Trip Report: Eastern Sierra, CA – Matterhorn Peak Ski Dreams Couloir

Clay Malott | BackcountryBackcountry | Trip ReportTrip Report
Matterhorn Peak, Sierra, California,
Deane working towards the top of the couloir. Photo credit: Clay Malott

Report from Saturday, June 12, 2021

Matterhorn Peak, located in the Eastern Sierra near Bridgeport, CA is a sight to behold; its craggy cliffs and sharp ridgelines make it a stunning spectacle. We targeted Matterhorn for some late-season corn skiing this weekend. Our line of choice was the Ski Dreams Couloir, a line near the summit of Matterhorn about 500 vertical long and 40 feet wide. The objective was to get some good turns to celebrate our 25th month of skiing in a row!

Matterhorn Peak, Sierra, California,
Matterhorn Peak and Sawtooth Ridge from Highway 395. Photo credit: Clay Malott

We parked at Annett’s Mono Village, located at the westernmost lake in the Twin Lakes drainage. We got started hiking at about 5:50 am. The Horse Creek Trail follows Horse Creek up towards Matterhorn, which provided good footing and a fast pace up towards our objective. The trail was completely bare of snow, so we had our skis and boots on our packs.

Working our way up the trail with our objective looming in the distance. Photo credit: Clay Malott

Eventually, the trail begins to climb a steep scree field, where it eventually disappears into the mess of loose, unorganized rocks. This scree is absolutely miserable to climb up, but the roughly 500 vertical foot climb up it is necessary to access the rest of the ascent.

Scree hell. Photo credit: Clay Malott

After the scree, there is a saddle, where we did some difficult route-finding to find a route up the ridge leading to the Matterhorn Glacier. After some time working through the trees and the rock, we came upon a nice small lake just beneath the glacier.

The lake with Horse Creek Spire in the background. Photo credit: Clay Malott

Past the lake, we continued working up toward the Ski Dreams Couloir. We tried to stay on the rock as much as we could to prevent slipping and post-holing in the snow, as we were trying to put our ski boots on as late as possible to keep our efficiency as high as possible. The terrain was mostly boulder hopping, which is both slow and tiring.

The lower snowfield beneath the Matterhorn Glacier, where we tried to stay on rock as much as possible. Photo credit: Clay Malott

We continued working up the glacier on rock ridges and firm snow for as long as we could.

Matterhorn Peak, Sierra, California,
Traversing the glacier toward our line. Photo credit: Clay Malott

Finally, we rounded the corner and got our first good look at the stunning Ski Dreams Couloir.

Matterhorn Peak, Sierra, California,
The Ski Dreams Couloir and the upper Matterhorn Glacier. Photo credit: Clay Malott

Once we reached the continuous snow beneath the couloir, we switched to boots and crampons. We made our way toward the neck of the couloir. In the couloir itself, the slope angle was gentle enough that we could use French technique, but toward the middle and top of the couloir, the pitch steepened up to nearly 50 degrees, and with the sloppy summer top layer of the snowpack, we decided to use Austrian technique to the top.

Deane working towards the top of the couloir. Photo credit: Clay Malott

From the top of the couloir, we enjoyed spectacular views of Yosemite and the Owens Valley.

Superb views of Yosemite. Photo credit: Clay Malott

We transitioned from crampons to skis and prepared for our descent. The snow was slightly suncupped, but it was the perfect mix of soft and firm to provide supportive yet forgiving ski conditions. The snow was excellent all the way down!

Matterhorn Peak, Sierra, California,
Deane dropping in. Photo credit: Clay Malott
Me enjoying summertime conditions on Matterhorn Peak. Photo credit: Deane Malott

After the neck of the couloir, we skied absolutely beautiful snow on the Matterhorn Glacier.

Laying it out on the Matterhorn Glacier. Photo credit: Deane Malott
Matterhorn Peak, Sierra, California,
Ant on a glacier. Photo credit: Clay Malott

We continued down the glacier, where we climbed over a small rocky ridge in our ski boots to the lower snowfield that we had climbed up. The lower snowfield was absolutely horrible, with suncups about 6 inches deep all the way down. Overall, we got nearly 2,000′ of skiing, which is incredible considering how bad this year was for the Sierra Nevada.

Suncups, anyone? Photo credit: Clay Malott

From the lake at the bottom of the snowfield, we picked our way down through the cliffs and scree back to the trail, where we gradually made our descent to the valley floor to Twin Lakes. Overall, we did about 13 miles and 6,400 vertical feet of climbing. The climb definitely took longer than expected due to the boulder-hopping for most of the route. Overall, it was a great descent and a great way to celebrate 25 months in a row!


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One thought on “Trip Report: Eastern Sierra, CA – Matterhorn Peak Ski Dreams Couloir

  1. Some great backcountry rock climbs up that way too.
    F.A.’s of some decent hard rated routes by the likes of climber legend Peter Croft and Tahoe legend climber/skier Dave Nettle too.

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