Randonee Adventure

March 6-9, 2003

random trip report
[An account of a trip with Ron Kuivila and David Gedye; all photos by David Gedye. Dave's trip report is here.]

Ron and I drive up highway 50, passing an enthusiastic anti-war demonstration by high-school students in South Lake Tahoe, and rendezvous with Gedye at the Spooner Summit snow-park at the junction of highways 28 and 50.

Ron and I don our randonee gear; Dave has snowshoes.

The curious effects of perspective

The skins work well. We travel a mile or so to a crag I discovered last year, which has a great view of Lake Tahoe.

On our return, Ron attempts the double-black-diamond kiddie toboggan area, and wipes out real good. We drive three hours to Lee Vining, making a side trip to the Twin Lakes area near Bridgeport to scope out Mt. Walt and the Sawtooth range. Fantastic - a return trip is definitely called for.

Matterhorn Peak just right of center

We have reservations at Murphey's Motel, which features 'contemporary rooms'. We have a less-than-gourmet meal at Nicely's, topped off with a pint bottle of Bushmill's.

Ron had the fish and chips

We drive out to the Mono cinder cones to try to find the legendary camping site, and to locate some stars using Dave's new Miller Starfinder.

Ron displays his celestial sphere

The next morning we drive to 'The Breakfast Club' in the town of Mammoth Lakes, where we meet our guide S.P. (a wiry New Zealander) and the fourth client, Boris (from Germany by way of L.A.). There's a confusion about the time - we were told 7 AM but S.P. and Boris arrive at 7:30. So be it.

We eat breakfast, rent gear for Dave and Boris, drive up 395 to the Obsidian Dome turnoff, and park at the end of the road. S.P. explains the use of avalanche beacons. Then we ski around the obsidian dome and go up a 1,500' hill called Chicken Wing.

Chicken wing is left of center. Obsidian dome is rubble on left.

It's steepish (up to 30 degrees); the snow coverage is not great and there are lots of trees and shrubs.

S.P. teaches us the uphill and downhill kick-turns, and we zig-zig our way up the hill. It's fairly hard work, and it doesn't help the my skins are somewhat ineffective and I slip a lot.

We reach the top of the hill, lounge on some rocks, and eat lunch.

Boris and S.P.

Then we remove skins, lock down our heels, and head down. The other three are strong skiers and they do OK. I, however, am not up to this level of skiing. It's very steep and the snow is heavy and crusty. I fall on about 10 consecutive turns, with the falls ranging from your basic sit-down to a full windmilling head-over-heels. I lose all confidence and am on the verge of removing skis and walking down. S.P. persuades me to ski down, using long traverses and kick-turns. This works OK. I make it down, albeit exhausted and humiliated.

Then there's a long flat trudge to the car. We're all very tired and grumpy. It hasn't been as much fun as we hoped.

Ron, Dave and I check into our cabin at Tom's Place. It's rustic - no phone or TV, and the loudest heater I've ever heard.

Tom's Place. The chain prevents drunks from falling off the porch into the parking lot.

We drive to Bishop for dinner (Whisky Creek) and browse around the Mountain Light gallery there. Then we return home and finish the Bushmill's.

The next day is more fun. We meet up at Tom's Place, and discuss the high level of alcohol use among their clientele. S.P. tells us a story involving a naked drunk and a black Labrador which I can't repeat in its entirety. Then we pile into S.P.'s 4WD and drive to a canyon near Mt. Tom.

It's broad and has few trees.

First rest stop

We climb 1,500' or so and rest on some rocks. I decide to stay there, saving my energy for the descent.

Second rest stop; I stayed here. White Mountains in background.

The others climb another 500' or so and descend, which takes a couple of hours.

Boris executes a flawless uphill kick-turn

More White Mountains (on our list for next year)

On the descent, S.P. patiently steers me towards the good snow, and by skiing very cautiously I'm able to make it down without incident. The last 500 or so vertical feet have nice, soft (albeit wet) snow and we all do some fairly stylish skiing.

We say goodbye to Boris and S.P. (although I accidentally leave my parka in S.P.'s truck and have to return to his house to pick it up later). We decide to cook in our kitchenette at Tom's Place, and we drive to the Von's in Mammoth where we buy a leg of lamb and a bunch of other stuff. Ron cooks a fabulous dinner.

We visit the bar for a nightcap and a game of darts. Ron's first three darts stick in the board, but none of the subsequent ones. The bartender (who apparently resembles Stockard Channing) explains the 'Clamper Crossing' sign, a stylized traffic sign showing a stick figure crawling with a bottle in one hand.

The next day we're ready for something non-strenuous (I, in particular, have tremendously sore back and calves). We drive up to Convict Lake and walk halfway around it, admiring the views of Mt. Morrison.

Unnamed mountain in the background

Mt. Morrison is bare mountain in the back

The obligatory Art Shot

Then we drive up the road to Hot Creek and take an extended dip. The water alternates hot and cold. Ron and Dave compare back hair.

Ron is not truly relaxed

Then we continue up to Mono Lake and do the Tufa Tour.

It really looks like this!

Then we drive through Lee Vining and Bridgeport looking for coffee, but everything is closed for the season (even Mono Cone). Finally we stop at a Starbucks in Carson City, transfer gear, and say goodbye to Dave, who takes this great picture across the street.

Ron and I enjoy the drive back to Berkeley. Unfortunately, Bobbi (who has my only house key) is not there when we arrive, slightly reminiscent of another trip.

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