Climbing Sierra peaks in the summer months is usually a warm, casual experience but ascending the same peak during winter can be a totally different proposition. Snow, cold temperatures, wind, short days, and avalanche hazard conspire to make a more serious and difficult climb.
We have designed this course to give you a sample of the full winter experience, from steep ice to deep snow to a Sierra summit.
Our peak objective, Crystal Crag, allows travel to a base camp in terrain that will not be shut down by avalanche danger if we get significant storms and is somewhere that also allows you to experience the wonders of the beautiful Lakes Basin in the Mammoth area. Crystal Crag’s west ridge might be an easy climb in the Sierra summer but in big boots, snow cover and exposure to the winds sweeping across the Sierra Crest it will be a challenge for everyone but one that will get you excited for more winter experiences.
We do the first two days at a one guide to six participants ratio. When climbing rock or ice this allows us to operate two ropes with a climber, a belayer and a backup belayer. For the peak ascent we add another guide dropping the ratio to one guide to 3 climbers.
We sometime get guests who want to learn cramponing on snow and self arrest. Winter snow are generally deep and soft so these techniques are not applicable and best learned during a summer mountaineering program. If conditions allow we will cover these techniques but they are best suited for firm snow conditions, not deep powder.