Rock Creek Area, California

May 26, 2011 at 20:56 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I visited the Rock Creek drainage on the eastern Sierra and found myself eating breakfast at dawn at the skin trailhead. We had driven down at night from Tahoe and crashed at Tom’s place there at the junction with 395. Under the cold light of a waxing moon, we lay our bags down on the one snow free spot and tried to crash out for the few hours to dawn. My fingers were frosted by the time I had gotten breakfast from the car at the trailhead next morning. Simple Muesli snack and some tea and we were off. The powder was cold enough  to be sticky, cold, and grippy. We had no glide therefore tromping up canyon was more the style. Aaron made the most of his time off and broke a great set of lines uphill to the farthest, deepest part of the basin. And then the clouds backed in from Nevada on what had been a flawless high pressure morning. As none had slept much due to the cold and the bear we were at the base of the spire well before noon. And the clouds that had marched in preserved our last taste of winter’s cold delight. We skiied from the base of the couloir which ends partway to the summit in a cliff. In the murk we stopped here and proceeded into the clouds no further. Though it would have been sweet, we switched over to downhill mode and negotiated the  rolling, deep powder fields through a couple white out drops with no sense of horizon or the terrain immediately ahead. Best close your eyes even if there are no rocks. We ate lunch on a rock with a dead bird for company, dead from the deep freeze and storm which had laid down about a foot of snow in the High Sierra. That bear must have been cold too, bold as it was to come right into Mark’s truck bed with the three of us bivied right at the tailgate! I was so deep in my bag that the whole of the experience is auditory. The shuffling of bedding, the cry of alarm, “hey get the hell outta here!,”  the subsequent scurrying sounds, and the rapid running departure of something big. Mark sighing and turning back to bagtime, me just easing off into cold-maintenance, light sleep until we crawl out before dawn, head for the heated privy!, and drive west, into the Sierra’s Rock Creek Canyon.

Rock Creek Canyon is an iconic Sierra high mountain Valley. Spread amply between two high, lengthy  mountain ridges, the basin holds numerous drainages and lake systems. There are rounded and cliffy hills in the basin and many routes to either ridge line. The boys had decided on a straight to Bear Creek Spire march with a bowl bounce to the north and east on the way back out of the basin. It all sounded good to me, and at that moment when all I had to do was start skiing from that parking lot, all the repacking was behind us and we could be free for the day to pursue traveling the mountains on skis. When we had approached the spire in the morning, to the north hidden behind a forepeak, we had seen the top of a bold couloir line and this had my attention for our bowl bounce out. So after wrapping up lunch, during which we saw the sun return, we were off to the north making a high traverse line to the east and then back toward the summit basin of Mount Dade and the Cat’s Ears Couloirs. Doggedly in the thin air I followed the Tahoe lungs and managed to break a bit of trail to a saddle. Aaron finished the deep trail breaking up the northern gentler 35 degree couloir where we had the fortune to sit on the Sierra Crest and look west over the sea of backcountry peaks, basins and alpine terrain. With an incredible descent in late afternoon sunshine we skied back to the lakes basin following a wide open northeast facing powder bowl. The shuss down and out the canyon to the trailhead was inspiring as we flew down effortlessly staring around while the peaks and ridges arched by overhead, and the lakes and creek bottoms rolled by under the effortless feet, stand up sledding is how I like to think of these long outbound tours. Photos to follow from the whole week of skiing the Sierra….

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