Skiing Mt Conness

4 Jul 2003 - by Mark Harper

On the morning of July 4th 2003 Kelly, Anthony, Mark, Kathy, Mo and myself set out for an attempt at climbing and skiing Mt Conness. We left Mammoth at 6:00 Am and arrived at Saddlebag Lake just before 7:00 AM. We caught the boat across the lake and started our hike toward the Conness glacier and the main couloirs. The climb up was straight forward and we didn't hit snow until the Conness Lakes. We climbed slabs and stayed off the snow until well up on to the glacier. Here we put on our crampons and continued toward our destination. There was a large bergshrund with a small snow bridge allowing access to the couloir. At this point only Kelly and I continued on as the rest of the group was uncomfortable with the exposure. As Kathy and Mark said today was not a good day to die. The climb up the couloir was easy but very exposed. A fall would result in serious injury or death if you couldn't self arrest. Once on the saddle Kelly and I ate lunch, dropped our skis and headed for the summit. A few minutes later we were standing on the summit. It was at that time that I decided I was going to marry Kelly. Any women who would follow me up there was someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. As always, once you are at the top you are only half way there. Now I had to get Kelly down safely. We talked about taking a different route down but Kelly felt she could get down on her skis. I told her to take it easy and just side slip. The snow was firm and a fall would have resulted in a slide off the end of the bergshurnd and into the crevasse. I skied the couloir (probably about 40 degrees) and stopped at the edge of the shrund. There was a two foot drop onto the snow bridge (about 18 wide). I dropped on to the bridge took off my skis and waited for Kelly. She slowly slid up to the edge and slipped at the last moment. I was standing just below her, grabbed her and held her tight as she landed on the snow bridge. The bruises on her arms were testimony to the grip I had on her. We regrouped and skied the rest of the way down to our waiting friends. Kelly had enough and was ready to head straight back. I skied down with Kelly while the rest of the group climbed and traversed over to the fingers for a fun ski. We all met back at Conness lakes and hiked out together. This was a great climb but be warned it is a serious couloir and several people have died from falls up here.

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