Report from June 1st, 2019
Yesterday morning Roger Romani arose before dawn and made the trek to the spectacularly beautiful Buttermilks in Bishop, CA with the objective of skiing the Zebra Couloir off 13,100′ Mt. Emerson.
With our 4×4 we were able to drive up the road quite a ways and park high.
Easy walking got afforded us some up and down and eventually delivered us to snow and skins and up.
Then down again into the valley that holds Emerson.
The day started brilliant and blue.
By 8am, clouds were forming, shifting, rolling, stacking.
We made the call to continue on and the clouds lifted a seemed to mellow out.
At the base of the Zebra Couloir, we were pumped.
No tracks, no sign of humans at all, and decent weather.
Up we went.
Tough booting due to deep, funky snow, and a crust.
Halfway up the stunning chute, it snow graupel on us for a bit then stopped.
The chute proper is about 40º and the top of the chute felt like about 50º.
At the top we dug platforms and began to transition to skis.
Just then it started to snow.
It started to snow hard.
Big graupel came crashing down on us, bouncing this way and that, and forming graupel rivers that were incredible to watch.
The stuff came down with such fury that it filled our platforms and later we found 3′ deep channels of it running out the bottom of the chute later on.
To be totally honest, it felt pretty intense standing in a small, shrinking platform in 50º snow with 1,800-vertical-feet below us, and intense snow crashing down on us and pouring down the mountain and making a deafening racket.
In the end, it snowed about an inch of graupel in about 20 minutes.
That new snow was great for the skiing.
The top of the chute was a bit icy and steep and scary.
As the angle mellowed a bit, it gave the snow a place to rest and the bottom 2/3rds of the chute was mini-powder fun.
The apron was graupel mini-powder goodness and the ski out wasn’t sticky due to the fresh snow.
We had a blast skiing the chute and soaked in the dramatic views on the walk back to the car and the long 4×4 drive back to the real world.
I’d never been to the Buttermilks before.
If you have been, you need to go.
The place is wildly beautiful.
If you’re interested in skiing the California Backcountry, please contact Alpenglow Expeditions for a guide and all the local knowledge.