Trip Report
A Winter Traverse of the California section of the PCT Part 6
Saturday November 25, 2017 8:10pm
Feb 5th
I spent four days in Bishop regrouping and sitting out a major storm.

Independence
Independence
Credit: Jay S

I give Herm back his la sportiva’s that I borrowed. He offers to let me have them, I consider it thinking I could throw them away in a bear proof trash can at the Onion Valley trailhead. It comes down to the fact that I don’t want to carry my ski boots. I pull on my Scarpa T4’s and Herm drops me off on 395. I walk a short distance to the edge of town and catch a ride to Independence.
I walk a mile towards Onion Valley and a kind soul takes me to snowline which is the housing development at Seven Pines. Grateful I put on skis for the long ski up the road. It is another nice day.

One of the greatest things about this trip is always watching the sun rise and move across the sky and finally set. Every day is stunningly beautiful at times. The climb up to the trail head takes the rest of the day. My pack is heavy again. I camp at the trailhead.
Looking down towards 395
Looking down towards 395
Credit: Jay S

Another brisk morning finds me skinning up towards Kearsarge Pass. It is deep and sticky. It takes a long time but the climb gets easier as the snow gets wind funked the higher I get. I timidly climb the last slope to the top of the pass.

Credit: Jay S

I try to do a big traverse but get funneled down to Bullfrog lake. It is early evening now. I climb up to a knob above Charlotte Lake for a camp to enjoy the last rays of sun.

Credit: Jay S



Feb 6th
What a beautiful day. Hot! I had good skinning all the way to the top of Glen Pass. The other side was a different story. A funky wind slab powder that had slid out in places. I carefully pick my way down to Rae Lakes and have a big drink. The drainage lower has had some big slides come down during the last storm. The debris comes all the way to the bottom of the drainage. Glad I was in Bishop for the storm.
Tricky skiing through tight timber leads to a camp on Woods Creek near the suspension bridge

Looking south from Glen Pass
Looking south from Glen Pass
Credit: Jay S
Mount Clarence King
Mount Clarence King
Credit: Jay S
Rae Lakes
Rae Lakes
Credit: Jay S
Looking back at Glen Pass
Looking back at Glen Pass
Credit: Jay S
Credit: Jay S
Credit: Jay S
Credit: Jay S


Feb 7th

Spending the night at the top of Pinchot Pass. What a day again. Crossed some severe avalanche terrain today. Two avalanches have crossed my route. The snow was perfect for travel today. The sun warmed it enough to get a good grip with just my fish scales. The wind kept it cool enough to keep it from getting gloppy. I put on skins for the last climb to the pass then tried to kick steps but the snow is still a little loose for that. Arrived at sunset and didn’t want to descend the other side in the dark.

Credit: Jay S
Pinchot Pass from the south
Pinchot Pass from the south
Credit: Jay S
Pinchot Pass Camp
Pinchot Pass Camp
Credit: Jay S


Feb 8th
So last night on Pinchot Pass 12,130 feet was a mistake! The wind howled incessantly all night and I mean incessantly. I was worried about the tent failing. At one point I thought about building a wall but didn’t want to waste the energy at 4 o’clock in the morning. The sun hit me early and it got toasty in the tent. It is a good drop to the South fork of the Kings River then the snow got funky in the trees. The meadows above were better. Warm at times and I got into a base layer until Upper Basin. The left side of Mather Pass had avalanched out recently. I skinned up the right side mainly to stay of the hard slide bed. The slope was in the shade and was starting to freeze back up so I felt good about it. The drop down the other side was a hard wind slab that was fast. Down lower I got a few turns in good snow to a camp between the Palisade lakes. The Golden staircase tomorrow

South side of Mather Pass
South side of Mather Pass
Credit: Jay S
Upper Basin
Upper Basin
Credit: Jay S
Palisades
Palisades
Credit: Jay S
Credit: Jay S
Feb 9th
The skiing down to Deer Meadow was rough. It was an icy breakable crust that sucked. To tell you how bad it was I fell down twice. I have only fell down one other time since I started skiing three weeks ago. The slopes to the south had avalanched and it was full of debris chunks that had to be navigated.
I follow the trail up past the Leconte Ranger Station to an amazing little knob where I camp. It is a fantastic setting and I watch the peaks as the suns rays put on a dramatic show

