Location: Pine Creek Trailhead above town of Rovana, north of Bishop
Elevation Change: 5,500′
Recommended Map: Mono Divide – Tom Harrison
This is another one of the peaks where you know your doin’ it as soon as you see it. For me that was while ticking off the ski descents in John Moynier’s Backcountry Skiing California’s High Sierra guidebook, now out of print oddly from Falcon Guide. This book is excellent and worth finding. While we are on the top of guidebooks, I have them all, you should too if you head out on more serious adventures like this. The more beta and opinions I can get, the better. My website guide you are reading is lame compared to the books, but I’m enjoying slapping my old pics on here to confuse you anyway.
These pics are from 2 trips up to Feather Peak during 2004 and 2011. I’ve been up there to climb Merriam in the summer, and the Royce Lakes area is just a magical place you need to go to. Even if you are not going to climb or ski any of the peaks up there, do yourself a favor and go to Royce Lakes. You won’t see other people, the navigating is easy, and you’ll enjoy a true Alpine Environment far above treeline with Granite walls and multiple high summits to ski all stacked up next to each other. It’s a sea of Granite and snow sitting above a large flat plateau of frozen lakes and tundra. You will probably camp up at Royce Lakes, It took us 5-6 hours to reach the Co Co La Pass at Royce Lakes. The climbs should be a piece of cake in the morning at 2 grand each or less. Only at this elevation you will go a little slower than at home. I haven’t skied Royce or Merriam yet, but I hope to soon. There are a number of steep lines to ski on Feather as well as a little practice couloir you can bang out en route to the real one.
Feather Peak is going to have snow late in the season. If there is no snow at the Pine Creek Trailhead, like Matt Gold and I found years ago, just put on your trail shoes and go for it. You’ll find it much easier than when Matt and Luca joined me to skin through bushes on that steep hillside years later. And check out the huge mountain of criss crossing black and white rock layers at the first lake you come to. 3000′ of it. Take your family up there in the summer and you won’t believe your eyes. I need a geologist to try to wing it through explaining this to me.
Oh, the classic picture in the slideshow of Luca stumbling through a blizzard carrying various essential parts to our ski gear is a great story to me at least. With perfect weather in the forecast, Luca, Matt and I decided to bring a 6 pack of Guinness instead of a real tent. We opted for a BD Megamid. At Dusk the weather was calm, and Matt even strung his socks and gloves outside in total confidence. Wind picked up after dark that lead us to holding up the fabric trying to blow away. Looking at no sleep and snow blowing sideways outside, I knew what to do. I had been there before; start digging. Between the 3 of us we had one pair of goggles and one usable shovel. I told them I’d yell when to start bringing stuff over into my ski trench I just learned in the ski guide course. Before I finished, Matt came over to help as he saw it was filling in almost as fast as I was making it. Grab all the stuff (the awesome pic Matt took of Luca), and it’s amazing we didn’t lose anything. Even the socks and gloves on the string outside. I think that was to Luca’s credit, because Matt and I were in hectic snow cave mode. We then hung out in there for about 24 hours hiding from the storm
When we popped out of our hole 2 days later it was 10 degrees outside and a bluebird, shin deep powder day. We almost packed up and went home in frustration, but looked at the peak and came to our senses and went up to ski. The whole trip idea of mine was to ski through these peaks to Seven Gables to the west. Feather Peak was our “consolation”. In reality, Skiing Feather Peak is probably the most rad ski tour you’ll ever do. Just look at it! It’s especially amazing looking from the top of Bear Creek Spire, with it’s steep north facing year round snow couloirs.
I have not been to the summit, which is only a few hundred feet above the Feather Peak North Couloir. Secor’s PPT guide calls it 2 pitches of class 4 to the top of Feather Peak from the snow couloir. Damn. In the summer, that would be a 15 minute romp. However in ski boots with cold temps and wind, I really only start playing rock climber with class 2 terrain and possibly a little 3rd. Better to concentrate on snow stability and a safe start to the steep line and unfamiliar snow conditions you are about to drop into while fatigued and wondering if you’ll get all the way back to the car before dark. Have I whined enough? I’ll try to climb the thing next time and tell you how hard it is.