The very deep snow/low tide combo made skiing tricky around the Mammoth Lakes area on Friday. Despite the overall lack of coverage in the area, we figured that areas with less snow and fewer rocks/more forgiving ground might ski best. When we drove past Mono Jim on Friday it looked pretty ready for an early season attempt. We’d had luck on the east face last year on Dec 2 in similar conditions and had the early season route finding dialed. We drove down to convict to give it a shot. We figured we’d skin to the summit and choose the East Face or Old Man’s Bowl depending on conditions. Perhaps surprisingly, this worked out very well.
We started skinning at 9a under mostly cloudy skies. Our target was to be out by 1p with the storm starting to roll in. The snow was soft at the convict lake marina, and had settled into a nice blanket on top of the bushes. We found the skinning to the bench/tobacco flat to be surprisingly not too bad. Once we got on the upper slope of the bench, we started to notice some light wind effect.
Continuing up the bench on the climbers left side of the gully underneath the east face of Mono Jim, we saw variable snow (10a). Some wind crust, some soft settled powder. Turning the corner in to Old Man’s Bowl the snow was soft. Snow depth was approximately 24” of settled pow (11a). There were pockets of wind crust in the lower/mid bowl, but nothing too surprising. Near the top of the bowl, we crossed to the climbers right to approach the entrance to the farthest east chute on Mono Jim. We found a small 4-6” windslab on the SE aspect near the ridge and traveled carefully, 1-by-1 across it.
At the entrance to the chute, we noticed a big, dense windslab (12p). We could see that it was blown in underneath the rocks above the sneak entrance, and it ran down as far as we could see around the corner. We dug a hasty pit to check it out - east aspect, roughly 10,500' near the ridgetop just into fall line on the east face. Snow depth was about 30”. The windslab was hard (1F / Pencil) and about 8-10” deep, with the remaining snow to ground a soft powdery consistence (Fist). To check reactivity, we did a quick ECT. The slab broke at ECT11 with a relatively planar fracture at the interface between the slab and soft snow. It did not shear away after breaking but was easy to cleanly slide off the soft snow.
With some shallow spots around the choke 100’ below I figured this stubborn slab was possible, but not likely to trigger. The entrance is often like this, but many outstanding variables (including if the face had enough snow to ski enjoyably), I decided to pull the plug. My partner did not want to ski the face alone and we deceded to ski Old Man’s Bowl together.
The skiing in the bowl was very good, with boot top settled pow throughout. We did not hit any obstacles in the bowl, partially due to good line selection and partially due to conservative skiing. We had a great time. The ski down to the bench was bony in spots by mostly clean with a few bushy spots. The descent from the bench to convict was interesting, but we managed. Back at the car around 1:15p.
High clouds with a little sun poking through, a few flurries from warm air advection