Looking down Palisade Creek
Looking down Palisade Creek
Credit: Jay S
Credit: Jay S
Bridge over Dusy Branch
Bridge over Dusy Branch
Credit: Jay S
Credit: Jay S
Feb 10th
It is a hot day and I make it to the top of Muir Pass without skins. It is deep on the other side and a long slog past Wanda Lake. I am a little cautious about skiing across lakes after swimming in one in the Wind River Range years ago. My skis are still in the bottom of that lake.
The slope down gets steeper above Sapphire Lake and I am able to pick up some speed to carry me across the flats towards Evolution Lake. I camp on the flats past Evolution Lake.
Credit: Jay S
Black Giant and Muir Pass
Black Giant and Muir Pass
Credit: Jay S
Darwin Group
Darwin Group
Credit: Jay S

In the morning it is another tricky descent into Colby Meadow. The snow is really firm. I point my skis downhill enough to move but not so much to go racing out of control. I cross Evolution Creek on a snow bridge and follow the trail down to the San Joaquin with just enough snow to ski it. The warm days have taken a toll on the snow so I have to walk in a couple of spots after crossing Piute Creek. Water is flowing everywhere and I bivy on a flat spot.
Piute Creek Bridge
Piute Creek Bridge
Credit: Jay S

The climb up Senger Creek has enough snow to ski and I make it to Selden Pass shortly. The north side has a few good powder turns between wind slabs. The drop into Bear Creek is kind of fun. I get on some big boulders that are pillowed drops. I get a renewed appreciation for the Telemark turn as it allows you to power through the crud. I camp a mile further at the Lake Italy junction.
Marie Lakes from Selden Pass
Marie Lakes from Selden Pass
Credit: Jay S
Credit: Jay S

Feb 13th
I have multiple cups of coffee waiting for it to warm up. It is only 13 degrees but feels cold. The skiing up Volcanic Knob is good. I follow the trail seeing occasional blazes. The drop into Mono Creek is a mess. The undisturbed snow is ok but where the trees have dropped their loads off there are clumps of ice on old powder. Tricky

Credit: Jay S
There is plenty of snow to ski up Mono creek and I follow the trail as it is obvious where it is. I have good conditions to Pocket Meadow then the nasty little hill above is another mess of steep and unconsolidated snow but I am able to skin the hole way up. I camp in the flat spot above at 4:30pm.

Feb 14th I have it up to 61 degrees in the tent this morning by burning the stove. I count my used food pouches and come up with ten. The last ten days have been spring like. Every day I have been in a base layer at some point in the day. Incredible for February
Clouds come in as I ski up to Silver Pass. I take the real pass instead of climbing higher like the trail does. I am now able to cut switchbacks without the guilt of being an erosion creator. The drop down to Fish Creek is good!
I find the bridge and see a note left from Sept 28th. I am sure it is garbage but I leave it taped to the bridge anyway. The climb up to Virginia Lake is steep and hard. I zigzag up being cautious about slipping backwards. The ski over to Purple Lake is good. I climb the hill for the traverse to Duck Creek. Last time I skied this I came in to low. I make sure to climb high enough and have a perfect route following blazes from the actual trail at times. I see ski tracks at Duck Creek that drop into the Fish Creek. One more traverse through open terrain demands attention then I get to the next gentle traverse an I camp again as darkness creeps close.

The morning is cold and it is a quick ski to the Red Cones. I cover several miles in a short time. I pass through the wind event that happened a few years ago. Everything is leveled. I find the pay phone but it isn’t working. I decide to come out at Minaret Summit as it is still early in the day. I ski around the edge of Sotcher Lake keeping close to the shore but there are snowmobile tracks across it.
Credit: Jay S

Credit: Jay S
I climb up to Minaret Summit and am in Mammoth Lakes by 3pm. I check into the Motel 6 and have a nice dinner next door.
There is another storm coming so I leave Mammoth the next day. I am hoping to get over Donohue Pass before it hits but it is not in the cards I have been dealt.

  Trip Report Views: 1,374
Jay S
About the Author
Jay S is a mountain climber from Silver Gate, MT


Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
Rock Eagle

Trad climber
Central Coast
  Nov 25, 2017 - 09:35pm PT
I have been waiting for the next installment. Great pictures, thanks for writing this trip report.
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Nov 25, 2017 - 09:53pm PT
Wow . . . Sierra beta at it's finest.

