Trip Report: 12,200′ Mt. Esha, CA – “2nd Chute”

Miles Clark | | Trip ReportTrip Report
Mt. Esha, CA. image: snowbrains

Report from May 20, 2023

Brought to you by Mono County Tourism

In 2006, I skied Mt. Esha and swore I’d never ski it again…

It’s a long walk for a short ski.

But I just saw the face of Esha from a bird’s eye view while on top of the “Wineglass Couloir” 2-days ago on May 18.

The face of Esha looks glorious from that perch.

It looks almost Alaskan…

As soon as I saw it from that angle, I knew I had to ski it.


12,200′ Mt. Esha, CA – “2nd Chute”

  • Summit:  12,200′
  • Car:  7,600′
  • Vertical From Car:  4,600′
  • Vertical skied:  1,600′ on the face of Esha
  • Max Pitch:  40º
  • Avg Pitch: 38º
  • Aspect:  Northeast
  • Distance:  8.2-miles round trip 
  • Time From Car to Top:  4 hours & 25 minutes
  • Car to Car Time: 6 hours
  • Recommended Equipment:  Skins, crampons, ski crampons
  • **Note:  The best move here I learned today is to climb up Esha, ski one of the chutes on its face, then as soon as you complete the chute, cut hard skier’s left, put your skins on, skin up to the ridge, traverse over to the top of Wineglass Couloir, and ski Wineglass back down to the road and walk to your car – the adds up to a lot more vertical feet skied

I started hiking from the McGee Creek Campground at about 8 am.

McGee Creek looks like the Old West.

Barbed wire, sagebrush, lizards, mule deer, desert, cactus, creeks, aspen groves, pine trees, juniper trees, bear tracks, boulders for cover, 13,000-foot peaks with perennial snow, chipmunks, horse manure, and old broken down stables.

Mt. Esha, CA. image: snowbrains

I walked past all of the above today and gawked.

1.4 miles of dry road walking in bright shoes brought me to a picnic table with an old “E & J” whiskey bottle as a centerpiece.

Six pairs of shoes rested on the bench.

Big earthworm. Mt. Esha, CA. image: snowbrains

I stashed my sneakers with theirs, stuffed feet into ski boots, and started skinning up.

I was instantly tired.

I hadn’t recovered from “Wineglass Couloir” two days prior.

Poor grasshoppers… Mt. Esha, CA. image: snowbrains

I followed the flowing gully up toward Esha’s face.

It was here that I remembered why I’d said I’d never ski it again.

It’s a slog…

Lone skier. image: snowbrains

A long slog.

After about four miles, I was finally at the bottom of Esha’s face.

I was bushed…

Miles Clark skiing 2nd Chute on 12,200′ Mt. Esha, CA. image: snowbrains

Thank goodness there was a sturdy bootpack strung straight up the face.

I ground up.

I was worked.

Back to shoes! image: snowbrains

4 hours and 25 minutes after leaving the car, I was on top.

For the first time, I looked around and noticed the forecast thunderclouds.

They were growing fast and closing in on the sun.

Vista. image: snowbrains

I cut the summit rest break short and scrambled into my gear.

I was gunning for the “2nd chute” of Esha due to its more westerly aspect that I was hoping had kept the snow a bit cooler.

I thought I could ski over there…

Ye old west. Mt. Esha, CA. image: snowbrains

The traverse to “2nd chute” ended up being an awkward down-climb through broken granite and rotten, hip-deep snow.

It was the crux of the climb for me.

The clouds were closing in.

Mt. Esha from afar. Mt. Esha, CA. image: snowbrains

I finally got into position with all my gear on as the shade rolled in.

The thunderclouds were beginning to threaten the zone I was in.

A lucky hole in the clouds passed the sun, and I dropped into spotty sunshine.

Thunderclouds. image: snowbrains

It was now about 12:45 pm, and the corn snow in this chute still had some crunch.

Constant crunch, though, that led to some confidence and damn fun skiing.

Once out of the chute proper it turned softer, thicker, and stickier.

Heads up. image: snowbrains

The skiing on the apron was pretty cooked.

Below the apron, the soft roller coaster gully skied weird on the steeps and pretty cruisy on the flatter spots.

The final, narrow piece of the gully skied great due to old avalanche debris that held up against the mid-day sun.

Old west. image: snowbrains

I drifted right back into the “E & J” picnic table.

Shoes, shorts, ball cap, and sunnies.

I walked down the road towards home with a song on my lips.

Booter. image: snowbrains

Tough day.

Long slog.

Great chute.

Thanks, California!



Morning views. Mt. Esha, CA. image: snowbrains
Where the sidewalk ends. Mt. Esha, CA. image: snowbrains
Mt. Esha, CA. image: snowbrains
Thunderclouds. image: snowbrains
Mt. Baldwin. image: snowbrains
Red Slate Peak. image: snowbrains
Esha. image: snowbrains
Vista. image: snowbrains
Big vista. image: snowbrains
Thunder. image: snowbrains
Aspens wind pollinating system. image: snowbrains
Dark. image: snowbrains
Esha in the dark. image: snowbrains
Thunderclouds. image: snowbrains
Last look back. image: snowbrains
Moody. image: snowbrains
Esha moody. image: snowbrains
Mammoth. image: snowbrains

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