Monday, April 8, 2013

SLAY (Skiing Lightly Across Yosemite) - part 1: getting to the trailhead.

"The word adventure has just gotten overused.  For me, adventure is when everything goes wrong, that's when adventure starts."
                                                                                  - Yvon Chouinard.  
This is the way to go.  39 min. vs 6 hr drive.
The crux of most trans-Sierra hike/ski traverses is not the skiing, the hiking, or the beer drinking at each possible stop... it's the shuttle.  Some folks have a very, very nice friend/partner/parent who offers to sacrifice a day or two to drive all day.  And even if that person is available, you feel bad inconveniencing them with a day of driving.  So, for this trip, we decided to catch BART, a plane, a Subaru, a bus, and Amtrak home.  This was going to be an Alt. Traverse.  Many logistics had to come together, but as soon as I pressured Alexis to buy our plane ticket, we were committed.

The seeds of this trip was planted by Johnny and Paul, who went to Yosemite in November to cache some food.  I've been wanting to do this trip for a long, long time... (the sight of Tuolumne Meadows in the winter... without cars... ) and I was inspired after seeing pics from Bernard, who did the trip with Kevin in 2010. After shooting e-mails back and forth with Johnny, we couldn't settle on a date, then he ended up going to Chamonix!  So I didn't feel too bad about using his cache... Chamonix is probably the number one place in the world I'd like to experience in the winter (well.. anytime really, but especially in the winter).

The last time I was in Yosemite (this happens to be my 5th trip into the park this year...) and saw the YARTs (Yosemite Area Regional Transit) schedule listing the stop at the Merced Amtrak station. A lightbulb went off inside my head, and I figured out we'd have a way out.  We just needed a way in.  And after a quick google search I found a flight into Mammoth Airport (flights end April 12th...FYI), figured I could crash with a buddy, get a ride to the trailhead, do the trip, catch YARTs to Merced, hop on the Amtrak... no problem.

So after working until 2 pm on Thursday, I hopped on BART and made it to SFO to meet up with these stanktaculous characters.
Stefan, ze tall German.  His feet are acutely pungent after 3 days of skiing...
Alexis, the Quebecois... his farts would remain potent from 2 miles away, 2 hours later, in a blizzard (proven fact).
and me, the final non-native speaker to make up this ragtag crew... I won't mention my farts or feet.    
After dozens of e-mails, phone calls, texts, and one google hangout session... we were ready.  Next time, for ridiculousness sake, I've gotta ride my unicycle to Jack London, catch the ferry across to work, then start the trip.  

here's Stefan causing trouble
And Alexis getting his bag checked.  He was quite annoyed as he had to stomp on the bag to make everything fit... now he was going to have to do it all over again...

At the gate... celebrating the success of catching the flight.  Now the easy part, just ski across the Sierra.  
I was really looking forward to this flight, as the flight path goes directly over our route.  But it was cloudy.  So I guess this trip wasn't perfect... at least I brought some New Yorkers to kill the time (39 min flight)... 
Mt. Laurel, with its infamous Death Couloir welcomes you when arriving at the Mammoth Airport.
Brandon, a friend of Metres picked us up at the airport and was an amazing host.  He just got back from serving in the Peace Corps in Kyrgistan, and jammed away on the Komuz.  
Brandon was staying with John, an older man who had spent a lot of time in Central Asia with his wife who was an anthropologist.  His house was like a museum.  Full of stories about each item in the house, he was quite the character.

Check out John's ski collection... from wooden 3 pins.... 
to 90 cm skis with scales...
After a quick tour of the house, we walked down the street to a restaurant where Brandon used to eat and gorged on waaaaaay too much meat.  I thought it was amazing, the tall German fella, and the Frenchie couldn't handle it.  A couple of Brandon's friends joined us for some drinks, but we knew we had to wake up at 4 am the next morning so we walked back and hit the hay.  

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