Elevation Change – 5500’
The Sierra Crest above Bishop is an impressive and attractive ski mountaineering panorama. As high as they are, however, they are only the beginning. Climb to the top of any of them and the magnitude and beauty of the Sierra begins to sink in with your view to the West. These front range peaks offer great access and some of the longest ski descents in the country. Mt. Tom is on the right of the skyline, offering continuous skiing of about 7000’. Mt. Basin is the second peak from the right in this group, delivering a friendly 5500’ of snow to ski right down to your campsite in the desert. And Mt. Humprhreys looks to be about dead center, with the most imposing couloir just right of its majestic horn shaped summit. If you go out to camp beneath the peak in the buttermilks, you can also hit Mt. Locke, Mt. Emerson, Kindergarten Chute, Checkered Demon Couloir, and Piute Crag Couloirs. When can you park close enough to ski these peaks? That varies through the year. Skin from your car down low, or drive higher when it melts out. If you can’t drive close enough, bump yourself up to higher trailheads that are plowed like in the town of Aspendale or Pine Creek and ski other amazing peaks instead.
I have only been to Mt. Humphreys on this day in early April of 2002. I had fun watching two friends race each other to the top. John and Jim hadn’t met each other yet, but they had heard of each other for sure. I let these two east side assassins fly up there ahead of me and I wasn’t too far behind. You can’t get to the summit in ski boots. This moderate summer alpine climb is on my list. There are many couloirs to ski in addition to the Northeast couloir. John wasn’t tired enough so he skied a hidden line on the south side of the peak along the way back. The top of the couloir is 13,600’.
John and Jim were the two friends I made shortly after moving to Tahoe in the late 90’s who showed me what I could do in terms of physical and mental accomplishment in ski touring. They put in the booters and skin tracks in front of me, taunting me to catch them. Which I never did. But now I can put in a good booter and skin track far out in the backcountry and feel confident in my ability to tackle some fairly long and steep routes.