Mammoth and Inyo Craters, May 27-28, 2018

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Mammoth and Inyo Craters, May 27-28, 2018

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed May 30, 2018 10:43 am

The weather forecasters have continued to struggle with the unsettled weather of the past two weeks. Saturday was supposed to be stormy but per reports was mostly sunny. So both Adam and we drove Saturday and started skiing Sunday. There was some rain Saturday afternoon and evening with no more than an inch of very wet snow above 9,500 feet. In general this made Mammoth’s spring grooming/salting less effective than usual. Ungroomed areas needed to have decent pitch to avoid sticky snow.

Liz and I got on the hill Sunday by 8:30 and met Adam and also Elissa from Mammoth Forum by 9AM. The early morning was sunny, while we took 3 runs on chair 2 and a run off the back of 3 to Coyote. This run was perfect groomed corn May 17-18 but now is ungroomed as there are some too thin sections. At 10AM it became completely overcast and a cloud shrouded the upper mountain. This occurred while we were riding the gondola so we had a Braille run down the Cornice, where fortunately the snow was forgiving but not too soft yet. We skied the Terry’s and Andy’s race course runs and then ventured up to the base of the cloud on chair 3. This view is off the back of 3 with the gondola disappearing into the void.
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We skied off the back and over to chair 5. The lift and the freestyle camp were still running over Memorial weekend. Unfortunately most of the snow had developed suncups and irregularities over the past 10 days. We skied a skier packed line on Sanctuary but bailed out to Face of 5 because the melting snow has exposed even more of the March 3 avalanche debris at the base of chair 5.
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Triangle had the best snow on 5 but again we traversed to face of 5 for the lower part.

While it remained overcast, the cloud finally lifted off the top at 11:30, so I tried chair 23 and skied Drop Out 3. Snow was good there, though the mid-section line is constrained by a rock and snow slide path from Drop Out 2 at left here.
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I took 2 more laps on 1 and 23, skiing first Monument in fairly heavy snow where I bailed to Scotty’s for the lower part. Snow was more supportable on the next run on Wipe Out 2. After noon all of the lower runs were fairly heavy, so I skied Gravy Chute, then quit at 1PM with 21,100 vertical, saving energy for the expected sunny day Monday.

The unsettled weather lasted nearly 2 weeks but finally moved out Monday. Monday was warmer with only scattered clouds and a very minimal overnight freeze. Grooming/salting were more effective, so the early runs on chair 2 were better than Sunday despite the thinning snowpack on their likely last day. From the top of 2 there was a good view of the large rock that broke loose in Drop Out 2 and slid several hundred feet.
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As on Sunday we met Adam and Elissa and next skied back of 3 to Coyote at 9AM, also slightly improved. We skied to the gondola via Fascination, which was in decent corn mode at 9:30, evidence of the warm day with not much of a freeze. Cornice was of course more enjoyable on a clear day and we skied Fascination again to the gondola base.

Adam met some college friends and the others repeated Cornice, so I was on my own to test skier’s right Climax. Snow was soft but steep enough to ski well until the lower apron where it became heavier. I continued down to Triangle, which was the only route with decent snow on chair 5. View from top of Triangle to chair 5 base and beyond:
IMG_5661.JPG


So I rode chair 5 once but skied to 3, then groomed face of 3 to gondola mid-station. I skied a central line of Climax, reminiscent with the large outcroppings of the final days in late July/early August 2017. It is possible that Climax might not last until the June 17 closing as snowpack is less than other top runs due to the November and March avalanches. I cut left at the bottom to ski to main Lodge via Terry’s. I noticed that Andy’s was no longer being used by the racers so I took a lap there and then joined Liz for a gondola run. Liz skied Cornice while I skied Sign Line, the far skier’s left of Climax. View down that:
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From the same spot here’s the view across Climax.
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My second Climax run was in the clean snow on the other side of the discolored part. The first one was from a traverse out of view.

