With 2 days off and a decent looking weather report at the end of April, Hazen Woolson and Anthony Santos decided to head south on 395 for their first Eastern Sierra mission of the year. Upon arrival to Lee Vining locals were talking about the crews laboring to open Tioga Pass road, making 100-150 feet of progress per day, with snow depths of 20-50 feet over the road.
As we listened to them bombing the snowpack, we geared up and set out for V Bowl, with a loose goal of climbing Coke Chute to access the Dana Plateau, where a number of tasty couloirs could be found.
As we neared the top the wind picked up and the snow was wind-hammered and bulletproof – not the worst, but not fun to ski. We called it at that point, and started skiing right under the top of the chute.
After descending from V Bowl we reorganized our gear and headed for the Buttermilks outside Bishop, and met up with Timm Phillips for dinner and a campfire.
The long dirt walk wasn’t too bad, mostly following the road with a slight bushwhack to get to snow line. At that point we transitioned, and I learned a valuable lesson: keep your ski boots dry, at all costs! I stepped into a massive super-saturated mud pit with a few tufts of deceptive grass on top and sank up to my knees, filling my ski boots, liners, socks and pants with fine alluvial mud.
I took a very pleasant nap in the mid-day sunshine letting my gear dry while Timmy P and Anthony pushed on, looking to ski one of the Wahoo Gullies. Pesky weather began to move in with light but persistent rain showers and cloud cover. As winds picked up, I managed to make it close enough to the boys as they turned around before their goal and skied some glorious east-facing corn turns back down.
Any day spent skiing in these beautiful and powerful mountains is a success, and in that sense we succeeded. We also learned a few lessons along the way and gained some valuable insights for our next trip. We’ll be back.