Location: Bridgeport, CA
Elevation Change: 7100′ to 12,264′ (summit)
Recomended Map: Hoover Wilderness – Tom Harrison Maps
The Sawtooth Mountain Range of Bridgeport, CA are only 2.5 hours by car from our store in Truckee. Whoo Hooooo! Drive 13 miles or so towards the mountains to the dead end on Twin Lakes Rd and you are positioned to ski up numerous drainages ringed in 11-12k peaks. Matterhorn Peak is the tallest and impressive looking. It is also quite popular these days, as is this unofficial trailhead. The Twin Lakes Campground is closed when you are trying to ski there, and you just stuff your car on the side of the road where it now says “no parking”. I’m pretty sure those signs are for the hectic summertime. Be courteous as you go through the campground on your tour. You can see Matterhorn from the car and you’ll find 2 small important bridges in the trees as you walk towards it. Start early and skin or boot up crusty snow following the buried summer trail, on the east side of Horse Creek. Stay near the creek until the first real hill, as the terrain keeps sucking you into a never ending traverse just above the drainage. In soft snow, holding the alluring contour 100′ above the drainage will work out fine, but in firm conditions you will keep wishing you stayed lower.
A small steep hill needs a switchback or two to reach a bushy ridge, that trends right and towards the Matterhorn Glacier. Take note of the steep west facing slope on your left as you skin through this lower zone and you’ll notice old wet slides and a few rocks that obviously come down in the afternoon. There will be new ones upon your return. This first hill above Horse Meadows sure looks suspect for avalanche concern too. Like any backcountry ski tour, continue because you can logically explain your confidence in the snowpack. The Eastern Sierra Snowpack isn’t totally sketchy like in the Rockies, but it is drier and different than the slightly more predictable Tahoe Snowpack. If Matterhorn seems tracked out to the bejesus, no problem! Head left towards Horse Creek Peak or Twin Peaks. Check out photos from Crater Crest looking towards Matterhorn, and you’ll learn cool neighboring terrain. Or Head up towards Col de Doodad and the Cleaver where few people ski.
When you reach the Matterhorn Glacier, I suggest climbing the East Couloir. Some folks just can’t wait to carve up the Ski Dreams Chute before others get there, but what’s the fun in that? This is the Matterhorn! Get up there if you can people. You can skin most of the way up the Matterhorn Couloir unless the snow is wind hardened. It’s not too steep but you may want ice axe and crampons if any of this terrain is wind hardened. Skiing back down the East Couloir can be good in the lower half, but the upper portion doesn’t hold snow. There is an alternate steep couloir climbers left of the East Couloir with an easy entrance around the cornice. You walk and traverse further east from the top of the east Couloir to find Ski Dreams run. If you climb the extra few hundred vert to the summit, bring an ice axe, leave your pack at the col, and be careful. There are a few paths that work, but you will be making a few 2-3rd class moves with snow hiding your foot placements. If you haven’t done any rock climbing at all, you’ll want some help from such a person to protect you with a rope or at least coach you through it. The small summit is exciting, with a crazy straight-down view you need to peer over. If you don’t climb to the peak, there is still a great view at the top of the East Couloir looking past Mt. Whorl towards the peaks of Tuolumne Meadows. You can see Dana Peak, North Peak, Mt. Conness, and Mt. Lyell if you know their shapes.
I like to take photos along my ski tour climbs with the intention of descending with some route knowledge. Remembering to look at them is another issue however. 2 steep chutes are hard to miss along your descent from Matterhorn Peak that roll over just enough to make you worried during your first try. There are a few cliffs to avoid also. And then there is the wet slide potential and rock fall you should remember to look for down lower in Horse Creek if it’s a warm day.
Not sure if this tour is for you? Go with a guide. For big Eastern Sierra Peak ski tours I recommend Sierra Mountain Guides from Bishop, and Alpenglow Expeditions from Squaw Valley. Or contact me and I’ll find you the right permitted and professional ski guide to teach you some travel skills and have fun with!