Mount Gilbert (#59), Mount Johnson (#60), Mount Goode (#61)
Note: many thanks to Jack Kuenzle for providing his pictures from the trip.
Day 50, Mount Gilbert, Mount Johnson, Mount Goode
For the second morning in a row, I pedaled up the steep, winding South Lake road. Despite sore legs, the miles rolled by more easily this time, thanks to pleasant conversation with my partner for the day, a very talented athlete named Jack.
Our objective for the day was a linkup of Gilbert, Johnson, and Goode. If all went well, we would ski from near the summit of each peak. We reached South Lake, and, finding the reservoir to be partially melted and shockingly low, opted to follow the summer trail high above the south shore.
After wrapping around the lake and correcting a minor route finding mishap, we made our way up into the alpine.
At the head of the drainage, a towering wall above was split by a steep couloir that would provide access to Gilbert’s moderate east face.
We booted the couloir in the warm morning sun, but were greeted quite abruptly on top by a cold west wind.
The snow on Gilbert’s east face was still frozen solid, providing an easy climb but promising less than ideal skiing conditions.
A few minutes later we were on the summit.
We eyed our ascent route up Thompson, then dropped in on the rough, chattering, icy face. The skiing was awful, but the vibration made for a lovely foot massage!
A convenient traverse between talus patches deposited us at the base of Thomson’s NW face.
We climbed steep snow and talus to the notch at the top of the north couloir and, peering over the edge down the steep line, were stoked to see that it looked to be in fine condition.
I scrambled up a section of exposed 3rd class to tag the summit and snap the obligatory pictures.
We returned to the notch for the descent.
Jack opted to downclimb the steep, rocky entrance, while I ungracefully scraped my way in with skis on. We rendezvoused 50 feet down, where the line opened up a bit. I dropped in first, bracing for ice or punchy windboard, but instead found excellent, dry powder!
We leapfrogged down the line, slashing turns, racing sluff, letting out shouts of stoke and elation, and finally ripped out the bottom and onto the waiting apron.
It was a fantastic descent and a wonderful surprise. As we continued down the drainage, the snow turned to corn, providing a couple steep sections of fun turns.
We crossed a small lake, the firm, icy surface providing excellent and fast skating, then transitioned for another short climb.
Up and over a small col we went, once again finding fun corn skiing, then climbed to the base of Goode’s east face.
Snow conditions here were soft but supportable at first, but, as the face steepened, deteriorated to a punchy, icy crust on top with deep, wet facets beneath. Jack, still bursting with energy, led the charge as we wallowed up the final climb, and I happily drafted behind him.
Many times we resorted to crawling across the unsupportable surface. At last, we reached the summit, peering down the steep north face and soaking in the excellent views of countless snowy peaks both near and far.
The Palisades were particularly awe-inspiring from our vantage point. The skiing went from funky and difficult, to good, to great as we chased each other down the mountain, gliding between shadows and the waning afternoon sun.
We exited across more perfectly smooth icy lakes, interspersed between sections of fun skiing, and before long were walking out the last section of trail to the parking lot. Whizzing down the curves of the steep road was an excellent conclusion to a fantastic and successful day enjoying the mountains with a new friend!
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