TR: SEKI backcountry skiing daytrip take II. FEB 2016 | High Sierra Topix  

TR: SEKI backcountry skiing daytrip take II. FEB 2016

Discussion about winter adventure sports in the Sierra Nevada mountains including but not limited to; winter backpacking and camping, mountaineering, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc.
User avatar

TR: SEKI backcountry skiing daytrip take II. FEB 2016

Postby Pulldownfrenzy » Wed Mar 30, 2016 3:48 pm

Another a simple pictorial report of a single-day of backcountry skiing, Alpine-Touring style, on a sunny day in February
February 8, 2016. From Wolverton TH to The Watchtower and back

Dominic D., Marc & Brenda B. - from Visalia

We departed home in Visalia 6:30 AM; destination Wolverton, Sequoia NP. No stops this time; we made it up to Wolverton parking at just about 8 o’clock in the morning. This trip we didn’t have the luxury of waiting for the perfect powder conditions so we headed up knowing that conditions may not be perfect but that we’d make the most of whatever we found.

We clipped in and started skinning up in relative warmth; temps being in the low-40s – much higher than our last trip exactly one month prior when temps were 20s and 30s (See TR: FINALLY a SEKI powder day! in the Winter Sports forum on this site). So the trade-off, as as is so often the case, was warmth for conditions. Today that certainly proved to be the case. The trail ascends from about 8,000 to about 9,000 ft. over about 2 miles with a gradient ranging from 6-15 % or an average of about 9-10%. The steepest part is over The Hump at the end.
20160122_164205.jpg
he'll be coming round the Sequoia when he comes!

We had beautiful sunny skies and light fluffy clouds as we skinned quietly through the silent forest. The trail, so full of deep powder just one month previously, alternated between icy, cruddy, and hard packed, to heavily tracked out. We could feel the ridges created by the snowshoes and crisscrossing ski tracks underneath our skis as we sloughed forward. The one advantage of this was that, when the skin-track was clear, we could schuss along pretty quickly on the surface of the snow and make good time with relatively little effort. Most of the time, it didn’t make any sense to avoid the trail as the snow on both sides was hard-crusted and still relatively deep. Often the trail cuts through fairly deeply with mounds of snow blanketed earth, underbrush, and trees on each side.
sequoia-backcountry-skiing-7-900x600.jpg
the author in the eye of the needle
sequoia-backcountry-skiing-5-900x600.jpg
Marc samples a small glade of fresh


That didn’t faze us and we enjoyed the alpine scenery. We had no real destination – our only plan was to follow the trail to Pear Lake until we got tired or it got too late then turn back and ski out. Our hope was to minimize the amount of boot-packing and hiking necessary and maximize ski-out. Alpine touring pleasure was the name of the game. I had done the trip from the top of the ridge above Heather Lake all the way to the car before, so I knew it was possible. We just didn’t know if the snow conditions and our energy level would allow it. Brenda was recovering from a bad cold so we had been taking it pretty easy up until now. The terrain was fairly undulating so we had legitimate concerns about being able to ski all the way to the car. The trail ascends for the first four miles along a steep ridge overlooking deep valleys on either side. The views were beautiful but there were too many pines all around us blocking the views to be truly spectacular. However, moving slowly between tall evergreens has a certain appeal. This time I had skis instead of snowshoes with my alpine skis on my back so I already had the advantage.

We reached The Hump about 9 or 9:30 AM. Looking up from the bottom, it was as steep as I had remembered it 12 years earlier when I was last there. The snow was deep thick crust showing the tracks and figure 8 marks of some lucky skiers and boarders who had descended in thigh-deep powder during or right after the last snow event. We started our way up, breaking our way through a thin crust that only slightly slowed our progress. I worked ambitiously, cutting the steepest angle I was able while still making headway. I enjoy the challenge of trying to cut it as close as possible to the vertical on steep terrain before having to execute a kick-turn and head in the opposite direction. As you approach the top half of The Hump, you have to do quite a few of these as it steepens up considerably. At times the thickness of the crust made the decision for you when to turn as it was easier to follow previous tracks than break a new trail. We made it without incident as the day began to grow warmer and warmer. By this point the mercury had tipped well over 50 degrees. A warm day indeed!
sequoia-backcountry-skiing-Marc B..jpg
skinning up The Hump

We stopped for lunch around 11 AM and availed ourselves to excellent rations, share and share alike back and forth like true backcountry friends. We sunned ourselves and generally enjoyed the hushed sounds of the forest before clipping back in and starting back up. The sun was reaching its apex when we got to the top of The Watchtower – 9,973 feet. The views from the top of the steep cliffs was breathtaking and encompassed a wide swath of the Tokopah Valley backcountry from Lodgepole at the extreme West, all the way to Alta Peak far to the East; not to mention the waves of trees dropping down behind us. Having taken it all in we decided, all things considered, to just turn back and enjoy the turns to the car and get home early.
sequoia-backcountry-skiing-8-900x600.jpg
Just taking it all in: The whole Tokopah Valley spread out before us.

