Dreadful Drought You Say? Skiing Lines in May! @ Sonora Pass, CA

Casey Cane | BackcountryBackcountry


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Back in mid-May, the ski season refused to die in California despite the existence of an unprecedented drought…so the snow soldiers rolled on!

The mountain highway passes (89, 4, 108, & 120) all opened in April because of the lack of snow. As a frequent ski tourer of said passes, the usual plan of attack is to get there right when they open as snow conditions generally deteriorate quickly after opening. However, after a few decent 12 inch storms in early May, the passes played an open & shut game.

The cards finally aligned on May 12th for Jamie Blair (from GNAR the movie fame) and I to spend a day touring to the Y Couloir off Leavitt Peak via Sonora Pass. Our main issue was the wind…as it was insane and probably sustained at 80mph on the exposed ridges. With a few moments of almost ‘turning around,’ we went for it and made it to the summit of Leavitt Peak in around 3 hours.

Given the wind, we knew the snow conditions would suck…and they pretty much did. The Y Couloir was a mix between frozen old snow, firm wind-packed new snow, and some softening in the sunny aspects at 1pm. Ideally a later descent would have yielded much better results. Only the lower slopes down to the car were perfect corn at 2pm…which of course we milked and had a great time doing so.

..oh and the pass has been shut almost non-stop since May 22nd due to new snow. Is there another visit in order? Yes, I believe so…stayed tuned.

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And to think it was nuking snow on this road the day prior…

Highway 108 – Sonora Pass, CA – May 12th, 2015

No Name Peak warming up to morning sun…

No Name Peak – Sonora Pass, CA – May 12th, 2015

Our intended destination is Leavitt Peak on the left…

Options abound – Sonora Pass, CA

The winds in exposed areas were mind-blowing. Here, Jamie Blair performs his signature aerodynamic skinning form…

Nice pants bro…

Thankfully, we were protected from the wind skinning up Leavitt Bowl…

Leavitt Bowl, CA – May 12th, 2015

After a few hours, we were able to skin all the way to the summit …

Leavitt Peak, CA

Hard to beat the views up here…

Summit of Leavitt Peak, CA – May 12th, 2015

Given the recent snowfall, the Sierra was finally looking like winter…

Sierra Nevada, CA – May 12th 2015

As Mr. Blair scoped his line off the Y Couloir, he discovered that the wind scoured the upper portion to near death-ice conditions…

Y Couloir, Leavitt Peak, CA

After navigating the upper portion safely, he slowly opened up his turns…

Jamie Blair, a skier

Jamie then yelled up and told me to take another entrance to hopefully find more suitable snow conditions…and, of course, I value his opinion.

Knife edge skiing

On my upper section, I found some firm wintery snow but failed to take my boots out of ‘walk mode’…great job dude!

Skiing in California

After ‘locking’ my boots, I grabbed a shot of this skier slaying a turn…

Jamie Blair, Y Couloir – May 12th, 2015

I followed his lead…unfortunately the wind was keeping the snow temps low enough to make our descent less than ideal…oh well.

California Chuting

If we had the luxury to wait another hour, I’m betting the snow would have been perfection…

Skiing off Leavitt Peak, CA

Jamie’s middle name is ‘variable conditions’…

Skier exiting the Y Couloir

Initially, we had plans to ski a total of two different peaks up high followed by an exit to the hairpin at Highway 108. However, given the conditions, we decided to make our northerly descent to the car a little bit sooner.

Skier points to the exit route

Our line off Leavitt Peak…

Leavitt Peak, CA – May 12th, 2015

And the lower elevation made all the difference…

Corn skiing off Sonora Pass, CA

Hello there, I think we found a zone to visit next time…

Mystery Chutes – Sonora Pass, CA

As we continued to stay left on our descent, we were greeted by some glorious corn…

Jamie Blair – Corn skier

On our last line to the hairpin, we scored some carvetastically good produce…

Sonora Pass corn skiing – May 12th, 2015

Here, a skier enjoys his last tuns after a long day…

Skier ripping turns on Sonora Pass, CA

Being too tired to find a dry crossing, we gave up and straightlined to the awaiting vehicle…

Ski boot river crossing

Mandatory ski track looking back parting shot…

Sonora Pass tracks, May 12th, 2015

Now that’s a solid day in the Sierra…

Hwy 108 – California

…until next time Sonora Pass


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3 thoughts on “Dreadful Drought You Say? Skiing Lines in May! @ Sonora Pass, CA

  1. The couloir left of the big rock/highest point in the mystery chutes picture is fantastic…seems to have the right exposure for good corn….no clue on a name though.

    1. The X Couloir, far lookers right on the Mystery Chutes, is even better. So many options up there!

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