Location: Big Pine, CA
Elevation Change: 7100′
Recommended Map: Kings Canyon High Country – Tom Harrison
I skied Birch Mountain in late March of 2004. This is a huge peak that you’ll start from a beautiful green meadow and have no problem navigating to the summit from your camp. Just wait for McMurry Meadows to melt out and drive in there. The 4×4 jeep road you’ll take from Glacier Lodge area outside of Big Pine was a bit sketchy for us back then. I know it’s changed more than once due to rain and possibly trail work? I remember in 2006 en route to ski The Thumb from this trailhead, I got out of my T100 on this road and handed the keys to my friend John Crus. “Here, you drive and I’ll spot you as you traverse along that washed out little ravine”.
Skiing Birch Mountain is probably something your going for to find corn snow on it’s south and southeast facing slopes. Only it’s a high peak, so don’t expect perfect corn near the top. And you want nice corn at the bottom, so start early. The steep east facing gullies never look like they go through from far away, but I bet you can make those work in the middle of a big winter. There are some steep long gullies you can ski into Tinemaha Creek according to the Greenberg/Mingori guide, which doesn’t seem to recommend them, as you’ll need to traverse a long way back. When John, Christie and I skied Birch, we found plenty of snow in at least one or two gullies that went all the way back to our car….even though it was seemingly all melted out down there. A fantastic long ski descent, kind of like a less tiring Mt. Shasta adventure. Do this peak and then you are definitely ready for a Shasta Summit, followed by dropping the Trinity Chutes above Bunny Flat Parking.
Oh, and McMurry Meadows is a sweet place to camp. Stay awhile and ski on a few other mountains.