Eric layton had convinced me (not hard to do) to come down to California and do a traverse through the Sierra Mountains. He somewhat wanted to follow the divide but mostly was aiming to ride some of the classic couloirs in the region and try to link them all up. He wrangled up his good friend Jason Champion who in turn brought Will Brommelsiek along.
We all met in Mammoth lakes to sort gear and packed up for a week of travelling through the mountains. The funny thing to our trip is none of us actually looked where we were going other than the couloirs, which I hadn't even seen a photo of yet. So 20 minutes from the trail head I saw some photos said "sweet" and off we went. So basically we winged the whole thing, but that's what maps are for. On this line, I'll throw in that Eric, Jason and I are guides and Will was a world freeride competitor, so maybe don't just wing a week long traverse if you're skills aren't there.
We planned to go from Scheelite (just north of Bishop) and had the main couloirs on Feather Peak, Mt Gabb, Red & White Mountain, Red Slate and Pika Peak in mind, with an exit at Mammoth Lakes. Eric had found a few mentions of old traverses from Mammoth down to the Bishop area but none mentioned our intended lines and we're led to believe the "Wetlog Traverse" might be a new traverse or a significant variation of an existing one. But it is really fun and if you're into couloirs and adventure it's definitely worth it. Since we couldn't find much written about the old traverses here's a bit of a short rundown on the Wetlog Traverse and the video will fill in the riding. We spent 7 epic days in early May 2016 on this trip.
Day 1: Scheelite to feather peak. Take the normal route to the granite park and feather peak areas and enjoy the hiking and trail finding around the maze of open lakes and streams.
Day 2: We rode The North couloir on Feather Peak, then packed up and headed over Italy Pass. The north side of the pass (for us) had a fairly blind entrance and was quite rocky. But once into the face it's a really fun run. We then headed over Gabbott Pass and camped below Mt Gabb at Upper Mills Creek Lake.
Day 3 : Rode the north couloir on Mt Gabb. Being tired, I personally lost interest in the line part way up and turned around. Eric, Will and Jason had to turn around about 75m from the top of the couloir due to warming temperatures. After riding, we headed north to Mono Creek by way of the Second Recess. There's a fairly large wet rock slab and waterfall in the upper Mills Creek section that needs to be dealt with. We found a seem in the slab that allowed for fairly easy passage but otherwise it would have meant climbing back up and around to get onto some more northerly slopes that held snow.
day 4 : Woke up and 100m from camp, crossed a wetlog over Mono Creek. With the creek raging with spring melt water, finding a good log was our best crossing option and probably the crux of the trip. Being at a lower altitude and on a south slope we were able to hike up the Laurel Creek summer trail, then made our way past Laurel Lake and Little Grinnell lake, over the pass and camped above Fish Creek on the north west side of Red & White mountain.
Day 5 : Climbed Red & White Mountain via the north bowl and dropped in (blind) to the classic, twisting north east couloir. We contoured north and over a col and found a very steep, tight couloir that allowed for access back to our camp site near Red & White lake. If you don't have a rope (we didn't), really good riding skills (we did) or a thick snowpack (we didn't), good luck getting over this col. We packed up camp, headed over Mcgee Pass and contoured north to ride another fun steep line on our way to Constance lake and our next camp site.
Day 6 : Headed up to the north couloir on Red Slate mountain. Will and I had chosen a different skinning line out of camp than Eric and Jason, so we didn't notice another party had come in the from the normal way (via convict lake) and ended up seeing/joining them at the very bottom of the couloir. As Eric and Jason were still in the basin below, they decided 6-7 people was enough for a couloir and enjoyed the sunshine. After Red Slate, we toured NW over a steep pass and into the Franklin and Ram Lakes area where Eric decided to test the waters and fell through the ice at 8 or 9 pm.
Day 7 : Left Ram Lake and toured/scrambled over Duck Pass and rode down to Duck lake. We had planned to camp at Duck Lake to get an early start on Pika Peak, but with not making it as far as desired the previous day, we ended up being a little late to start the climb up Pika Peak and safely ride the lines we wanted. We exited via Lake Mary and had a few miles of walking down the road to our waiting car 100km later. Ate some mexican food, got the other car, soaked in some hot springs and we called it a traverse!