Iva Bell

April 1-2, 2000

  Fish Creek Canyon
Ascending out of Fish Creek Canyon

We did make it to Iva Bell Spring. The route worked well, though it was quite strenuous, particularly the return trip yesterday (the spring is 1000' lower than our trailhead).

  Crossing Fish Creek
Crossing Fish Creek via the snow "egg"
Our route took us to the top of Mammoth Crest (which is south of, and different from, Mammoth Mountain). Spectacular in all directions, fully deserving of the many ski tracks that line the summit ridge and the slopes below it. The northeast facing slopes, anyway. Once we dropped south of the crest, the only tracks were ours.

A nice telemark run took us down to some meadows, where we did some sedate diagonal striding for a couple of miles further south. Then, the forest began to clear and we saw the terrain fall away dramatically beneath us. We turned on beacons, put on shell jackets, shortened ski poles, and I dropped down the moderate start of the slope to check it out. Corn snow so perfect that it pained me to stop. I called up to Cathy that this and the next part of the slope were fine as can be, so come on down! We put in almost 1000' of linked tele turns until...

  Iva Bell
One of the pools at Iva Bell
Oops, no more snow. But that was just as well, since the rest of the descent was steeper, 35 degrees plus, and with all this heat on a south-facing gulley, had it not been dry, there'd be some avalanche hazard (funny how much snow there was down at the foot of the slope). With skis on packs instead of on our feet, things went a lot slower. Maybe an hour later, on dirt and rocks and brush and some snow here and there, we were at Fish Creek.

  Cathy on Mammoth Crest
Cathy Bianco on the Mammoth Crest
As expected, there was a pretty healthy flow. We spent quite a lot of time looking for places where we could safely ford it, and I didn't really like any of them. Finally, I ventured westward to a shadowed area, where a mid-stream boulder wore a big snow-covering, with snow-bridges to either side. I cut out steps on either side of "the egg", big enough for taking off skis on one side and putting them back on on the other (we didn't want to cross those snow-bridges without wearing skis).

From there, we ski-traversed up to the small pass just north of the springs, where we once again had to take off skis. We mostly followed the summer trail down to the lower springs, and then climbed up to the better springs high on the hillside to the east. We flattened out some snow near the pools and pitched the tent.

Unfortunately, those springs were only body temp, if that. I got in up to my thighs and decided that it would not be a good idea to lose body temp in the cold evening. So we didn't soak. I guess all the snowmelt was getting into the water table, cooling off the springs. Oh well, it was great to be out there anyway!

  Descending Mammoth Crest
Descending Mammoth Crest at the end of a long day
The next morning we packed up to leave. There was no nighttime freeze, and I wanted to get across our Fish Creek "egg" before the snow got too soft. We dropped down to the lower spring area and, looking for where we stashed our skis, I found a pool that I'd never even known about. And it was warm (102 F)! We had to soak.

The return trip was straightforward, and pretty tiring, being mostly uphill. Our snow "egg" still had its snow-bridges intact, and the first 1000' of our big slope was brutal as we expected. But after that we had snow, and it was slow but steady going, doing zig-zag traverses across the previous day's tele tracks, feeling certain that no one else would ever see them. The descent back off Mammoth Crest was on the funky & crunchy side, since sunlight was fading, so we took it slow and cautious. At Lake George we hit the XC resort trails, and cruised the last mile down to the car.

-Bob Akka, 4/3/00

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