Cloudripper 2010

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Template:TripReportInfoBox PT, Nick and Patrick climbed Cloudripper (13525 ft/4122 m) in the Inconsolable Range of the Sierra Nevada via the East Ridge in a 2.5 day trek over Black Lake (beginning along the North Fork of Big Pine Creek). Conditions ranged from gorgeous to mesmerizing. The snow conditions ranged from soft, deep powder (north facing slopes in trees) to freeze-melt crusty styrofoam (snowshoes sank roughly to shin deep at most) to bare/no coverage in sun exposed areas. Nick on his skis got some good turns on the north facing ridges between Lakes 6-7 and Black Lake, but the conditions are generally not ready for skiing yet, and much switching between skins and walking was encountered.

In the words of Uncle Scrooge, this trip was a complete Duckblur. {{#widget:Picasa |user=112823792180964152710 |album=5550087421526277665 |width=600 |height=400 |captions=1 |autoplay=1 }}

Day 1

We dropped our gear at Glacier Lodge and a kindly hiker from Big Pine gave Patrick a ride back to the trailhead from the hiker parking. We packed up, stashed our extra food and gear in the bear locker (bad idea) , and headed out around noon, following the North Fork trail. Snow began in earnest a few hundred feet below the Big Pine Creek ranger station, and going was slow by the time we reached the Lakes 1-7 / Black Lake junction. As is usual in the early season, skinning (for Nick) was easy and quick where there was snow but significantly slowed on patches of bare ground. Snowshoe progress was slow and steady, and possibly still preferable in this season, despite sinking in. We slogged our way up through snow to Black Lake, setting up camp as the sun went down. We lived in comfort in our spacious 3-season tent, securing a nice supply of liquid water by chopping a hole through a few inches of ice in the lake.

Day 2

We left camp (10800') at around 5.45 AM. Progress on snow was fast for Nick but slow for snowshoes, so we split up. Pratyush and Patrick climbed the more direct route along the north slope of the basin, while Nick opted for the more rolling (but more snow-covered) path along the basin floor. After a few ups and downs in elevations (especially for Nick who was on skis), we arrived at the base (11400') of the col right before the East Ridge. Then began a short but strenuous climb (800 vertical feet in maybe quarter of a mile or less) up snow and scree to the saddle (12200'). Nick hoped his suffering in humping skis up to the saddle would merit some nice skiing on the north face, but 'twas not to be the case. Skis and snowshoes were left at the col. Some easy class 2-3 got us further to the broad plateau between Cloudripper and Vagabond Peak. A few hundred feet further through snow-covered scree got us to the real summit ridge - what a vista from there! The summit looked like a claw ready to pierce the sky. We hurriedly made it to the top since we were well behind schedule, after traversing some short sections of powder snow, and performing a few class 3 moves (as any steep ridge, it can get exposed and class 3+ if you really want to spice it up). Nick dug around and found the summit register buried under a lot of snow, where the last entry was from October 28, 2010.

The summit was indeed lofty, with barely any space for 2 people at the real summit, and gave majestic views of (notably) the Palisades, among other local sub-ranges of the Sierra Nevada. It was calm and beautiful, we mourned having to descend to reach camp before sun down.

Day 3

Patrick and Pratyush walked out from the camp to the car in ~2 hours since the early morning snow was very hard and perfect for snowshoes. Nick found skiing to be a challenge in the dense, frozen mank, but after multiple sketchy stream crossings and a lot of bushwhacking, made it to the car in ~2.5 hours. With maybe 1 more storm, and a bit of patience to descend later in the day on softer snow, the descent on skis would take less than an hour. We shuttled the car up to the end of the trail from the overnight-parking lot only to find out that the stuff we had kept in the bear lockers at the day-parking TH was gone. Apparently, these lockers are now for day storage only. We assume the rangers cleaned out the lockers since our garbage was missing as well. We consoled ourselves by eating doughnuts in Lone Pine, sponsored by Nick since he lost a late-night (7pm) game of DONUT in the tent.

[Update! Someone dropped off Nick's shoes and some of the food at the Bishop ranger station! Very strange, perhaps some sort of Clif Bar pilfering scheme...]