Way to get after it!
crankster

Trad climber
No. Tahoe
  Nov 25, 2017 - 10:13pm PT
Epic. We'll done.
Inner City

Trad climber
Portland, OR
  Nov 26, 2017 - 07:00am PT
What a great series of reports. The very essence of adventure is so evident here. I am amazed thinking about the solitude you must have experienced. Your confidence and level of commitment are so impressive..

Wow..
herm

Trad climber
Bishop
  Nov 26, 2017 - 09:56am PT


Seriously, I did not want the shoes back.
mtnyoung

Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
  Nov 26, 2017 - 03:00pm PT
Alright, alright, you lost me with the second of these two sentences:

"I have multiple cups of coffee waiting for it to warm up. It is only 13 degrees but feels cold."

I suspect that that is not a typo. Sorry, I was born and raised in California. No matter what, it IS cold when it's 13 degrees.

End of mini-rant. Carry on ;)
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Nov 26, 2017 - 03:32pm PT
Looking forward to your next installment featuring an epic storm tale!
Thanks 👏
onyourleft

climber
So Oregon
  Nov 26, 2017 - 07:47pm PT
Love these installments,
keep em coming, please!
John M

climber
  Nov 26, 2017 - 07:51pm PT
Yep.. enjoying this.
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Nov 26, 2017 - 08:40pm PT
it IS cold when it's 13 degrees

13 degrees F is not that bad for cold. Realistically cold begins at zero degrees F and below.

Nevertheless, Jay S has shared a priceless glimpse into his journey.

Is there really another installment?
Dapper Dan

Trad climber
Redwood City
  Nov 26, 2017 - 08:39pm PT
superb write up. You should add links to the previous installments, so lazy people like me can find them...
Jay S

Mountain climber
Silver Gate, Mt
Author's Reply  Nov 26, 2017 - 09:11pm PT
Thanks everybody for the comments.

There will be multiple installments as I am a little over halfway on this journey at the end of section 6.

The easiest way to find the other reports is to click on my name and click on trip reports.

Jay
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
  Nov 26, 2017 - 11:37pm PT
hey there, say, Jay S... say, this is WONDERFUL!! THANK you so much
for taking the time to put it up... wow!!

hee hee, COLD stuff, too, :)

thanks again... saw it last night, but i been
VERYYYYYYYYYY tired, lately, :))

computer-type tired, :)
hellroaring

Trad climber
San Francisco
  Nov 30, 2017 - 07:03pm PT
Bump...hope Silver Gate is treating you good. Have the Beartooths seen much snow yet? Look forward to the other installments.
Jay S

Mountain climber
Silver Gate, Mt
Author's Reply  Nov 30, 2017 - 08:34pm PT
Had good snow early then a big meltdown over thanksgiving. It felt like spring last week. What snow that was left froze up hard then we got a couple of inches to freshen it up. Need some more snow. It was one above zero when I went for my morning tour this morning.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Dec 3, 2017 - 11:07am PT
These reports are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing and for taking the time and effort to post up and post photos. I have traveled much of that terrain in the summer. The enormity of the place and the solitude comes through fantastically in your writing.

Keep the reports coming! Be strong out there. Be smart out there.


Scott
Rill

Mountain climber
Ireland
  Dec 6, 2017 - 09:36am PT
A great journey. Love following it and look forward to the next one everytime...
johntp

Trad climber
socal
  Dec 6, 2017 - 11:44am PT
Just fantastic! TFPU!

Can you provide a little info on your tent? I'm not familiar with it; it looks really efficient.
Jay S

Mountain climber
Silver Gate, Mt
Author's Reply  Dec 6, 2017 - 12:14pm PT
The Tent I used (from Mojave to Ebbets Pass) is a Brooks Range Invasion.

The Invasion worked well on windy ridges. On cold clear nights it would ice up. I really like the covered door opening that allows the door to be open most of the time, even in a storm.

I used two other tents on this trip as well. My gear changed with conditions and was one of the major challenges on a trip of this duration.
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Dec 6, 2017 - 11:45pm PT
This is the stuff of dreams! Glad to see you out there making it happen, and even gladder you are sharing it with us.
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