We skied off of, and around the Dana Plateau from Lee Vining Canyon today. Coverage is waning, but still adequate to ski from and to your car on the Poole Power Plant Road. Skies were clear, with calm winds in the canyon bottom and temperatures near freezing at 8:00.
Skinning in V Bowl was easy without ski crampons at 8:30. Topping out the bowl we were greeted by stronger than expected moderate SW winds with an air temp of 4 degrees c at 9:30. We could not spot any blowing snow anywhere, which isn’t a surprise given how locked up things are.
Cocaine Chute was very firm for the first 2/3. Ice ax and crampons mandatory. We observed a couple rocks falling from climbers right, originating from an E facing hanging piece of snow. Sidewalls receiving some sun were not even close to softening. No indication of any instability in this north facing alpine terrain.
The Dana Plateau is wind stripped with only ribbons of snow remaining. Winds were stronger than expected up there at 12000′.
We skied a SE facing chute from 12200′ to 10400′ at 12:00. The chute was in full sun but the upper couple hundred feet was still a bit crispy. Conditions improved as we descended. We did watch a few falling rocks bounce and slide their way down the chute. There were no signs of loose wet instabilities in this terrain.
A traverse around the East Peak of Dana showed us the spectrum of surface conditions to be expected in the high alpine right now including fields of penitentes, smooth supportable wind board, pocked old avalanche debris and stretches of pleasant skiing on surface facets. Below treeline we found better skiing on sheltered N facing terrain. Approaching the canyon floor careful attention was needed as temperature crusts became more widespread.
Overall it was a beautiful day to be out in the mountains. Low avalanche danger continues for the 39th consecutive day by my count.
We dug a quick pit on an E aspect at 10000′ above Gibbs Lake. HS was 105cm. The snow surface was 4-6″ nieves penitentes capping some wet snow. Similar to what I observed on SJ ridge yesterday there were frozen flow fingers and associated ice crusts, but here the melt water reached the ground where we found moist rounding facets. Tair +6c Tsurf 0c T20 -20c Tground 0c.