University peak 13,632′
Elevation change: 4400′
These are some mixed pics from two days I skied University Peak in 2003 and 2004. The ski descent line I did was the North Face, described in the Moynier High Sierra Guidebook. This is a great “half day” tour as he would call these big peaks. Yup, you’ll be back in early afternoon if you leave at 6am. My first tour up there was with John, and I bet we did it in half day since I would have been chasing him. We skinned up to a hidden little mini couloir that accessed the East ridge and skied halfway decent old pow, before it turned to corn when we bent back towards the car on east facing terrain. On the way down we found the beautiful little chute at mid-mountain which you can’t help but notice on the way up. The Onion Valley Trailhead is at 9200′ and opens up a little before the other high trailheads on the East Side. You won’t be able to call anyone down there to find out. It’s a moving target due to late spring snowfall and rock fall, but I would say early April on average.
I went up the peak to ski again the following year with Stubbie, Louis the Dog, and Ryan Fowler, and we had a small epic. Really Stubbie had the epic. After a great day in nice weather, we found that little mini chute on the way down and we were all just high on our accomplishment. It was a big day, because we didn’t go up the same way as the last time. Instead, we skinned through steeper and rockier terrain, and went right up the North Face. In the late afternoon, Stubbie skied over a small cliff on purpose. It might have been 8′, I don’t think it was huge or a crazy thing, but he broke his Tibia on the landing. The landing was a bit flat, and his skis probably had no wax. Add in the backpack and the fact that we weren’t exactly Big Mountain Skiers. So now the mood had changed. I knew there was a big storm rolling in that evening, and my cell phone didn’t work. We were still about 2000′ above the trailhead. I splinted his leg with a few Voile Straps and Ryan’s ski poles, and we tried to tow him out sitting on Ryan’s snowboard. That didn’t work at all, it hurt his leg too much. I asked him if he was OK potentially paying for a heli-rescue, and the answer was yes. So I skinned uphill for maybe 1000′ and got a cell signal. I was patched into search and rescue, and then patched in to speak with the actual helicopter pilot. He knew exactly where we were.
The pilot told me to make a huge X with branches. I skied down and got that done with Ryan, and the heli landed pretty soon after that. Getting Stubbie in there was easy due to the flat terrain. I have been part of another heli-rescue on a different trip, where getting the injured skier into the heli high on a steep slope was a different story all together. Ryan and I skied back to the car just before dark and went to the hospital, where Stubbie taught the doctors about heat guns and plastic ski boots. They were going to try and take off the boot without heating it up. He healed in normal time and went back to crushing us on mountain bike rides the following year.
The other peaks I have skied form the Onion Valley Trailhead are Mt. Gould, Kearsarge Peak, Independence Peak, Dragon Peak Couloir, Mt. Rixford, Painted Lady, Deerhorn Mountain, and Mt. Brewer. Those tours are on this website or will be for sure soon.