|Carl and Glen on the effortless, yet unrelenting, climb from Minaret Vista|
Adventure is where you find it, spring has sprung, and skiing is more than snow; a trip this past weekend connecting Mammoth and June via the ultra classic San Joaquin ridge proved all these maxims.
Carl has been telemark skiing since the year I was born. Glenn recently launched two young adult offspring and is returning to beloved mountains, this time on skis. I had “lost touch” with Sierra corn skiing.
The Eastern Sierra is a unique place. Our huge north to south mountain range and parallel Owens Valley combine to funnel migrating birds. Standing high on the San Joaquin ridge, the dark and snow-striped Ritter range to our left and the Great Basin to the right, pelicans flying overhead seemed strangely out of place, but not at all surprising.
High Sierra traverses bring a comfortable and familiar rhythm: Skin some with the pack, drop camp, ski a bowl, eat good food (steak is rare, if not “rare”) sleep, repeat.
Wake to beautiful views, scramble some ridgeline, make more turns. Repeat. That corn skiing, how can we describe it? Velvety, creamy, smooth, “hero snow”. All are cliche, all are true. My own spring schedules the last few years have taken me from Sierra corn. I’m back, and won’t turn back!
The Mammoth to June tour is a “Trans-Sierra-Style” tour without the huge car-shuttle hassle. The skiing is mellow, the terrain stunning. Packs can be light and the mountains traversed represent a wide range of biomes. On a Trans-Sierra one will go from Great Basin Desert to High Alpine to Westside Sequoias.
On the Mammoth to June tour, especially this dry season, the variety of biomes was clear. We started in Mammoth’s deep inter-mountain snowpack, climbed to high and windswept alpine and descended to June Lake’s continental and drying montane conifer forests. Walking downhill in ski boots is inevitably painful, physically and psychologically. Each pounding step over dry trail is a missed turn and a tactile reminder that this foray to the mountains is ending. Skiing to the car, on the other hand, is trickery: one is fooled and distracted by the fun of making turns. “Oh, this is so much fun. Oh, I love to ski. Uh oh, the trip is over”.
While it is a pleasant experience to delay the realities of not skiing, a walking return to the car does indeed dampen the blow of “re-entry”. Re-enter well, Carl and Glenn, and come back soon. Everyone else, get some!