Eastern Sierra, CA Backcountry Report: 1″ of Snow in 20-Minutes at 12,300′ in Zebra Chute

Miles Clark | | Conditions ReportConditions Report
Big mountain, little skier.  Roger.  Zebra Couloir. image: snowbrains

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.

Miles in hammering snow at the to of Zebra Couloir on Mt. Emerson, CA on June 1st, 2019. image: Roger Romani

Then down again into the valley that holds Emerson.

The day started brilliant and blue.

By 8am, clouds were forming, shifting, rolling, stacking.

Roger Jump turning at the steepest part at the top. image: snowbrains

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.

Roger grinding up. image: snowbrains

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.

Zebra apron pow. Roger. image: snowbrains

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.

Steep… image: Roger Romani

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.

Roger in the sand and light. image: snowbrains

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.

Roger in the throat of the beast.

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.

Miles at the mouth. image: Roger Romani

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.


The Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. image: snowbrains
Roger getting ready for that first jump turn in 45º terrain… image: snowbrains
Mt. Tom at dawn. image: snowbrains
Roger bushwhacking. image: snowbrains
Mt. Locke. image: snowbrains

Roger rocking it. image: snowbrains
The Buttermilks at dawn. image: Roger Romani
Zebra Couloir. image: snowbrains
Mt. Tom in the eve. image: snowbrains
Rog sliding home. image: snowbrains
Buttermilks. image: snowbrains
Roger.  Zebra Couloir. image: snowbrains
The road home. image: snowbrains
Buttermilks. image: snowbrains
Roger on the approach. image: snowbrains
Mt. Tom. image: snowbrains
Zebra Couloir. image: snowbrains
Miles on the approach. image: Roger Romani
Zebra Couloir. image: Roger Romani
Miles in the bush. image: Roger Romani
Roger and a gorgeous afternoon. image: snowbrains
Perfect light. image: snowbrains

Mt. Tom. image: snowbrains
Happy Roger back at the car. image: snowbrains
Buttermilks. image: snowbrains
Cruising back to the car. image: snowbrains
Dawn. image: snowbrains
Roger headed home above the valley. image: snowbrains

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