Skating & Scambling in the Sierra

| January 10, 2012

After long hiatus, I made a trip back to the east side of the Sierra range last weekend for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center fund raising party.  This area is one of those places that after visiting it once, you swear you are going to return for annual skiing trips as it is incredibly beautiful and has fantastic terrain.  But, in a perverse case of misery love company, the Sierra is having an even worse year than the Wasatch, which is currently on track to being one of the worse years on record.   Given the choice between skiing a 12″ base of rotten snow over rocks in the Wasatch or going alpine ice skating, hiking and rock climbing in the snowless Sierra, California wins hands down.

The aptly named “Lake District” around Mammoth Lakes has an endless supply of beautiful alpine lakes which are now all frozen over and snow free, which makes for perfect skating.  I hadn’t skated for years, but the $40 investment in a pair of used hockey skates was instantly worthwhile as the setting is so sublime and the access is so easy.

It was also nice to get a break from Utah, where we hardly ever see anarchy like this.

We also had a chance to head down to the Owen Gorge for some climbing.  There wasn’t any water flow in the gorge last time I was there, but nowadays there’s a steady creek running through it with trees, wildlife (aside from snakes) and fauna, as well as fantastic climbing.

Owens now has over 1,200 climbs in it and a high proportion of them are in the 3-5 star range.  It’s a blast!

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Category: Trip Reports

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (8)

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  1. George says:

    Hey there, always enjoyed checking out your blog!

    Sorry to see the US experiencing a snow-drought, but Japan has been getting one of the best Dec/Jan in recent years. Recently 40-50cm overnight dumps are not uncommon, 2-3x a week (but that will no doubt taper down). Might be the year to make a trip over here, if the opportunity arises.

  2. Ralph S. says:

    That sign is awesome! Did you see any bong-smoking-skateboarding horses? I have wanted to hit Owens for some time. Did you use Marty Lewis’ guidebook? I think we are going to hit it in the spring. Or maybe the winter, with this shite snow situation here in Idaho.

  3. Andrew says:

    Ralph – we didn’t see any bong-smoking-skateboarding horses, but I’m sure we would have if we had waited at the cross walk long enough. ;) For Owens we had something even better than a guidebook – four locals (who did by chance have a copy of the book as well).

  4. catalin says:

    Hello, what are you waiting? Jump on a plane and go to Austria or other country in the Alps, there they have 2 meters of snow. I have seen this on a report from wildsnow I think it’s one of your blog links. Were I am now the snow it is even worse that in Wasatch.

  5. Sam says:

    Andrew, Thanks for your great presentation. Glad you had a good time over here!

  6. Andrew! I heard your presentation was awesome. Sorry I missed it. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us in Mammoth!

    @Caitlin No doubt. I’m so jealous of the Alps right now. I got to say though, I’ve been ice skating a lot too, which is a rare treat in the Eastern Sierra, and the Gorge is always a treat, not matter what kind of season we’re having.

  7. Wyatt says:

    What kind of skates are those? Alpine pond hockey sounds like the greatest idea of all time.

  8. d3 says:

    oh, it’s a bong! i thought it was a microphone upside down and i was thinking: what a dumb ass. but then, it’s not a donkey, either!

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