Location: Independence Peak
Summit Elevation: 11,744
Elevation Change: 2,700
This is a great introduction to East Side skiing at a moderate difficulty. With no approach time and a few hours, you can knock out a really cool looking and pointy mountain with awesome views. It’s an avy path for sure, but you probably won’t be trying to ski it after new snow due to access. Timing the road opening for these high trailheads generally means going to look for yourself, or if you are lucky, finding a local who has been up there recently. There are no websites and the BLM and USFS offices don’t know what has been plowed. The Onion Valley Trailhead seems to be cleared more often and earlier in the season compared to the others above Bishop. And you don’t need the road to be plowed all the way to the trailhead for Independence Peak. Just get near the bend in the road beneath the aesthetic east gully, walk across the creek, and start up a fairly steep skin. You will switch to skis on a backpack near the top, and possibly need crampons if the snow is firm. I remember most of the gully at around 35 degrees and maybe 40 at the top for a minute. East facing terrain can get heated fast. There is usually avy debris at the bottom, reminding you that timing is extra important in terrain like this.
I’ve skied this gully a number of times but I have never skied on the north side above the Onion Valley Trailhead. By the time that area gets plowed, I am on to the bigger and higher peaks just beyond. Although the parking lot has signs that say no overnight camping, it seems pretty chill to me. I have left cars for many days here to go multi-day. You could session a lot of day skiing from this 9,200′ parking lot. There is a porta potty too. Or drive back down the road at night for cell service and peaceful dirt campsites. The town of Independence isn’t much, but drive around a little. It’s really cool. Combine your trip to Independence Peak with a car shuttle 5000′ ski descent of Kearsarge Peak, and day ski tours on University Peak and Mt.Gould. Then come back and launch over Kearsarge Pass for the rest of them!