We enjoyed some very fun downhill riding along the ridgeline down from The Watchtower. One has to be very careful not to wander too far to either side of the ridge; when you’re seeking fresh turns you tend to fall to one side or the other of the actual trail and it is easy – especially if you are an experienced skier – to simply drop steeply off the ridge to the North and end up in Lodgepole. We were conscientious, however, and managed not only to stay on the correct trajectory but also – with some scant exceptions – to ski the whole trail without having once to remove our skis. There were a few slowdowns requiring 50 or 100 yards of pole-punting and herring-boning and even one very short section that had to be side-stepped. The snow was surprisingly yielding, the afternoon sun contributing a lot to soften it from crud to corn. Although we still crunched through a few spots of crust, the trail felt more like packed powder than crud for most of the descent.
sequoia-backcountry-skiing-11-900x600.jpg
winding our way down from The Watchtower

sequoia-backcountry-skiing-10-900x600.jpg
turns

sequoia-backcountry-skiing-12-900x600.jpg
Hold up!

sequoia-backcountry-skiing-13-900x600.jpg
catching air going over The Hump

Each of us tried our best to keep our speed up to avoid having to pole-punch many of the little hills along the way and surprisingly we were moving along pretty well by the time we were approaching the TH. The trail has a quick cut left (South) as you descend along the Lake Trail. Although I was watching for it (or so I thought), I managed to miss it entirely and was far enough ahead of the others that I didn’t hear their loud cries to stop. Thus I was a half mile down the trail before I realized that I missed it. I stood there thinking for a while whether to break out my skins and head back up the trail before I saw Marc heading toward me. He laughed as he explained to me what I had done (I already knew) and told me that Brenda was going to grab the car and we could simply drop off the ridge to the North and she would meet up with us at Lodgepole.
This descent off the N. ridge from Woverton to Lodgepole wasn’t near the powdery excellence we had experienced on our multitudinous shuttling descents a month prior, but it was still great to ski a section that we hadn’t had to ascend first and it was still quite skiable. At the road we pulled up sharply on the edge of the bank of snow that made up the plowed road edge and dropped off into a small depression next to the roadway. Brenda turned up 10 minutes later and that was that. We got home by 4 PM after a beautiful sunny day in the Sequoias.
:) -Dominic D.



User avatar
Pulldownfrenzy
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2015 11:19 am
Location: Visalia, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: SEKI backcountry skiing daytrip take II. FEB 2016

Postby balance » Thu Mar 31, 2016 1:26 am

Greetings again Pulldownfrenzy

Thanks for another fine trip report. Some people know how to live.

Matter of fact, I trudged up the Hump and snow-shoed solo to the Watchtower on December 30, about 20 years ago. It snowed a bit that trip, but the blazes on the trees make navigation fairly easy. Then after camping two days, I trudged back down to Wolverton. Kind of like what you guys did, only different.

I was wearing Vasque Sundowners, gooped up with Snow Seal. Sort of like your warm, waterproof and cozy Scarpa AT boots, only different.

Just like you guys, I tried to maintain a good velocity coming downhill--somewhere up around 1/2 a mile an hour. Yep, snow shoeing is a lot like Alpine Touring. Only different.
User avatar
balance
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 166
Joined: Sun May 04, 2014 12:26 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: SEKI backcountry skiing daytrip take II. FEB 2016

Postby Pulldownfrenzy » Thu Mar 31, 2016 7:57 am

Just like you guys, I tried to maintain a good velocity coming downhill--somewhere up around 1/2 a mile an hour. Yep, snow shoeing is a lot like Alpine Touring. Only different.[/quote]


Hahah - I know exactly what you mean :) To each his own. Good exercise though!
User avatar
Pulldownfrenzy
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2015 11:19 am
Location: Visalia, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: SEKI backcountry skiing daytrip take II. FEB 2016

Postby limpingcrab » Thu Mar 31, 2016 2:32 pm

Oh, this was the one I missed. Bummer, sunny days are the best.

Thanks for sharing again!
User avatar
limpingcrab
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 158
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2012 8:38 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: SEKI backcountry skiing daytrip take II. FEB 2016

Postby Pulldownfrenzy » Fri Apr 01, 2016 3:51 pm

limpingcrab wrote:Oh, this was the one I missed. Bummer, sunny days are the best.

Thanks for sharing again!


third best Daniel:

1st: Sunny days in deep powder
2nd: Powder days in flat light or really cold or snowing
3rd: Sunny days in hard snow.
User avatar
Pulldownfrenzy
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2015 11:19 am
Location: Visalia, CA
Experience: N/A


Return to Winter Sports



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests