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"Ski Dreams" on Matterhorn Peak,
April 2003


BC Skiing at its "Finest".

In his definitive guidebook to the High Sierra, R.J. Secor makes a bold claim that "in the spring, a ski tour from the summit of Matterhorn Peak can be one of the finest mountaineering experiences on the continent."  I'm kind of a sucker for a good marketing pitch, so I grabbed a couple of friends and went up to see what all the fuss was about.


With my long-planned Evolution trip put on hold due to weather, I was still eager to get down to the Eastern Sierra for some skiing in the big mountains.  On the day after our incredible Ralston-to-Echo ski tour, it looked like we would have a short weather window in between storms.  Ben and I therefore decided to load up our overnight packs and head south to ski the challenging terrain of Matterhorn Peak.  This striking granite spire is the apex of California’s jagged Sawtooth Ridge, a formidable wall of mountains that rises from the sagebrush desert to form the northeast border of Yosemite National Park.  Perhaps most famous for its metaphoric role in Jack Kerouak’s The Dharma Bums, Matterhorn Peak is a justifiably popular summer climbing destination.  It is even better in the winter and spring, when one need not worry about permits, quotas and throngs of fellow hikers and climbers.  With year-round access via the road to Twin Lakes (7,100’), the Sawtooth Ridge is truly a backcountry ski heaven (photo:  Sawtooth Ridge seen from US 395 in Bridgeport, CA).

This was my third trip to Matterhorn Peak.  I climbed the peak on its more gentle southeast side in October 2001, and was stormed off its frontside in an aborted ski tour in April 2002.  Ben was also up on the lower flanks of Matterhorn Peak in April 2002 (coincidentally, on the day before us) and fared no better.  As a result, we were both itching to get back there and ski one of the fine couloirs that drop from near the summit.  Joined by Ben’s roommate Jeff, we left South Lake Tahoe early Saturday morning, and quickly made the two hour drive down to Bridgeport.  (photo:  Snow-covered Dunderberg Peak near Virginia Lakes)

The drive down was quick.  A stop at the golden arches for some quality breakfast prompted a discussion of the self-proclaimed "extreme alpinist" Mark Twight.  "Would Mark Twight eat a Sausage McMuffin before an expedition?", I asked.  "Nah," replied Jeff, "Mark Twight survives on 96 hour pushes with nothing more than 87 packs of GU and a campstove."  So the rest of the trip was filled with "What would Mark Twight do?" speculation and loads of humorous "Twight-isms." 

Photos and report (continued)

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