I rejoined Liz at the bottom of Cornice to ski World Cup, where the racers had just finished. I took 2 laps on 23, Drop Out 1 and Wipe Out 1, in both cases continuing down St. Anton on the more supportable snow where the racers had been.

While it was easier to find consistent morning snow on Monday than Sunday, the snow past noon was nearly as heavy. So I skied to the car at 12:45 with 20,700 vertical, concluding my ski season at 59 days.

About 2:30 Liz and I headed out to check out the Inyo Craters, which are perhaps a 15 minute drive from Mammoth via the scenic road north and a couple of miles of the dirt Dry Creek road. From the trailhead it’s an easy 0.7 mile walk to the first crater, which is the deepest and most impressive.
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The water is colored by dissolved minerals from the surrounding volcanic walls. Lava did not emerge from these craters, formed about 600 years ago. The magma just got close enough to groundwater to boil it and cause steam explosions.

The rim has eroded toward the original guard rail.
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The second crater is just beyond the first, view of rim here:
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At upper right the exposed rim of the third crater is barely visible.

As the walls are not as steep, trees have grown down to the second crater’s lake.
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The hike up to the third crater is much steeper, climbing maybe 400 feet over somewhat unstable footing. I’m on the rim as Liz approaches here.
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View west along the rim:
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Scrambling up was not too hard but the descent was slow in steep gravel and pine needles.

Above the second crater is the best overview I have ever seen of Mammoth Mountain, from Lincoln Mt. at left to chair 12 at right.
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I uploaded at full resolution so zoomed detail will be clearer.

On the descent the lower crater’s lake was reflecting sun about 4PM.
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
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Re: Mammoth and Inyo Craters, May 27-28, 2018

Postby baldyskier » Sun Jun 03, 2018 6:14 pm

I like that overview shot of Mammoth Mountain.
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Re: Mammoth and Inyo Craters, May 27-28, 2018

Postby baldyskier » Sun Jun 03, 2018 6:36 pm

Tony, I had a more general question about Mammoth Mountain. I realize that MM is a great place for spring skiing (although it's getting a little late this season). Last year I had 3 good Spring Skiing days in early May.
My question is about MM for Winter conditions. I skied on Friday and Saturday, March 22-23, 2018. MM had just gotten maybe 5 feet of fresh snow in a few days. Storm conditions (including high winds) had closed the whole mountain the day before (Thursday, March 21st). I had high hopes for great conditions, but both days were a little disappointing. Friday the upper mountain was closed, so the lower mountain was crowded. Saturday morning was decent, especially after chair 23 opened mid morning. The snow was windblown, so no soft snow was to be found anywhere (except for a couple inches atop the windblown surface on some slopes). By early afternoon, Chair 23 and some other chairs were shut down due to the winds. I spent 50 minutes waiting to take the Gondola up from the bottom at around 1:20 PM. Visibility at the top had degraded a lot, although the snow was decent.
Would you agree that these kinds of conditions are common for winter conditions at Mammoth (wind holds with crowds, then windblown "powder")? By contrast, I went to SLC in late Febuary/early March and had several nice powder days at Alta and Snowbird. I'm tempted to relegate Mammoth to "Spring conditions only" status, even though i live in Los Angeles.
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Re: Mammoth and Inyo Craters, May 27-28, 2018

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:34 am

The top (also 9&14) of Mammoth is closed for weather/visibility about 30% of winter days. I don’t consider the ski experience seriously compromised unless the middle tier of lifts (3,5,22) is also closed. I’d guess that’s more like 5%. And that’s the scenario where lower mountain lift lines get bad.

Is new snow up top usually wind hammered? I’d say more often than not though I’ve had my share of powder up there. The Paranoids are the best powder bet up top but 22 is the most sheltered sector for steep powder.

In general the best winter skiing at Mammoth is not necessarily on new snow days and big storm days should be avoided. It is on nice weather days with smooth chalk, windbuff, windsift. I target my Mammoth skiing accordingly within the week before I go there now that I’m retired. But for 30+ years my Mammoth skiing was all on weekends and it stacked up well in quality over the long run.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 9749
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California


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