Location: Near Bishop, CA – East Side of the Sierra
Elevation Change: 3,338′
Recommended Map: Tom Harrison Maps – Bishop Pass
Mt. Gilbert 13,106’ – I love Mt. Gilbert for its friendly terrain, easily skied in a half day by competent backcountry skiers. It’s a big peak with many descent options that luckily starts at a high trailhead called South Lake – 9,768’. Take hwy 158 West from Bishop, CA and ascend over 5000’ in 20 miles. You can park at this trailhead at the start of fishing season, which is around May 1. Sometimes you will find a road closure while they are plowing or repairing the road, usually setup a mile back. This works fine too. Trailhead opening dates are a moving target based on spring storms. There are bathrooms and bear bins and a large overnight backpackers parking area with a sweet view. Skiers don’t seem to be kicked out for sleeping in their vehicles in the spring before the hikers start filling up the parking lot.
You’ll want a very early start, as the south and east facing slopes above the Lake can provide a bit of wet slide danger on a warm afternoon. The lake is usually frozen to skin across. I have walked around the south side of the lake when there is no ice to cross on.
Mt. Gilbert hosts a beautiful tick list 50 degree N. Couloir, as well as another steep angled line near the summit I’ve skied and enjoyed that just barely goes. But I ski Gilbert for the mellow east couloir passage to the high elevation south face. You can ski right off the summit and enjoy corn snow on a windless day, re-enter the east side through the little notch and get some powder in the E. Couloir. Then you can spread out on a few different aspects SE or NE along the way back depending on how the snow is holding up. I especially enjoyed the slope down to Treasure Lake in this series of pictures. I will post more pics of this ski tour soon in the REPLY. Please submit your own reply pictures and tour details!
On this particular day I saw a group set up camp at Treasure Lakes. What a beautiful spot to stage day ski tours of all the peaks in this group – Hurd Peak, Mt. Gilbert, Mt. Johnson, Mt. Thompson, Mt. Goode, and Mt. Agassiz. You can ski them all in a day from the parking lot, but this camping spot works to split off towards all of them. Personally I reserve the nights spent out on snow for the ski tours I can’t do in a day, but I get it. You are going to want to ski multiple days when you see the terrain above this trailhead. And repeating the approach across South lake and up through the little forested cliffs to Treasure Lakes would be nice to just bang out once, rather than daily.