This past spring I road tripped out to California to take advantage of their fat snowpack after an above average season for the Eastern Sierras. I started out hitting Mammoth Park and lapping top to bottom runs on the Mammoth Gondola. A few days later Colter showed up with plans to camp and do some Ski-mountaineering in the Palisades near big pine.
I was loving laid back condo life with the Saga crew but was eager to go camp in the Buttermilks. Everything came together for our mission on Temple Crag, from the campsite to the warm up days on snow and on the rock in the Owens River Gorge.
Park laps with a view of the Minarets.
Skiing from the summit of Mammoth to get warmed up!
Earlier in the month we did a summit of Middle Palisade to prepare for Temple Crag. This is a 14K peak and it was a real challenge (with the wind hammered frozen snow near the peak) to summit in one day and really motivated us to gear up for a Temple Crag summit.
Colter rapelling off the Middle Palisade Summit.
On top of Middle Palisade 14,008 feet.
The idea to ski the Temple Crag came about when Colter saw the potential for linking together a rock/snow line during a mission earlier in the month near the Palisades. High snow totals in the Eastern Sierras made it stand out this season more than others. The crag is surprisingly nice granite for the elevation and hosts some popular climbing routes in the summer. To achieve the goal of summiting and skiing the chute, we had to switch out of the ski boots to rope up and climb the pitches between the snow sections.
Clicked in and ready to drop.
Can you spot us in this photo?
On the snow about to tackle another rock section!
Making our way towards the Granite wall.
We made it to the top around noon with the shadows just starting to creep over the couloir. We didn’t know what to expect for the climbing but we guessed there would be easy 5.7ish with some 5.9 moves and that is kind of what we ran into. There were a lot of options and looking back I am happy with the way we went up. we brought a lot of gear with us and Colter brought some old gear to leave as anchors for the way down (there were a few anchors in place from previous climbers) but we did set one ourselves.
Durtschi Leading the first section just as the sun hits us.
Colter with the climbing shoes on and the Boots on the backpack with skis (this was a heavy load but managable).
On Belay approaching the end of the line with another pitch above this before the main section of snow.
This photo was taken at 5:30AM about an hour from Camp.
The early start was worth it since switching gears between rock and snow was tedious. Our biggest concern was what the snow quality would be when it was time to click in. It was softening up as we hiked and pretty much got to the too soft range by the time we were ready to ski. To be honest it felt really good being on rappel with the skis on the feet, it felt secure. On the other hand, clutching the ice ax and hop turning down the "no fall zone" was just plain scary! We were able to ski the middle section and make a lot of hop turns, there was a strange feeling knowing that the end of the run was a massive granite cliff.
Making Turns in a No-Fall zone!
The snow was very slushy, but we were not worried about it sliding like a wet slide avalanche. Our main concern was the weight of the snow pushing on the skis and burying them to the point that you would start sliding out of control. It took a while to figure out how to maneuver but once in a rhythm it went smooth, and we were able to link turns down the main Coulier. It was a one of a kind experience! It felt really good to watch Colter toss the rope down on the last rappel. This was around 5:30 p.m. and we were lucky enough to ski perfect corn back down to base camp and celebrate the successful mission! It was a great feeling to make it to camp as the sun was about to set, a true full day mission!
This edit is a longer version of the one I released on my Instagram account this summer. Check it out to see a shorter 2 minute version (part 2). I wanted this edit to show the entire process, each section of the ascent and descent so this one is a bit longer at 5 minutes! I wanted to include as much footage as I could to give the feeling of how we made transitions during the mission and had to problem solve certain parts of climb.
You might notice during the last upward climbing section I was roped in by Colter from above (he climbed this section sans rope) and I had my boots and crampons on opting not to switch to climbing shoes to save time. I watched Colter climb this section without the rope and knew that I would need to be roped in. I was happy to take the extra time to rope in and Colter backed my decision. Working together with your partner is key and making calls in puzzling situations takes a calm approach while talking things through. Watch the video to see what else surprised us during the mission and feel free to leave questions and comments Via Twitter Facebook or Youtube and I will be happy to answer them!
Taking a breath in the Heart of the Temple.
Looks tiny from this far away but you can make out the Line far left.
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