A Short Ski Tour Above Lake Sabrina- Trip Report

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.
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Harlen
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A Short Ski Tour Above Lake Sabrina- Trip Report

Post by Harlen » Thu Mar 05, 2020 7:12 pm

Trip Dates: February 25-27

Grateful for the news from WD that snow had actually fallen again in the southern Sierra, I gathered my new skis, and my old dog, and raced around to the Eastside on February the 24th.  I chose to ski into the basins above Lake Sabrina because I have only been up there once before.  Though it had snowed  4-6" at 10,000' between 2/21 and 2/23, I expected to find the same hard-packed surface as on my January trip, with perhaps a nice new layer of softer crust over it.  I got what I expected for the first few miles along the road, and on the west-facing slopes above Lake Sabrina, but then I was surprised to find deep, soft snow on all of the north and east slopes from there on.  We used some old snowshoe tracks along the summer trail, and were alright as long as we stuck to it, but any deviation put my skis beneath the surface, and Bearzy's legs down into bottomless granular snow.  He had to leap and swim through it, which was fun for awhile, but he was having to work very hard.  

The gate was closed at the top of Aspendell, and you can park along the road just before the gate.  I bet now you can ski from the gate to Lake Sabrina, but I had to walk the first bit to where the road branches off to North Lake.  From that point I skied the next couple miles, till the rocky summer trail began to show through.  I booted up the rock and hard snow trail, and then followed the snowshoe tracks till camp at 10,000'-- about a half-mile north of Blue Lake.  It was clear and windless and beautiful.  I'm sorry to say, we didn't get much farther than that.  This was the shortest trip on record, as softened snow on all of the northern and eastern aspects made it miserable for Bearzy, and I never want to make him suffer on these trips.  The next day we wallowed about for a few more miles, and decided to turn around before reaching even Dingleberry Lake.  I remembered the very appealing campsite, and views around the north end of Blue Lake-- which also had nearly a mile of firm, frozen lakeshore for ski touring and dog running.  So we swallowed our pride and returned to that lower paradise.  I had entertained big dreams of day touring up as far as Echo Lake and then climbing up Echo Col for views into upper Evolution Valley, and the Ionian Basin high country, so our effort fell woefully short again... this seems to be a pattern common to many of my recent trips, and I wonder if there is a dismal negative correlation between one's age and miles travelled?  Oh well.

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We spent our first night in the Alabama Hills, and so, got a pretty late start because Bearzy loves to mess around in those hills...


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climbing in the rocks, and 


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driving irresponsibly offroad!


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We got off to a great start, moving fast up the road above Aspendell.


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The snow was thin and hard above the lake, and everyone was booting up for the first 500.'

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3 miles and 1000' up, we camped in this rock garden, planted with mountain mahogany, sage, and pine.


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At sunrise on our second day we saw Mt Haeckel lit up; I had hoped to camp in view of that peak, or around Moonlight Lake. It was not to be.

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Soon the snow softened and deepened.

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When I stepped out of the skis to put on skins I sank thigh-deep!  Bear was wallowing out of his depth.

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We had passed this fantastic spot along Blue Lake in the early morning of our second day.

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The slope that defeated us is that easy-looking area in the middle left, below Mt. Darwin-- the flat-topped peak to the left.

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  Blue Lake was a very nice consolation prize.  We skied and ran all around!
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Last edited by Harlen on Mon Jun 01, 2020 8:54 am, edited 8 times in total.








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Harlen
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Re: A Short Ski Tour Above Lake Sabrina- Trip Report

Post by Harlen » Thu Mar 05, 2020 7:30 pm

PART 2
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  We had an open water source, and even some dry ground; it couldn't have been better for Bearzy after the trials of swimming in snow.

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Here's the gear for this trip:  Voile Objective skis, mounted with AT tech bindings-- Atomic backland tour.  Scarpa F1 AT boots;  Full skins; Aluminum crampons and helmet for the Echo Col we never reached;  B.D. Whippet tool and adjustable ski pole.  MSR liquid fuel stove and Zojirushi thermos-- both recommended to me by HST folks, and both worked very well.  Some of the other new gear needs fine tuning, additions or change- damn!

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On our third morning we arose early, packed for breakfast, and skied/ran over to the very best viewpoint at the east end of Blue Lake.  There you have a full 180º mountain view, and we really enjoyed the sunrise from there.

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From right to left: peak 13,198', peak 12,800' (due N. of Hell Diver Lakes), and Mount Darwin (13,800+'), and in the foreground a happy dog fetching his stick.

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right to left: Peak 12,800', Mt. Darwin, 2 unnamed peaks on Darwin's SE ridge, Mt Haeckel, peak 13,040, and Mt. Wallace.

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The big mountain on the right is peak ~11,800', then the sunlit small island peak, then long Thompson Ridge.

