Thanks to a generous friend we started our day via snowmobile and started skinning out of Agnew meadows at 5am. The clear night provided a supportable crust resulting in quick travel and we were able to skate across the meadows and down into the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin (MFSJ) drainage. We found the easiest travel down to the valley was following the summer trial and required some sections of hiking. Once in the valley we found spotty coverage with plenty of dirt, bush and log skinning but were able to keep our skis on for the most part. We used the bridge to cross over the MFSJ river and started our climb up towards shadow lake. Coverage up the drainage was also fairly spotty and required a few sections of climbing. Shadow lake was starting to look quite blue in color, but with it being early morning and with a quick ice assessment, we decided to skin across the lake. Travel between shadow and Ediza lakes is always more complex than I remember, and we crossed several snow bridges over a mostly open shadow creek to make it to Ediza lake at 8:15. We skinned across Ediza and started to encounter some light surface warming on the east facing terrain. As we made our way up the first bench on Ritter we started to find soft dry wintry snow with a light wind effect crust ontop. A combination of our wet skins, the dry snow and the warm temps resulted in some extreme glopping on our skins making for arduous travel and greatly slowing our pace. Once above the bench, the terrain turned back to an east aspect and we found 1-2cm of moist snow at 9:45am. We continued up the canyon towards the main chute and experienced some additional gloppy skiing conditions on the shaded north aspects. We were a little disappointed to see the main chute of ritter had about 600 feet of rock between skinnable snow but decided to continue up, as the terrain looked within our ability and risk thresholds. Once above the chute we found 2-4cm of moist snow on the face with less moist snow near the summit. Descending conditions was a mixed bag with the south and east facing terrain skiing like hot pow(wet transition snow, not quite corn snow). The north facing terrain skied decently at times and we did produce some rollerballs on the way down. Bellow Ediza things became more treacherous as the freeze crust started to fail breaking through into the mush, but only at times, making the skiing extremely variable. I did trigger one loose wet slide on a small convexity test slope during a ski cut (1pm, 9100ft, NE aspect). Continuing down shadow creek, bellow shadow lake the variable snow continued and we had a close call as the snow collapsed under my partner as he traversed near the summer trail. Once back in the MFSJ valley we made our way back towards Agnew meadows following the summer trail and found the terrain to be more treacherous then we noticed in the dark morning. The snow in the valley contained lots of hollow areas that were easy to break through(at 3pm) and drop 1-2 feet onto an unknown base of water, rock, and logs. There was also tons of tree debree from the wind events of the past few month making us not want to put our skins back on and we chose to skate/sidestep the terrain back to the agnew/reds trail split. We then skinned/hiked our way back to the snowmo and got back to the sled at 3:45. Our feet were grateful to cruise our way back to the car. Overall it was a great adventure with some beautiful terrain, but the current snowpack was still in a bit of a transitional time and I wouldn’t recommend that many folks head that way in its current condition. If you do decide to venture out be sure to start and end early to avoid the multiple hazards that come with the warming temps.
Some blowing snow was observed within Ritter canyon(above 11000ft) with moderate SW gusts.
Winds were primarily calm all day with an occasional light SW breeze.
Full sun without clouds all day and a warming trend throughout the day.
Under Waller minaret
|D1||WL||O-Old Snow||6"||N-Natural||Slide occurred at some point between 9am and 1pm on 03/23|