Bishop Skyline Traverse
The Bishop skyline is the iconic ridgeline North of the Palisades that rises dramatically almost 10,000 feet above the Owens Valley desert and contains the highest extent and concentration of big and high-quality steep couloirs in the range.
Probably the most challenging of our signature crest tours, the Bishop Skyline Traverse requires the perfect combination of timing, fitness, and skill to pull off in style. Maximum guiding ratio is 2:1. If you have considerable previous multiday, technical ski mountaineering experience then we can talk to you about guiding this crest traverse on a custom private basis.
A truly world class and highly challenging High Sierra crest tour.
The Bishop skyline is the iconic ridgeline North of the Palisades that rises dramatically almost 10,000 feet above the Owens Valley desert and contains the highest extent and concentration of big and high-quality steep couloirs in the range. Over the years, Sierra Mountain Guides have explored this ridge from every direction and have developed a point to point ski mountaineering traverse that is incomparable to any we have seen. By linking various steep slopes, couloirs and high passes we are able to not only move through amazing terrain, but take advantage of classic ski lines along the way. The skyline goes from Bishop Creek to Pine Creek but with vision from legendary Sierra skier and guide, Tom Carter we expanded the tour to enchain Mount Darwin and Mount Lamarck as well, making this a truly world class and highly challenging High Sierra crest tour.
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TRIP ITINERARYBishop Skyline Traverse
DAY 0Meet at the SMG office in Bishop. Equipment check and final packing. Plan to stay in Bishop for the night.
DAY 1Drive to the town of Aspendell in Bishop Creek. Approach to camp at Lower Lamarck Lake. Ski near camp.
DAY 2With day packs, summit and ski Mount Darwin and then Mount Lamarck. Descend to camp.
DAY 3Ascend the Wonder Lakes drainage and the north side of the valley to "Fool's Ridge." Folow a nice north facing couloir down to Loch Leven. From there a big 2500' climb takes us to the summit ridge on Mount Emerson. Summit the peak via class 3-4 and descend technical rock and mixed terrain to the top of the North Couloir. Drop in and ski the incredible 1500', 40+ degree North Couloir on Mt. Emerson, first climbed in 1926 by Norman Clyde. Camp in Birch Creek.
DAY 4Day 4 has some great options. One of our favorites is to climb to the summit of Peak 13,121 and descend the steep and exciting Kindergarten Chute. Conditions may dictate that we ski Mount Locke and one of the Wahoo Gullies first instead. Either way, there are at least a half dozen couloirs in this drainage and we will drop our camping gear to ski as many as we can before we continue over Peaklet col to camp near Longley Reservoir.
DAY 5Climb and ski the Northeast couloir on Mt. Humphreys, then pick up camp and climb the South Face of Basin Mountain. Summit the peak, ski the Basin Couloir and camp in the basin on the East Face.
DAY 6The big finish! Finish the descent of Basin Mountain in the early morning and traverse north to Horton Creek. Ascend the South Face of Mount Tom to the the summit. Desced the North Ridge and drop in steeply into the East Bowl. From around 11,000' in the bowl we take an unlikely ramp up 500' on the Northeast Ridge. Descend around 6000' to the desert outside of the town of Rovana and the end of the tour! Celebrate in Bishop.
Bonus DAY!If conditions line up well, the bonus optional run is to summon the energy for one more day to ski the Scheelite Canyon. Though rarely in very good shape, it is a beautiful and classic line on the north side of Pine Creek and puts the full cap on the entire Bishop Skyline. There are other great lines in the Wheeler Crest and upper Pine Creek as well if conditions dictate. Pre-plan this day to plan a day of flexibility into the program for weather.
- Expert downhill skiing skills
- Ability to control speed and execute fall-line turns in control and comfort in difficult snow conditions (deep powder, heavy and/or moist snow, breakable crust, firm or icy, etc.)
- Ability to execute hop turns on 45 degree+, firm slopes, coming to a complete and immediate stop at the finish of each turn
- Ability to sideslip forward and backward, with edge control, on steep, firm slopes
- Significant experience ski touring in the backcountry using ski touring equipment (boots, bindings, skins, transceiver, shovel, probe, etc.)
- Ability to make uphill facing kick-turns in an uphill track on a steep slope
- Experience in ultra-lightweight, multi-day ski mountaineering
- Experience on multiday technical Sierra ski mountaineering tours
- Prior ski trips with Sierra Mountain Guides
- Experience with the use of climbing ropes and technical competency in use of ice axe, crampons, and ski crampons
- Exceptional fitness
- SMG Guide(s)
- Group camping gear and technical gear
- Meals (dinners and breakfasts)
- Use of avalanche rescue gear (beacon, shovel, probe)
- Wilderness Permits
- Travel to/from the Eastern Sierra
- Lodging in the Eastern Sierra
- Food or drink in towns
- Snacks/lunches or drinks on the tour
- Personal or rental equipment
- Trip Insurance and Mountain Rescue Insurance (recommended)