Mammoth’s about to open this Thursday and there’s a slight layer of white lining the Crest of the High Sierra. It’s still early for “the season” to be fully underway, but there’s usually a short period of time each year when high elevation trailhead’s stay open and there’s just enough snow to warrant a long walk for a few turns if you’re willing. That time is now, and using the Mosquito Flat Trailhead, sitting at 10,300 feet in elevation is about as high you can get outside California’s Emerald Triangle.
Heading south from Tahoe a few Eastside classics are holding a bit of snow from the little taste of precipitation we’ve had thus far. Case in point-The Sawtooth Range,
and the lookers left couloir of Esha also looking pretty sweet.
Driving to 10,300 feet makes access to the Rock Creek portion of the John Muir Wilderness as simple as it gets. Stellar mountain biking on the Lower Rock Creek Trail and a plethora of rock climbing opportunities are found all over this area, but why not go for a gorgeous hike with a heavy pack and check into a few turns if you can?
In the winter months, and soon after a decent dump of fresh, the road to the top of Rock Creek closes. Winter access is tough, but there’s always the option of staying at the Rock Creek Lodge who also grooms the upper reaches of the road to Mosquito Flat in the winter for cross-country skiers. Of course this makes access towards backcountry skiing destinations all the easier as well.
But for now the best you can deal with is a serene hike in one of the more beautiful locales on the Eastside with a slew of 12-13k+ foot peaks surrounding you. Watch out for icy pools of melt on the trail early morning if you head out there,
and be sure to watch your step as you continue the few miles it takes to get back to the Treasure Lakes area. The scenery along the way is as picturesque as it gets. Mt. Abbot, Mt. Mills, Mt. Dade, Pipsqueak Spire, Treasure Peak, Mt. Morgan South, and Bear Creek Spire all stare at you at different points along your hike. This is probably one of the prettier places to go backpacking in the summer/fall months, and it also holds some of the most classic rock climbing and backcountry ski descents in all of the Eastern Sierra Nevada.
Truth be told the high elevation access is sweet for the time being, since that’s what’s currently in play, but it is a few miles walk to get to snow line. However, once there, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find some exceptionally soft powder.
It skied really well too, good enough to milk for sure.
The real treat was access above the sheltered powder underneath Pipsqueak Spire and Bear Creek Spire. The views are classic Eastside and there was more snow than I initially thought, but surprise, surprise, it was also pretty variable.
That said, it was a little crusty, but my Dynafit Stoke skis cruised right through it and made the half-crunchy half-corny-soft surface ski fluidly. It was an early season treat 100% and it was the best these skis had performed for me in variable conditions.
At the end of the day it was a fabulous hike, in a perfect setting, with a heavier than necessary pack. Let’s see what this weekend’s storm has in store for us and hope it provides the base we’re looking for. Even if it doesn’t give us all that much at least we know there’s a little bit of snow hanging around in the high reaches of the Sierra, and there’ll always be a worthy excuse to go for a long walk and be surrounded by such beauty if that’s the case.