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A short ski onto Blue Lake gives this view of Mt. Emerson and Piute Crags to the north.  

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We scrambled upslope to the north above Blue Lake and got this view west.

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Thompson Ridge separates the south and middle forks of Bishop Creek.

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Back down on Blue Lake, we skied another lap around.

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Though we had to adjust our trip, limiting our miles, and losing out on our goal (*my goal, not Bearzy's), with such perfect weather, beauty, and solitude, we still had a wonderful time.
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Re: A Short Ski Tour Above Lake Sabrina- Trip Report

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Mar 06, 2020 8:11 am

Great to see snow conditions up there. Looks very pretty too. It is nice when there are enough dry places, like that photo of Bearzy on the sleeping pads. Other than the new snow it looks almost like spring conditions. What were the temperatures? I think my jaded view of winter backpacking is from doing it in Wyoming- temperatures between 0F and -50F. Perhaps I should re-think winter backpacking in the Sierra.

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Re: A Short Ski Tour Above Lake Sabrina- Trip Report

Post by gary c. » Fri Mar 06, 2020 9:09 am

Looks beautiful! Thanks for taking us along.
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Re: A Short Ski Tour Above Lake Sabrina- Trip Report

Post by Harlen » Fri Mar 06, 2020 1:18 pm

WD wrote:
Other than the new snow it looks almost like spring conditions. What were the temperatures? I think my jaded view of winter backpacking is from doing it in Wyoming- temperatures between 0F and -50F. Perhaps I should re-think winter backpacking in the Sierra.
Temperatures were spring-like indeed-- During the day I skied in a single shirt, sun hat, and no gloves. I only wore my heavy ski pants because that's all I had-- could've worn shorts. Probably 40's to low 50's in the day, high teens - low 20's at night. I think you should re-think it Nancy; your only problem will be breaking through the ice to do your weird bathing thing. :nod:
Last edited by Harlen on Mon Mar 16, 2020 10:37 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: A Short Ski Tour Above Lake Sabrina- Trip Report

Post by Harlen » Fri Mar 06, 2020 5:13 pm

I've been reading through the T.Meadows winter ranger's updates, and I found some information that helps explain our soft snow predicament:
Rob and Laura Pilewski wrote:
The cold and clear weather for most of January [and Feb.] has turned much of snowpack below tree line into a faceted, sugary consistency. This unconsolidated snow has proven difficult for the animals without wings or large padded feet. One of the local coyotes was recently seen struggling through Tuolumne Meadows. Its tracks told the story of its plight. It ambled about looking to gain purchase and cover some ground. But every time it would take a step, it would sink up to its belly. It even tried jumping but this only left craters in the snow and not much progress. When the snowpack is like this we are sure happy for the invention of skis and snowshoes!
So, even the coyotes were having trouble in this sort of snow. I told Bearzy about this, and now he feels better about himself.

Awhile back, torpified wrote:
I'm afraid I have yet another question about Bear: How does he manage not to posthole? Is he some sort of elf? Or does weighing less and distributing his weight across 4 paws make a huge difference to his threshold?
As you see above, it really is a good question. Hopefully for the coyotes sake, some of their prey is equally slowed down

p.s. bobby49, what about those doggie paw shoes you were going to invent?

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Re: A Short Ski Tour Above Lake Sabrina- Trip Report

Post by bobby49 » Fri Mar 06, 2020 6:04 pm

I can't even keep normal dog boots on the paws of my Border Collie.

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Re: A Short Ski Tour Above Lake Sabrina- Trip Report

Post by torpified » Fri Mar 06, 2020 8:01 pm

Even if he's not wholly elf, Bearzy is one lucky dog! Thanks for the report---and please keep gathering and communicating data on just how elven he is!

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Re: A Short Ski Tour Above Lake Sabrina- Trip Report

Post by Harlen » Tue Mar 10, 2020 10:27 pm

torpified wrote:
Even if he's not wholly elf, Bearzy is one lucky dog! Thanks for the report---and please keep gathering and communicating data on just how elven he is!
Okay, "Torpi,"[BTW, what does "torpified mean?]

So Bearzy has sharp, pointy Elfy ears, and he wears weird and colorful elfy outfits:
carl book 077.JPG


Like Elves, Bearzy loves the mountains...,
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and strange forests
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and he has unexpected, elf-like powers-- like his ability to drive a car:
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Question: why has no one given me $hit for letting Bearzy drive the car, which must be far more illegal than other things he has done?
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Re: A Short Ski Tour Above Lake Sabrina- Trip Report

Post by DAVELA » Wed Mar 11, 2020 9:31 pm

Nice trip report.I was there also on the 24-29.We just hiked a few spots:north lake,mcgee canyon,schulmann grove.
Didnt see much in way of bc skis at the gear xchange in bishop.Wish i could submit phone pics here but it says they are too large and im a luddite with these smart phones-and most tech.
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