June 13, 2009. Driving for an hour on Mineral King Road into the canyon without seeing anyone except a bobcat near the road it's starting to sink in that my destination is a little remote.
The sun sets, and soon, clouds obscure the canyon walls.
After a brief nap I hit the White Chief Peak trail with my snowboard strapped to my backpack. A steady climb into the canyon and the trail is easy to find until it ends at a creek bed which is flooded from the melting snow. I miss the crossing and stray along the right side until the terrain steepens and my hike turns into a rock scramble. I decide that the trail must be on the other side of the creek. Balancing over a fallen tree I get there and find it. Vandever Mountain and White Chief Peak hide above the void.
The trail leads back to the creek. There's a waterfall to my right and a rocky creek bed filled with a snowdrift. By inspecting it with my poles and listening to the water I judge it is solid enough to carry me, and switch to skins.
A fun way to travel, but where does it go?
The base of Vandever Mountain. The slopes look nice, but where and how do these start? Not knowing what's above I stick to the lower angle for now, heading slightly right for the bowl.
Somewhere around here I get the feeling that this trip was a dumb idea. The snow looks firm and bumpy and the weather doesn't look kind either. Should I head into this void? What for? I haven't seen a living soul thus far - this isn't a good place to get lost. Still, I decide to press on for a little bit, sometimes carrying my board over the rocks as the snow isn't continuous, but overall my spirits are down.
Then, magic happens. As I gaze into the grayish white in front of me, a scenery starts flickering and shining. I rub my eyes.
Someone is pulling the clouds away and putting a big sign into the sky above Vandever Mountain.
My doubts are gone.
White Chief Peak unveils itself to my right.
White Chief Bowl bathes in sunshine. My goal is the ridge in the center of the picture. According to my map it's a thin ridge that gives a view of the valley beyond and is a great starting point for my descent.
Almost at the top, now looking back. White Chief Peak to the left, Vandever Mountain to the right.
After a little scramble I'm on the ridge. The lake to the left might be Ansel Lake.
As I rest there a bit and enjoy the scenery, the clouds creep back up and soon, visibility and temperature drop. But I'm here to ride, so no worries - a little chill is fine with me. I put on my jacket, assemble my snowboard, and sail into the bowl. The sunshine has softened up the snow so it's a fun ride. A couple of times I climb up towards Vandever Mountain to get the most out of the spotty snowfields in the lower part of the bowl, and make it back to the creek covered by the firm snow drift. In a celebratory mood I ride the creek while holding the camera in my hand.
As encountered on the way up, the waterfall right next to the creek bed.
Entrance to an old mine.
Ancient tree against the sky.
Kudos to the sun for shining into the bowl when I most needed it. Overall, a fun trip to end the season.