These pics are from May 2002, when I was ticking off the ski tours in John Moynier’s backcountry ski guidebook called California High Sierra, printed by Falcon Guide. Go find the 2nd version printed in 1999. I think there were only two versions, and the first edition was not done by Falcon publishing. There are 60 peaks in the book you should ski and a lot of multi day tour suggestions which reveal the logical passes to ski through. His descriptions were right on. Not like my hokey internet guide you are reading here! But I’m having fun and you are hopefully getting stoked from some of my pics and few words about my experiences.
Mt. Darwin actually looked a little too scary for me when I saw the picture in Moynier’s Book. There wasn’t much internet research you could do at this time, and I didn’t know anyone who had skied this peak to gauge the likelihood that I could slide down it on my tele skis without dying. Well John Morrison was doing all the peak choosing each time we would go ski, so I threw out this one…predicting that he wanted it too and wouldn’t back out. He had skied Mt. Lamarck before I believe, and knew that we could ski both in a one night trip. We launched mid day from the North Lake Trailhead above Bishop. This is one of the highest trailheads in the sierra at 9350′ and is generally the last trailhead to be opened. I’ve been up there before the road melts out and gate gets unlocked, which involves a steep few mile march on asphalt. This must have been a low snow year to get up there in mid May. There was plenty of snow to ski the peaks however as you can see, even though the trail was dirt for a few miles above North Lake.
John had tele skied enough to be competent, we all know him as a lifelong ripping locked heel skier. He decided to ski tele on this day which on a whim which was unlike him to going to a big peak with floppy bindings. For one reason to even us out a little in speed. But more so, we were going to film each other with loaner camera gear from Josh Murphy “bones”. He had just released a backcountry tele ski movie that we all loved, but they weren’t capturing footage from the bigger peaks we were skiing. Well we learned why pretty quick. When we met Bones early that morning we left Tahoe, we felt how big and heavy the camera gear was and kind of knew it wasn’t going to make it into either of our backpacks. You could get some great footage from Lamarck col of a Mt. Darwin skier, but we probably wouldn’t have split up and done it that way anyway. We left the camera gear in the car when we loaded up our backpacks of course, tele gear was heavy back then, as was my camping gear. It’s amazing how my ski gear and camera is half the weight these days. And I do go quite a bit faster too because of it.
We set up a bivy camp at Lamarck Col at dusk, got the killer view, and hunkered down to freeze. I know how to stay warm better these days too. In the morning we survival skied 1200′ of rock hard suncups with crazy fin shapes down to the base Mt. Darwin. The sun came out and the climb was easy. We couldn’t tell how the little couloir actually reached the summit plateau until we got there. I guess we just were willing to climb the peak, knowing we might ski from below the summit. Check out one of my pictures that shows a body sized hole we climbed through to reach the summit! We downclimbed back through it to start our ski. I remember John commented at the bottom that I had not skied out of the way to avoid steep ice up high on the slope. I guess I wasn’t paying attention, or I was paying too much attention and it was no big deal and I kept my speed in check. We found shin deep old pow for both descents, Mt. Darwin and Lamarck North Couloir. We got to ski Banner and Ritter in the same week with perfect weather too. That was a good season, we were on a roll. And I can almost remember what it felt like to have an injury free body now that I look back.