we skied from the summit. At the first steep section though we were forced to boot pack due to a wet point slide avalanche that was triggered on our descent. The avalanche cut 8-10 inches of snow off of the top and went down the length of the entire east face of Treasure Peak. Apparently the snow pack in spots was not yet consolidated after the last storm a few weeks prior had dumped up to 20 inches of fresh snow. Thankfully the point slide broke below Tyler (and I was above him). It did put a damper on our skiing fun though as we transitioned into “get down safely anyway you can” mode (read: booting it down the steep parts through the rocks where the snow was better anchored). The snowpack had been much more stable on the way up but the changing sun angles, increasing wind, and atmospheric warmth had changed the character of the snow more than we had expected. The 0830 start probably did not help much either…
We did get about 15-20 turns in though in the middle of the face where we were able to stay off to the side on more stable snow. Down lower though we had to boot it a little more before switching to back to skis the rest of the way down.
I will spare you the boring details of ski back to the truck. Suffice it to say there was a lot of donning and removing skins interspersed with hiking more times than I can count. I got a nice blister on my heel and my knee was killing me by the time we made it to the truck. It was an epic egress out of the mountains.
That night Tyler and his wife cooked up a delicious chicken, rice, and salad dinner with a few glasses of whiskey to wash it all down. There was not any leftovers. We all headed to bed early but I had trouble falling asleep. I could not stop thinking about the day I spent in the mountains confronting and overcoming my fears.
Now I know what you are probably thinking that is not this blog a fishing blog? So why is he talking so much about skiing and nothing about fishing? Well in my defense both Tyler and I brought our fishing rods with us on the ski trip. We did not end up using them though because the water was frozen up high. By the time we got lower in elevation we just wanted to get home. So the day after the ski trip I said goodbye to Mammoth and headed south. I fished the Owens River above Lake Crowley for about 90 minutes or so. I saw a few fish rising but did not catch a single one. It was okay though as the spot affords amazing views of the High Sierra & the White Mountains.
I would have stayed a lot longer but I had something better to do. I was meeting an old friend from Japan and we were going to spend the next three days camping and fishing the High Sierra together. I was very excited and could not wait to see him again!