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Taking a Page from the Master: Pine Creek Pass

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Taking a Page from the Master: Pine Creek Pass

Postby MooseTracks » Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:48 pm

You know that when the Brew Master of Indian Wells shows up at your doorstep with a cooler and mixed case that the weekend is just going to rock.

Rick e-mailed me early last week wondering if I had any plans for the weekend: he had a new 3 1/2 season tent he wanted to test drive, as well as a four-day weekend for Veterans' Day. While I couldn't take another day off, I was more than happy to head up somewhere for Saturday night and possibly bag some peaks a little further in than usual. I had been hoping to climb Royce and Merriam Peaks, high above French Canyon, as a day hike this summer, but ran out of weekends. So I suggested a jaunt up to Pine Creek Pass, to which Rick was happy to oblige, not having climbed much in this area.

Robin's egg skies roofed striped rideglines as we ascended Pine Creek Canyon Saturday morning. Rick set a lovely pace up the old mining trail etched into the southern walls of the canyon to the Brownstone Mines , overlooking a cascading Pine Creek. The bit of snow on the trail was easily avoided by hopping on the bordering rocks, although occasionally the walk was obscured by thicker sheets of ice . We stopped for a break 2000 feet up, and I realized I had made a horrible rookie error: I left all of my day's food on my kitchen table. Somehow, Sunday's snacks and breakfast had made it into the pack, as well as the usual treat, but nothing else. Turned out Rick had plenty, and had brought a huge tupperware of taco casserole for dinner, so I just rationed off what I had and forced my body to munch on the 'energy' stored in my butt and thighs. The views to the southwest from Pine Lake were spectacular, as we gazed up to the ridge separating us from Royce Lakes and the peaks. We ambled up the trail through increasing snow cover and came upon the marker for 10K. Week 29, check.

We hiked along past Upper Pine Lake through increasing snow cover to the junction just above Honeymoon Lake, where we pulled over for lunch . Because of the food sitch, I decided to heat up today's treat right then and there: butternut squash and citrus soup. The first wave of the weekend's weather careened overhead, high dark clouds blowing through but nary a flake of moisture. Saddling up again, we got our bearing and trudged onward, across mushroom-snow rocks in the southern branches of Pine Creek and over the shoulders of ridges as we beelined for the Pass. We traded off trail-break duties , finding plenty of mid-shin-deep powder which slowed our progress a bit, both of us in agreement that snowshoes would not have helped in the unconsolidated snow. Finally, around 1530, we decided to call it a day and found a sheltered break behind some pines for camp . We were not more than 1/4 mile from Pine Creek Pass as darker, more menacing clouds crept in from the SW. Just as we finished setting everything up, the snow and wind started to buffet the walls of the tent, so we dragged packs into one of the vestibules, and hunkered down. As the light faded, each ridge to the north was swallowed by the storm.

I cooked us dinner in my vestibule, heating up a delicious taco casserole that Rick's mom had made and we poured over Fritos . A light mist of snow would occasionally blow under the fringe, but we were completely toasty in that tent as we listened to the gusts. The wind died somewhere around midnight, but I could still hear the light brush of snow falling on the fly. Morning brought a pale light on a new landscape, our trudge marks swept clean by a foot of snow. Clouds still obscured the ridgetops, and it was still snowing, so we knew that we had reached our high end. Rick had also awakened not feeling well, so pushing onward would have just been miserable. I had really wanted to see the view from the Pass, but it would have to wait. We munched down breakfast, loaded up , and started our descent. Champagne powder gave way with each step, where I sank knee to thigh- deep . I mean, if you're going to go play in the snow, you really should bring along your own snow plow... Rick tried to break trail for a bit, but was exhausted from whatever bug had hit him, so I played guide and took us straight down the South Fork of Pine Creek drainage to Upper Pine Lake . The winter quiet of the air enveloped us both, the trees heavy with new snow, the only sound being the whoosh of footsteps as I sprayed powder from my path. Spindrift soared from the ridgelines, and remnants of the storm pulsed from one peak to the next as the sun valiantly attempted to push them away.

The snow lessened to ankle deep below the lakes, but essentially lasted the entire descent. The ice patches on the lower trail were a bit more treacherous, making us each think that crampons for just those few 50 foot sections would have been nice. It was quiet in the pines and aspen of the trail near the end, with even the tumbling Pine Creek muffled by the snow. Just another beautiful weekend in the heights.

A couple of quotes from Rick:

"I thought I was in shape, but you plowed through the snow like a Clydesdale!"

"Do you want a bedtime story? OK: a double murder/suicide or how I became the resident occult expert for the RCPD?"

Thanks, Rick, for a great weekend; and thanks, Jen, for letting me borrow him!

A few moments from the weekend:

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Rest of the pics are here .

From the luckiest girl in the world: Climb Hard, Be Safe.

-L :cool:
"Why do I climb? Quite simply because the mountains and I had to meet." - Colette Richard

http://www.flickr.com/photos/moosepics621



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MooseTracks
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Re: Taking a Page from the Master: Pine Creek Pass

Postby quentinc » Mon Nov 10, 2008 7:35 pm

The Sierra is always so beautiful in the snow. Of course, I'm not the one who had to plow through it. :)
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Re: Taking a Page from the Master: Pine Creek Pass

Postby mokelumnekid » Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:33 pm

Wonderful pics and write-up, thanks. Sigh. The Pacific northwest (where I live) has its charms, but nothing beats the eastern Sierra. Nothing. To think that *some lucky* people can just go there any time and not have to drive 18 hours.... :crybaby:
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Re: Taking a Page from the Master: Pine Creek Pass

Postby Shawn » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:28 pm

Great TR and photos!
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Re: Taking a Page from the Master: Pine Creek Pass

Postby Sierra Maclure » Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:58 pm

It's great to see that area with snow. Thanks for all the work to get them. Great trip report!
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Re: Taking a Page from the Master: Pine Creek Pass

Postby Trailtrekker06 » Sat Nov 15, 2008 12:17 pm

=D>

great stuff. Thanks for posting!
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Re: Taking a Page from the Master: Pine Creek Pass

Postby Skibum » Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:25 pm

Great TR as usuall! :thumbsup:
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