Skiing the Eastern Sierra Giant
Mt. Tom is the undisputed giant of the Eastern Sierra skyline around Bishop. It rises nearly 10,000 feet above town. There are numerous classic ski lines on its southern and eastern sides. But Logan and I had been drawn to the series of gullies on the west face. There are very few west facing ski lines in the Sierra – typically the wind strips the snow from these faces. We could not find any information about this ski line. But the satellite imagery looked convincing. After scouting the approach up Gable Creek earlier in the week, we decided to give it a go!
My friend Sean (Dr. Dirtbag) has been skiing the Eastern Sierra all spring, and he decided to join us for this trip. We met him in Mammoth and drove up Pine Creek Canyon together. Pine Creek is one of the most beautiful canyons in the entire Sierra and certainly worth a visit!
We walked up an old mining road into the Gable Creek Canyon, side hilled a little choss, and reached continuous snow from avy debris in the gut of the canyon in only about 15 minutes. Pretty simple access!
I love west and north facing lines because they do not necessitate early starts. It was a super pleasant climb, largely in the shade, up towards the west face of Mt. Tom.
There was a constriction around 10,000 ft getting into one of the gullies. It looked rather improbable, but as we got closer we discovered that it barely connected! If this section was out, you could go around it in the wider bowl further west.
There is an impressive amount of mining relics on Mt. Tom. A road actually cuts up the south flank from Horton Lake. On the NW side, we passed giant aerial tramways still in decent condition. The diverse, colorful rock all around Mt. Tom goes along with all the mining activity.
The snow was perfectly firm for the entirety of our ascent and we cramponed with ease all the way to 13,300 ft, where the snow ran out. The final 300 ft was a chossy walk up.
The views from Mt. Tom are exceptional. You can see into the heart of the High Sierra, including my favorite regions around Feather, Merriam, Four Gables, and Humphreys.
When we reached our skis, the top few hundred feet were still slightly icy, but the slopes below were ripe and ready. Because the upper slopes are west facing but the lower part of the line curves northerly, we were able to get nearly 4000 ft of decent corn. Not the most ripper corn, but incredibly fun in an absolutely beautiful setting. While most Eastern Sierra lines face the desert, this run immerses you in the mountains. Epic!
The snow was a little over baked after the constriction, but once again returned to nice corn all the way down to 9000 ft!
We took off our skis when the snow became a black mess of rocks and avy debris, choosing the hike the final bit of snow. Two other skiers who apparently hated their skis had skied through the mess of rocks. A short 15 minute hike on dry land brought us back to our cars. What a great tour!
The west face of Mt. Tom was a super fun skimo objective with an easy approach, beautiful summit, and epic ski line. This was probably the most classic, aesthetic ski line from our entire trip. And it was a pleasure to see Sean again and share the Sierra with him!