Our tracks on
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The Yosemite XC Ski center (YXC), the winter incarnation of the mountaineering school, runs a ski hut out at Glacier Point. It is the same building that houses the retail shop at Glacier Point during the summertime, but is converted to hold 22 bunk beds, several couches around a wood stove (hidden behind the counter during the summer) and a dining area. YXC stocks the hut with food (enchiladas, lasagna, pasta, salad fixings, crackers, cookies, cake etc.) and drink (ranging from water, to OJ to wine and brandy). The 10.5 mile ski to the hut is along the Glacier Point road, which is closed beyond Badger Pass ski area and groomed for skiing, making it easy terrain to negotiate, even for fairly inexperienced skiers with packs on.
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+ XC Skis
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Glacier Point Hut
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El Cap from
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Our tracks against
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One of the perks of being the assistant manager for YXC was the opportunity to ski up to the hut on a day when regular trips were not being run, and spend the night, gratis. My friend, Mary, initiated the trip and helped to nail down a date (one of the few weekends still free on her busy social calendar), and although she, Tom and I made several attempts to invite others to join us, in the end it turned out to just be the three of us.
Snow was forecasted for the day that we skied in, but mostly we had patchy sun, and at the end of the day only a thin layer of fresh snow. Once at the hut, we put down our big packs and set off to explore. Mary went off on snowshoes, and Tom and I practiced our turns on a nearby slope. The combination of skinny skis and breakable crust meant that I spent more time in the snow than on it, but the falls were soft and as I started to improve a little, it seemed that even wobbling and crashing was fun in its own way. After sidestepping back up the hill, I was ready to call it quits, but Tom went off in search of better snow. The next morning we skied past the short slope he had found, and Mary shot a splendid video of me turning, yelping and tumbling down that same area. The snow was much better on that aspect than the crust we had skied the day before, but I need more practice.
We supped on salad, cheese enchiladas with black beans and topped it off with a bit of hot chocolate (and, in Tom's case, some carrot cake). Mary was intent on sleeping outside, and when she wandered out and saw stars shining, the deal was done. We dragged some of the mattresses out onto the snow and camped out just outside the hut, fortifying the sleeping bags we had brought out with some of the rental sleeping bags already at the hut.
The stars were brilliant. I identified a few constellations before going to sleep – Orion, Taurus and the Pleiades early in the evening and when I woke in the middle of the night I saw Leo and a beautiful circlet of stars on the handle side of the Big Dipper. I thought at the time that it could be the curving tail of Scorpio, but I looked it up and Scorpio isn't anywhere close to that area. What I was looking at was the northern crown, or Corona Borealis. The classic Greek/Roman myth associated with this constellation is that it is the crown of Dionysis, thrown into the sky to impress Ariadne, the beautiful daughter of Minos, king of Crete. What I love about the Field Guide to the Night Sky, a recent purchase, is that it also mentions that the Shawnee tribe saw the constellation as a circle of star maidens dancing in the sky (according to their mythology, the nearby bright star, Arcturus, is the mortal lover of one of the maidens who was later permitted to join her in the heavens.) Arabs thought it was a cracked bowl or platter, and Australian aboriginals saw a boomerang.
The next morning we ate a leisurely breakfast, cleaned up and headed out. On our way back to Badger we made a detour out to Sentinel Dome which turned out to be a real highlight of the trip. We found some amazing powder on the northwestern side of the dome and took a few laps on our skinny XC gear. Mary lamented not having a snowboard around when she really wanted one, and Tom and I plotted how we were going to get our AT stuff out there. The slope we were on was relatively gentle, but we estimated some 45 degree terrain and some nice cornice drops above open landings onto reasonable slopes that would have been fun to play on.
If we had been staying at the hut another night, I could have stayed there all day, but with a long ski ahead of us, we decided to pick our packs back up and head on down the road. Tom and I are in the process of shopping for some backcountry touring skis (Tom already picked up a pair of Atomics from Sierra Trading Post, but is waiting on boots and bindings), and we are predicting a great deal of touring fun in our future.