Soon after I moved to Pasadena and joined the Alpine Club email list I received
an email from Amaury and Aaron, who were looking for partners to ski/hike
Whitney. Excited about mountains and west coast spring skiing, I had to say
yes! Thirty-something emails of introductions and planning behind us, we set of
on Friday evening for Whitney Portal.
The impetus for the trip was delivering Cody's (whoever that is) car to Whitney
to enable some through hiking. Amaury and I drove, really I drove, the Subaru
up to Lone Pine where we met Aaron, had dinner, picked up our permits and went
to sleep at the 8000ish feet of Whitney Portal.
Since Whitney is relatively tall, we decided it would be a good idea to
"acclimatize", which really meant we split up the 11 mile ascent into two
leisurely days. After packing our bags with about twenty extra pounds of who
knows what, we set off on the Whitney trail on our way to trail camp at 9am. At
something around 9000' the snow started and it was time to skin.
The snow was compact, but with the loads we were carrying skinning was
relatively slow. Being the first time I was able to skin in a t-shirt, I wasn't
complaining! We passed a few people on the way up, mostly with a similar
two-day ascent plan as us, ate lunch by a lake, scoped out possible descent
options and ended up at trail camp around 2:30pm.
Camp was erected, and dinner was made with still plenty of time to look up and
wish we were already skiing, but since we were "acclimatizing" we decided it
would be better to rest until tomorrow.
We all slept well at the 11500' of trail camp. Despite not having to break
anything down, as we would retrieve it on our way back, the train left camp at
8:30am, because "the snow would be best on the descent in early-mid afternoon"
(otherwise known as an alpine start). The ~1500' slope up to the ridge was
still pretty hard, and none of us had ski knives, so at about halfway up we
switched over to crampons and booted up to the ridge.
According to reports from fellow Whitney-goers, the traverse to the summit
wouldn't be very fun to ski, so we left our skis and headed the rest of the way
on foot. Since we had "acclimatized" the two mile traverse only took two and a
half hours, partially due to Amaury having to put his crampons back on about
three hundred and seventy eight times.
The summit was beautiful, calm, and by the time we had lunch and left it was
empty as well. The way back was a bit faster, and it was time to start skiing
at 3:30pm. Having "waited" for prime conditions the beautiful thirty degree
slope was only half icy, but since I got to go last I found a few turns in some
great soft stuff!
Once I returned from shopping at the local yard sale, we were able to pick up
camp, don our heavy packs once again, and ski as far down as we could toward
the trailhead. The skiing at this point was nice and soft and not as awkward as
I was expecting with the large packs.
We skied mostly on skier's right of the trail, where there were a few fun open
slopes, though the descent was a lot of traversing. It probably would have been
better to skin up here rather than up the trail in the woods. We skied a bit
too far right and had to back-track around Lone Pine lake a few hundred yards.
The final bit of the descent was fun, picking our way down the good snow in the
trees, but of course we went further down than where we started skinning, so I
had to hike back up a bit to get my stashed shoes.
Here we also finally met up with Li and Stephane, who we had been planning on
skiing with from the beginning, oops. We were back at the cars just in time to
get dinner at the local American-Chinese restaurant before heading home. I
can't wait to get back!