The line, slightly melted

Mount Lewis is an easily-overlooked peak between Wood and Gibbs along the June Lake Loop. As it is in the northern Sierra and not on the SPS list, I had not thought about it until this spring, when I noticed that it had both 1000 feet of prominence and an appealing southeast ski line. I had tried it once, giving up thanks to too much wind, not enough energy, and a miserable approach following the Parker Lake road and trail. With the snow rapidly disappearing and other business up north, I returned armed with knowledge of a better approach option.

Sunrise on Wood

I drove a bit farther up the Parker Lake road to sleep, and started hiking around first light. The road had been badly washed out only a hundred yards past where I stopped, so further snowmelt will not shorten the approach. Following a track from Strava, I left the road to skin up some sheltered snow on the north-facing side of the next gully south. It was almost too melted out to be useful, but it got me to the base of Wood’s north face, and promised a painless return. I switched to downhill mode to skitter down to just above Parker Lake, then switched back to skinning across the valley bottom and up the lower chute.

Upper headwall

Unfortunately the recent hot weather had melted things out too much for it to be a continuous ski anymore, but it had also cooked the avalanche debris down to a smoother and more supportive state. I put my skis on my back to cross some brush and choss, then booted up the lower headwall. Where the slope began to ease off, I switched back to skinning, making a few tenuous switchbacks before cruising the lower-angle terrain to the upper headwall. An ancient glacier left rotten cliffs on Lewis’ east face, but a southeast-facing slope at the north end curves around almost to the summit. I stopped to switch to boots again, then made my laborious way up and left toward the top. I saw some old ski tracks, and was grateful for a fairly recent boot-pack higher up, leading through the rapidly-softening upper face.

Parker Lake from summit

The summit was an unremarkable series of three rubble piles at the upper end of a slope connecting to Gibbs via a plateau to the west. I admired Gibbs and Dana to the north, Wood to the south, Koip’s gentle northeast face, and the Yosemite high country in the distance to the northwest. The register contained a few familiar names, mostly on summer outings combining this peak with Gibbs and other neighbors, and a handful of skiers. I lazed as long as I dared, then clicked in, mindful of the rapidly-softening upper face.

Road closed

The ski was surprisingly pleasant for so late in the year, with almost-too-soft snow on top, and softening runnels in the middle. The lower part was soft and becoming grabby, but not too bad. I hiked through the short brushy section, carefully skied through more brush and rocks, then got up as much speed as I could to glide across the no doubt rapidly-eroding snow bridge over the creek. I had originally planned to combine this southeast-facing line with the Z-couloir on Wood’s north face, but it was already hot and I was tired. The skin back out of the Parker Lake drainage was a grim mashed-potato slog, but it was worth it, as I was able to glide and skate to within less than a half-mile of the car. There were a few others out skiing who-knows-what, and occasional four-wheelers came by throughout the afternoon, only to get turned around almost immediately by the washout, but I had a mostly quiet and pleasant afternoon and evening. There is still a lot of snow in the Sierra, but it is rapidly deteriorating with the higher sun and warmer nights. As the snowpack transitions to suncups, timing and route selection are becoming more challenging.

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