Ascent of Cloudripper on 2019-05-05

Climber: Rafee Memon

Others in Party:AJ Kaufmann -- Trip Report or GPS Track
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, May 5, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Elevation:13525 ft / 4122 m

Ascent Trip Report

The spring thaw was in full swing in the Sierra, and I was anxiously awaiting the High Sierra becoming accessible to mortal day hikers such as myself. I had been interested in doing a peakbagging ski tour all winter, but for one reason or another, my attempts to meet up with friends for a tour fell through. At last, I was able to find a week where I could head to the east side and meet up with AJ, who agreed to show me the ropes. We debated back and forth on what would be a suitable first tour. Eventually, AJ agreed that we could jump into the deep end and set a big goal, and turn around if need be. We chose Cloudripper, which would be a 12-mile round-trip with about 4,800 feet of gain -- definitely the deep end! AJ was looking for an "easy win" after a rough couple days in the Sierra, and while this may not have qualified as such for me, I was hoping to ride my (in-bounds) skiing and snowshoeing experience to the top of the mountain -- and back down.

AJ met me in Bishop the night before to check our gear and go over our plan. He was also sure to set reasonable expectations for the tour; he would consider it a success if I was able to make it through 1,000 feet of gain without any injuries or mishaps. I set my alarm for 4:30am to give myself time for a quick breakfast and final equipment preparations. We arrived at the road closure just past the Rainbow Pack Station on South Lake Road around 6:10am, where we found another group of folks headed to ski the east face of Mount Gilbert. When we told them we were headed to Cloudripper, they were impressed that we were "really going for it," and I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into!

We started up the road just after 6:30am and found a spot to cross over the creek, which wasn't very creek-y this time of the year. I put my skis on for the first time, and AJ gave me a short lesson on kick turning, which I practiced for a few tries before we pointed our skis uphill through the trees. Being a downhill skier of nearly twenty years, it was an strange and novel experience to be able to go up the snow with relative ease. However, this changed fairly quickly as the slope became steeper and slicker. At one point, I failed to complete a kick turn and slid backwards for a couple feet, giving myself pretty significant road rash on my arm. We eventually topped out at the saddle near Bluff Lake, and the view into the valley opened up. AJ mentioned that we had climbed our first 1,000 feet, and while I was happy I had picked up on skinning so quickly, my celebration was short lived. The summit now seemed like a reasonable goal and I was anxious to press on.

We continued to the back of the valley past Brown Lake and Green Lake where we got our first views of our possible descent paths through the bowl below Vagabond Peak. Surprisingly, the trail above Green Lake to the plateau above was free of snow, so we decided to head up the trail instead of booting up the bowl. We skied across Green Lake and started up the snow field below the trail, and I had my first major mishap. In the process of kick turning, I fell backwards, and both of my skis popped off. Mercifully, they were pointed uphill and did not slide. It took me a few minutes to gather myself, put the skis over my shoulder, and walk across the slope towards AJ, who was waiting near some rocks. We reached the trail and followed it to the bare plateau above, continuing to the slopes under Vagabond where we were able to skin again. Earlier, AJ mentioned that he had not been feeling well, and I pulled ahead of him as we ascended the slope.

Looking at the final slope under Vagabond, we considered all options available to us. The standard route is to continue right over the summit, but it was clear that we could reach the top of the shoulder on snow without summiting and save some elevation gain. We stopped for a break at the top of an airy chute to the west and were given exceptionally fine views of Dusy Basin and the Black Divide over Bishop Pass. From here, we booted to the top of the shoulder and got our first full view of Cloudripper across the plateau. Disappointingly, there wasn't much snow in the plateau between the two peaks, but we were now very close to our goal.

We walked down the south slope of Vagabond, across the plateau, and made the final push up the snow field to the Cloudripper summit ridge. At the top, we ditched our skis and walked across the ridge to the true summit, following a recent bootpack of a previous summit party. We could see ski tracks down the east face, which looked to have some great snow -- if only it led back to our car! It was an easy class 2 scramble from our direction to the summit, where we arrived just after 1:00pm. Views all around were astonishing; highlights included the Palisades, the Black Divide, Mount Goddard, Mount Darwin, Mount Humphreys, and Mount Tom. After snapping countless photos and signing the register, I began to get cold in my t-shirt and insisted that we start down. We traversed back to our skis, which took me much longer in this direction as I contemplated the potentially long runout down the east face if I were to misstep.

I snapped into my bindings in downhill mode for the first time and followed AJ down the north face, finding my groove in the skis after my first few turns. We took off our skis to cross the plateau and reascend the Vagabond shoulder, where we took another break to enjoy the views. At this point, the clouds were starting to become a real threat. There were showers developing all around, and there was one particularly impressive thunderhead billowing behind Mount Goddard, making it look like a volcano. We were amused that our first reaction was to take more photos rather than take heed of the threat and get off the mountain as quickly as possible.

We skied to the bowl above Green Lake and decided to take a more protected northerly aspect under an impressive couloir that we eyed up on our ascent but was out of reach on this trip. Somewhere on our way to the bowl, I managed to lose both of my ski baskets, which would have been disastrous on the ascent, but was merely annoying on the descent. We made beautiful tracks through gigantic corn on our way back to the lake, and AJ mentioned that I was spoiled by the snow conditions for my first tour. We made steady progress through the flats around the lakes, and eventually descended the final slope, which, unlike in the morning, was very enjoyable by this time of the day. We reached the car just before 4:00pm where we ran into another group of folks who had just finished a tour to Hurd Peak.

We made haste back to Bishop to get showers and food. In the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, we went to Taqueria Las Palmas for dinner, where I got possibly the biggest burrito I've ever seen. We agreed that we were too sore for another tour the next day, so we decided to sleep in and take the day off.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4803 ft / 1463 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4803 ft / 1463 m
    Round-Trip Distance:10.8 mi / 17.4 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Skis, Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4489 ft / 1368 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 4175 ft / 1273 m; Extra: 314 ft / 95m
    Loss on way in:314 ft / 95 m
    Distance:6.2 mi / 10 km
    Route:North face
    Start Trailhead:Road near Rainbow Pack Station  9350 ft / 2849 m
    Time:6 Hours 34 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4489 ft / 1368 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 4175 ft / 1273 m; Extra: 314 ft / 95m
    Gain on way out:314 ft / 95 m
    Distance:4.6 mi / 7.4 km
    Route:North face
    End Trailhead:Road near Rainbow Pack Station  9350 ft / 2849 m
    Time:2 Hours 28 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rafee Memon
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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