Mono Jim Peak

Between the hustle and bustle of my friends getting ready for an early start at Mammoth Mountain and the early sunrise I had no problem hitting the road for Convict Lake (all too) bright and early Sunday morning. I arrived at the end of the road just after 8 am and quickly put my pack together, hitting the trail in my ski boots with skis on my pack just after 8:15.

A snow filled gully runs down Mono Jim to Convict Lake.

There weren’t many other cars in the lot and I didn’t encounter any hikers along the trail. I arrived at the gully I had eyed on Saturday and promptly strapped my crampons to my boots. I was hoping to make quick work of things so that I could meet up with Casey, Kevin, and Pete for a lazy afternoon of lift-accessed skiing.

Snow lingers late into spring in this steep gully.

The snow was firm and I was glad to have my crampons. I noted that there were many rocks embedded in the suncupped flow and hoped that I’d be able to avoid them on the way down.

The gully drops steeply toward Convict Lake.

After a while my calves tired from front pointing and I started making switchbacks up the gully. I could tell that I was a bit sun kissed from Saturday’s ski tour and was relieved whenever I switched back to the right and the sun was mostly on my back. The snow started to soften as the sun hit it. I was glad that I’d taken a photo of the gully from below because the route which was obvious from below was less clear as I approached several forks. I chose the route which appeared to take me closest to the summit which, in one place, meant climbing a patch of snow less than two feet wide — this would surely be the crux on the descent!

A narrow patch of snow rises up the gully.

After about 100 minutes I’d climbed 2,000 ft and reached the highest patch of contiguous snow. I looked at the map and was surprised to see that I still had another 1,000 ft to go before reaching the summit! I’d have to hustle to make it back to Mammoth before closing! I found a rock to sit down on and pulled my crampons off, stashing them as well as my skis before continuing uphill in my ski boots with a much lighter pack.

My bootpack traces the route back to Convict Lake.

I gained the ridge after a couple hundred feet of climbing through small, loose talus and was surprised to see that the snowline was even higher on the east aspect of the peak. I noted that there seemed to be a large gendarme guarding the ridge and hoped that I could find a way around it. To the southeast beyond Crowley Lake, the high peaks of the White Mountains were still covered with snow.

Mono Jim Peak eclipses Mt Morrison’s iconic east face.

I took a fairly direct route up the ridge and was rewarded with some spectacular views of Mt Morrison to the west. The rock was the worst type of loose slate and I was less mobile than I would normally be were I wearing trailrunners, but the ski boots actually helped quite a bit, protecting my ankles from the razor sharp shale. Some easy class 3 moves brought me to the gendarme I’d spotted below and I was glad to see a broad shelf traversing the northeast face.

A broad ramp of loose shale provides an easy route to the summit.

I found myself atop the peak just after 11 am with stunning views of Mt Morrison, Bloody Mountain, and Laurel Mountain. Incredibly, the Pinner Couloir appeared that it might still be skiable!

The Pinner Couloir appears to still be skiable! Bloody Mountain, left.

I found a small register which appeared to be of Jason “Coach” Lakey’s design (we’d found many similar registers during our climb of the Kearsarge Pinnacles) and it seemed like this peak (apparently also know as “Mini Mt Morrison”) was a favorite of his as he had more entries than everyone else combined! I was a bit insulted by the name “Mini Mt Morrison” and it’s marginalization of native people, but didn’t let it spoil the summit.

Mt Morrison’s east face towers above Mono Jim Peak; Bloody Mountain, right.

I was in a hurry to return to Mammoth so after signing the register and having a small snack, I started back down the peak. I arrived back at my skis around 11:30 and hastened down the gully.

2,000 ft of late spring snow leads the way back to Convict Lake.

The snow was soft and fun skiing. I arrived at the narrow section which I’d identified on the climb and had altogether too much fun making jump turns down the tight chute, both tips and tails landing on rocks with every turn.

A tight snow filled gully makes for “fun” spring “skiing!”

From there the skiing was fun and fast. During the last couple hundred feet I had to be careful not to hit any of the rocks lodged in the snow but managed to make it back to the trail without major incidence. I took off my skis and shouldered them for the short hike back to the car, trying to be extra nonchalant as I passed a few hikers. I threw my skis into the car and headed back to Mammoth for a great afternoon ski session with Casey and Pete!

Snow Discussion

Avalanche Forecast

Snow Observations

  • Evidence of overnight freeze
  • No noticeable corn
  • Snowline incredibly aspect dependent

GPS Data

Elevation Gain: 3,300 ft

Total distance: 4.04 mi