elevation Change 4000′
This was one of my first East side Peaks following Jim Harper. I see Will Richardson in these old photos, so I assume we skied Mt. Lewis in this same trip. Jim is in those photos too. Will was my first employee. A mutual friend from college heard I was starting a telemark ski shop, and he sent his friend Will out. Leather boots, skinny skis with Mickey mouse graphics, and a 60ish liter ratty backpack that looked like it had been around the world. My gear wasn’t much better. We had a lot of fun during those first two years. I started the bike shop in Tahoe City in 1994 and added the Telemark/backcountry gear in 1996. These photos would be during the spring of 96 or 97, which was a HUGE Winter.
I’m not sure if we had boot crampons. We booted up the main couloir called Wahoo Gully on the NE side of Mt. Locke. It was pretty steep, but the snow was soft. We were blown away with the view south towards Mt. Emerson. I wondered who the hell would be crazy enough to ski those couloirs, and also when would I be ready. I eventually did go up to ski the main couloir on Mt. Emerson on two occasions. I was pretty scared, as you will be too when you get to the top. It is off camber and over 45 degrees, with a fall line that wants to take you into the wall. And you’ll be tired up there. But you won’t be on tele skis, so you might do ok. I’m ready to try again now that I lock my heel. In fact. The NEXT progression for East side thrill seekers after skiing Mt. Locke Wahoo gully, then Mt. Emerson would be the Checkered Demon Couloir. The Demon is further up slope from Mt. Locke on Peak 13,112′, on the same ridge. I looked down it and didn’t see how to get in without a freefall into unknown snow. I drew the line and crossed it off my tick list. I have skied the Kindergarten Chute next to the Demon with an overnight backpack. that was great. And I have skied the mellow south slope of Mt. Locke, where I can tell Bishop Mountain Guides are smart to take their clients.
Mt. Locke is a killer little peak, set in the middle of world class ski mountaineering terrain. Since I skied these peaks years ago, I have always wanted to come back and camp out for a week and explore them all again. From your camp near McGee Creek at snowline you could skin anything from Piute Crags, Mt. Emerson, Mt. Locke, and Mt. Humpherys. They are all clearly visible from Bishop, and generally have NE facing couloirs that will hold snow well.
To Get There: Drive towards the mountains from Bishop on hwy 168 and turn right on Buttermilks Road. Head up to 7800′. Look for a campsite near the McGee Creek crossing or keep going if you have high clearance 4×4.