Monday, March 6, 2017

Grass Lake Winter Loop

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The Sierra Crest above Aspendell
Our favorite winter snowshoe loop starts in Aspendell, works its way up to North Lake, then pushes on to Grass Lake at nearly 10,000 feet elevation.  The snow conditions dictate our exact route each time. With the epic big snow year currently ongoing we are forced to take the closed car roads up from Aspendell to North Lake instead of our favorite primitive trails. The snow was firm and compact most of the way up on the roads. Once at North Lake that changed dramatically. The two feet of powder snow from the most recent storms had not settled much.

Cake Frosting. Snow covered rocks near North Lake
The White Mountains, across the Owens Valley far below
We followed some ski tracks up the primitive fisherman's trail benefiting from the slight compaction of the snow in the ski tracks easing our work. The skiers ventured far above the normal route down along the creek but we followed along anyway. We ended up at a spectacular vista, a hundred feet or so above Grass Lake with and outstanding view of the Piute Canyon up toward Loch Leven Lake. As many times as we've been on these trails in winter and summer we've never seen this view.  Wow. 

A panorama including Piute Canyon and Mt Emerson on the right
Piute Canyon
The lunchtime view doesn't get better than this
Coming down we plowed through knee deep powder with a gravity assist all the way back to North Lake, making short work of that steep hill. Working our way around North Lake we attempted to take our shortcut home down the cross-country canyon above Aspendell. We had taken this route down twice this winter, but this time was a bust. The face of the steep drop was very icy and dangerous, so discretion beat out quick and we turned around for the long slog home. 

The surrounding snow level is even with the roofline on the outhouse at the North Lake Campground

Crossing North Fork Bishop Creek on a snow bridge

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