Lamarck and a Lark: Ski Touring in a Drought

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This weekend I finally got a chance to do a ski tour with Cody. We had really good, encouraging discussions on the way up. Cody knew a good pullout to camp near Bishop, where we arrived right around 11 and went to sleep.

We got up at 5:30 with the aim of reaching snow by urban twilight. Our goal was to ski Mt. Lamarck, a 13,400’ peak west of Bishop. We stopped at this rad bakery, Great Basin Bakery, for a bagel and water, and hiked out of Aspendell. The first 2.5 miles were paved road, then that road gave way to a gravel road, then paved road, then dirt, then snow-covered, until we finally hit trail near north Lake. We had a ways to go before we could skin, but finally got them on near Lower Lamarck Lake. We travelled over the lake, relishing in the smooth snow and surrounding peaks. Near Upper Lamarck, we decided to take off the skis and climb up a rocky ridge to attach shallower slopes—the gully directly ahead was any prone.

I thought we had already been looking at Lamarck, but I was mistaken, and we had some ways to go. Cody had been at a much faster pace than me all along, but my hip started to hurt quite a bit here when I pulled my right leg forward against any resistance (as in… skinning or walking uphill!) and I started traveling more gingerly. Still, when Cody offered to turn back I had to refuse, too smitten with the mountains. I love the Sierra in that giddy, embarrassing way, and as we approached what I thought was Lamarck col I was between laughing and crying—I’m not even sure why, they just had me in a great mood. The granite is so regal and inhuman, but I know the mountains are also hospitable. It is a horror what we are doing to them, they are now so dry.

Unfortunately I was fooled again by one of Lamarck’s students posing as Lamarck. The problem is I find all of the peaks so impressive! Cody was waiting for me ahead, so though I’d have stopped atop the shallow saddle we had climbed, I had to go on. When I reached Cody and finally looked up, I kew that I would not enjoy the skin up, that with my right leg so hard to lift I was liable to start a slide or get stuck, and also that Cody would hit the peak much faster without me. I told him to go for it while I waited on the lunch rock he’d found, shivering and half dozing, keeping an eye out for avalanches. Fortunately it was a great spot to wait and I enjoyed watching Cody’s turns!

Cody returned, with lukewarm reviews of the ski, and we started the descent. Rather than take our rocky way down, we followed the shallower snow-fields to the south fo that ridge for most of the way. Cody was unimpressed with the skiing, but it was by far the longest and most untouched powder I’d skied, so I was more than satisfied. We eventually had to remove the skis to posthole around rocks, followed by more skiing through woods, more walking, then skiing across Grass Lake got us back to trail. The walk down was longer than I had remembered, and my hip felt shot, but it was so good to be in the mountains.

The next day I didn’t feel up for another tour, so I got some downhill training at Mammoth while Cody had some adventures and saw some famous skiers on Red Cones. A rad weekend and much needed refresh with the mountains!