Location: Sawtooths Bridgeport
Elevation Change: 3,910′
Recommended Map: Hoover Wilderness – Tom Harrison
Location: Sawtooths Bridgeport
These pics are from my one time skiing Kettle Peak on March 1, 2007 with one of my first ski touring role models. But first, thanks to Jamie Schectman for showing me my first East Side ski trip or two from Tahoe in 1996. He introduced Jessie Hendricks and I to Jim Harper (in all these pics), who was 10 years ahead of us learning the ski tours around Mammoth and Tioga. He showed us that if you just get up really early and start walking….and you’ll get to the top of a sick backcountry peak to glide down where there are no tracks in sight. I had been backcountry skiing for 2 years in Tahoe, but we were “track crossers” and not aware of the vert we could knock out. I saw Jim walking with the skis over the shoulder, In the pack, sliding along in front of him while booting, ski cramponing, boot cramponing, and basically just reeling in these summits where the weakness lied in the terrain. No big deal! Ski 6 grand of corn snow back to the car and do it again the next morning. Usually by himself, until we invaded his little quiet time away from hectic and bustling Mono City.
I enjoyed this day taking Jim to terrain I knew well where he trusted me enough to join and not bother asking questions, like I had 10 years earlier with him. Knowing Jim can go any distance and any speed, I picked out Kettle Peak. I knew this tick list peak for me would provide less bang for the buck and he wouldn’t even notice. Just another day skiing in the mountains for Jim. Getting to Kettle involves some flat miles in Big Slide Canyon, and some more lower angle slopes climbing Little Slide Canyon to the base of the Hulk. I think many people go ski Kettle these days just to look at the Hulk rock climbs from below and up slope. You will park at the end of Twin Lakes Rd, 13 miles from Bridgeport. Head north through the campground meadow. We barely had enough snow and walked some trail on the way back. Big Slide Canyon doesn’t always have snow at all, and loses it in early spring. I’ve also liked the kicker skins to help me fly through a few miles like this faster with very little weight penalty and skin drag. If you get to the campground and there is no snow in sight for a few hundred vert, don’t bother with Kettle or anything in that direction unless you want to walk with skis on pack for hours. Instead, go for Matterhorn and move camp to higher trailheads the next day.
Kettle Peak is pretty steep and on it’s south side where you are probably going to ski the summit bowl and couloir below it. Talk about a “terrain trap” if there the snow layers fail up there. That was another reason why I choose this peak, as it hadn’t snowed in awhile. You can actually expect to find powder in these kettle peak chutes as much as corn, with the high rock walls and general cold temps in this area during winter. There is narrow and steeper south facing couloir next door and up little slide canyon a bit which may lead to the summit or be droppable from the summit, I haven’t skied it but it’s been done many times at this point. I haven’t skied the north slopes yet down to Barney Lake. I’ll need a partner like Jim to go get that one, as you would end up committing to even MORE flat miles of valley travel on return. I think it’s about 4 miles of flat beautiful Big Slide Canyon striding to get to the mouth of Little Slide Canyon, where you see Kettle Peak finally and start the uphill. But hey, you can go check out the Hulk! And you can climb a sweet peak your friends probably haven’t done yet, perched right in the middle of about 10 other amazing ski mountaineering objectives for you to drool over.
The other peaks I have enjoyed skiing from summit to the car in this Northern Sawtooths Zone are Victoria, Hunewill, Crown, Mt. Walt, and Eocene. Geeze…then there is Matterhorn, Twin Peaks, Crater Crest, Monument, and Glacier Col also accessed from the same parking. I keep looking at what cabins are for sale back here, but they don’t come up. Fishing is just too popular here. And they aren’t cheap. Oh well, I don’t want to spread my skiing out more than just Bridgeport anyway. And my Truck Camper bed is as luxurious as can be.