Red Mountain Ski Tour
A few years ago, I would look at the “Alpine Touring” section on the Steep and Cheap site and think that it was silly that they were selling that stuff right next to headlamps and bike tires--as if alpine touring is a normal thing that regular people can just go do (I half expected to see them advertising deals on wingsuits). Seeing Cody’s talks on his adventures in the Cascades and elsewhere in the western US inspired me to actually give it a try.
The first thing that you learn about touring is that, in fact, it is not something that anyone should “just go do” without some sort of avalanche training. If not for a generous subsidy by the CAC, my sometimes unreasonable thrift likely would have kept me forever in-bounds (spending $100 fifty times to avoid spending $400 once). Or worse, I would have let my always unreasonable invincibility complex combined with instagram-induced FOMO override my self-preservation instincts and I just would have continued to go for it sans avy training. Now that I took the course, I have a better idea of how bad of an idea that would have been.
So I got my level 1 in December and I finally went to make some use of it at the end of January. The weekend of the 29th, I headed up to Bishop with Will and Sarah and we stayed Friday night at the beautiful Hostel California right in downtown Bishop. The next morning we met up with Justin and got to the base of Red Mountain at about 7am. Since I’m writing this more than three months after the fact (SORRY CODY) I don’t remember exactly what the conditions were but there were about 250” of snow that fell in January in the mountains near Bishop, so there was a lot of snow. I also remember that it was in the low single digits (Fahrenheit) when we got out of the car and that I had neglected to dial in the bindings with my boots till right then. Justin lost a few fingers to frostbite helping me out, but he assured me he still has plenty so it’s cool.
I was borrowing one of the CAC’s sets of Black Diamond Link 90 skis with Fritschi Freeride AT bindings and my regular, not-at-all-AT Tecnica Diablo boots. For those of you who are unsure about touring in non-touring boots, I’ll say that I was totally fine for the day but I imagine that the increase foot on boot friction would take a serious toll on a much longer trip. I just left the upper buckles very loose and I was fine.
The four of us were about ⅔ of the way up the mountain when we saw two people approaching from below. We opened up our jackets to make ourselves appear larger but when they got close enough, we saw that it was just these two goofs.
We opted for neither flight nor fight and instead joined forces to make for the summit. We made it to the ridge of the big bowl marked by the green arrow (below) and prepared for the descent.
What followed was about 3700’ of knee-deep awesomeness with a few spots of sun-affected slightly-less-awesome cement. Will and Sarah took a more tree-protected route down and they said the snow was perfect the entire way. I don’t have any pictures of the ski down because I was busy shredding. Here’s an artist’s rendition:
We skied right to our cars, high-fived, and headed to town for a well-deserved meal. Will, Sarah, and I parted ways with N+C+J and grabbed some delicious sandwiches at the Pupfish Cafe in Bishop. I had finished the first half of my croque monsieur when I got a facetime call from Cody.
“You guys ready for round two? Table Mountain??”
Could you say no to this face?
We tried and tried, but neither Will nor Sarah nor I could stand to be the one to say "no" despite our exhaustion and dehydration/elevation headaches. We downed our coffees (smart move) and remaining foodstuffs and got back in the car; each of us filled with resentment aimed at the other two people for allowing this to happen.
We followed Cody and Nafeesa towards Aspendell and did a mini tour near the Forks Campground (not actually on Table Mountain). ‘Twas rad. And worth it. My headache was worse but I was happy.
I am deeply thankful to the CAC and particularly to Cody for really being the driving force to getting me and my friends into this sport. Though I’m not quite to the level where I am done with resort skiing--the next day I skied at Mammoth and confirmed that, yes, I still very much love going really fast on groomed snow--there are so many things to love about touring. If you love skiing powder, you can say goodbye to the stress that comes with trying to find untouched snow on a powder day. Maybe the best part of it is that you no longer have to try to struggle with the contradiction of enjoying the wild outdoors in an artificial, clear-cut and polluted resort (OH GOD! IT’S HAPPENING TO ME! I’M BECOMING A BACKCOUNTRY SNOB!!!).