Last Thursday my girlfriend (Rachel) and I were sitting at home dreading
the late night drive from LA up to Bishop. The plan was to climb Mt.
Johnson, which is a nice looking, pointy mountain in the Sierras near
South Lake, nestled between Mt. Gilbert and Mt. Goode. The original
plan was to drive up Thursday night, ski in to Treasure lakes on Fri.,
climb Mt. Johnson on Sat. and ski out on Sun. But the idea of doing
this, in our tired condition repelled us. So we decided to do it in a
So, we relaxed on Thursday night, drove up on Friday, and slept in the
car at the trailhead (where the road turns to snow - 3 or 4 miles from
South Lake). Saturday morning we were up at 4:30 and hiking (with day
packs and randonee skis on our back) by 5:30am. The snow was rock hard
and we got to South Lake by 7:00. On the other end of the lake the
postholing started so the skis came off the back and on the feet. We
continued on skis through the Treasure lakes drainage. The mountain was
still looking pretty far away and I found myself eyeing up the west face
of Hurd Peak (~ 12,200 ft), which was our backup plan, and much closer.
However, we were making good progress so we stuck to the plan. As we
continued we were getting in the "if I can just make it to the next
saddle" mode, and sucking wind hard. But, eventually we were at the
base of the SE slope of Mt. Johnson. There we ditched the skis and got
out the crampons and axes. Rachel forgot to adjust her crampons to her
plastic doubles, and without a screwdriver we were in a pickle. But
after trying everything, we used the adze on our ice axes for a
screwdriver, which worked nicely. We started up the second class talus
slope about noon or so. At the top of the slope we crossed onto a steep
snow slope/couloir. The snow was the perfect consistency for unroped,
single axe, self belay snowclimbing.
For a couple hundred meters we kicked deep steps and sunk our shafts in
the snow. The snow steepened to about 45 or 50 degrees at the top and,
after making sure the other side wasn't corniced, we stepped onto a
narrow ridge. A few minutes later we were on the summit (12,871 ft) and
trying to enjoy our lunch. It was a near perfect day except for a
little wind. The peanut butter and honey bagel did nicely, but we were
anxious to get going. The summit register was buried and went unfound,
so we snapped some photos and took off. We downclimbed the snow
backwards, then retraced our steps down to the skis.
The theory was that by using plastic double climbing boots with randonee
bindings then we get the best climbing boots and are still able to ski
in them. However, if you have ever tried to ski with plastic double
mountaineering boots, you know that they are NOTHING like ski boots.
Earlier this year I made ***for them, by using the upper portion of
some old Lange ski boots. These ***just wrap around the outside of
my plastic doubles and actually add a lot of lateral support. In
addition, I did that trick with the stiffening strap (from climbing tech
tips a while ago) which helped as well. With all of these shenanegans
the boots were still barely skiable (and we used to compete at skiing
for several years!). Even though the boots don't ski very well they
will still allow you to get in and out of a climb much better than
So we "skied" down through the Treasure lakes, and found some patches of
perfect velvet windpack and actually carved a couple of turns! We
encountered just about every type of snow you can imagine (except for
some of the good ones). Some places were so sticky and crusty that
while sideslipping the downhill ski would break through and I would
launch forward faceplanting. We tried to get enough speed to carry us
though the flat spots but we had to do some occasional pushing here and
there. We were very stubborn, refusing to have to put our skins back
on. When we got to South Lake I was tired, and slowly dragged ass up a
small hill. After that it was flat or down all the way to the car,
which was a really welcomed sight.
We arrived just after 5pm, nearly a 12 hour jaunt. We were very happy,
both to have done a perfect ski tour and climb, but to be done as well.
We jumped in the car, went to Tacobell (I love the Santa Fe Gorditas!),
and then caught the second night of the Banff Film Festival in Bishop.
We saw the one in LA, but these were mostly different films and we had a
good time. We saw a friend there who let us sleep the floor of his
Bishop weekend house. Sunday was beautiful and we leisurely drove back
to LA during the day and enjoyed the views - all the while making plans
for other mountains on our to-do list (North Rib of Mt Tyndall, and the
Swiss Arete of Mt. Sill, both visible from the 395, were especially
calling to me).
The highlight in Mojave City occurred when we were in some kind of fast
food restaurant. There was what we thought was a stuffed bass mounted
on the wall, complete with lure*** from his lip. However, all of a
sudden, we heard a noise coming from the fish and we saw that it was a
mechanical bass who was flipping around and singing (with full mouth
movement) the words "take me to the river ......... put me in the water
....... take me to the river ........ put me in the water ........". We
laughed pretty hard about this.