8/03/2022 1:21:15 pm, Nathan

San Joaquin Mountain (#19)

Day 16, San Joaquin Mountain

After yesterday's minor epic and a much longer day than I was expecting, I was ready for something a bit more straightforward. Potential for good skiing would be an added bonus. San Joaquin was perfect!

I hiked up Yost Creek from the quaint little village of June Lake. It was another clear, cold, windy day. Down low, there was barely a skiff of new snow, but as I gained elevation it quickly began to pile up.

I traversed below an area known as The Negatives, a popular side-country cirque with lots of quality couloirs and steeps, often accessed from the nearby ski resort. I spotted fresh tracks in a few of the lines. Fresh tracks mean fresh snow!

I looped around and followed the established skin track up, which was a welcome relief from breaking trail in funky snow. The skinning was straightforward and mellow.

As I crested the summit plateau, the full force of the wind almost knocked me off my skis. It was truly howling! The final climb to the summit was cold and felt very alpine indeed. On top, fortunately, I found a sunny spot on the leeward side of a boulder to soak in the views for a moment before I headed down.

The jagged forms of Ritter, Banner, and the Minarets loomed large in the foreground. They create one of my favorite skylines in the world. Last winter, I was fortunate enough to ski from the summits of both Ritter and Banner on the same day, in excellent conditions. I look forward eagerly to visiting them again! After I had fully indulged myself in the view, I descended, first scratching down icy, wind sculpted garbage, then hiking out to the top of the Negatives.

I opted to drop in on a line called Red Chute, and found wonderful, soft conditions in the steep couloir. After a set of quick hop turns down the steep, narrow entrance, I opened it up and arced smooth, fast turns down the rest of the couloir, rock walls whizzing by, inches from my skis. I shot out onto the waiting apron, leaning hard into huge GS turns. There were icy spots, and punchy spots, but for the most part it was blissfully soft skiing, a very welcome change from the last couple descents. Too soon I was back on flat ground, following my skin track back down to the van.

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