- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Exploring the Eastern Sierra backcountry can be a spiritual experience - especially in winter. So it makes sense it would have its own bible.

That’s what skier Nate Greenberg and snowboarder Dan Mingori wanted to create with the book “Backcountry Skiing California’s Eastern Sierra,” a compilation of more than 200 snow descents from Mount Whitney to Matterhorn Peak.

The second edition of the book, published by Wolverine Publishing late last year, is another layer in the budding archive of information on the region Greenberg and Mingori trace back to the 1992 book “Backcountry Skiing in the High Sierra” by John Moynier.

“That was our go-to bible for quite a long time,” said Greenberg. “I wanted to produce something that was as much sort of a bible or reference point that inspired everybody else as it did me.”

They planned to sign copies of new editions Sunday at Tahoe Mountain Sports in Truckee, California.

Whether Greenberg and Mingori’s work achieves biblical status will be up to readers to decide. But there’s no question they produced a hefty tome that’s packed facts and stats, loaded with attractive and informative photos and presented in an easy-to-read, glossy format.

The 356-page book uses watersheds to divides the Eastern Sierra into 14 regions beginning as far north as Bridgeport, California, and south to Lone Pine, California.

Each region has as many as eight or as few as two areas which are further broken down to individual descents. The descents, each of which are tied to a peak, are described briefly in narrative form and presented with statistics detailing elevation, amount of vertical, approach distance, trailhead and mapping and GPS information. There are also small icons depicting the aspect, a consequence/exposure rating and degree of slope for the steepest part of each descent.

The “easiest” descents in the book are described as “black diamond terrain at virtually any ski resort in the U.S.” which puts the consequence/exposure ratings into perspective.

The lowest rating on the one-to-five scale is depicted in green and described thusly, “falling is generally OK, as you will likely be able to stop yourself,” and increases to the top rating depicted in black and described as, “falling on one of these descents will most certainly be fatal.”

Another feature the authors point to with pride is the content itself. They said at least one of them, and in many cases both, has firsthand experience with each spot described.

“The book basically comes from over a decade of really just getting out and skiing as much as we could every weekend,” said Mingori.

Those ski trips over the years included moments both scary and sublime.

Mingori remembered one close call in particular. It happened on Mount Morrison back when he was “fairly early on in backcountry” and wasn’t as well attuned to the warning signs for avalanches.

He described heading up to ski the east face with another friend and getting within about 15 feet of the 12,228 foot summit when it happened.

Among the mistakes, Mingori said, was not heeding the classic warning sign of a “whoomp, whoomp” sound beneath their feet, indicating the layered snow was collapsing onto itself.

“I did not have enough experience to see those warning signs,” he said.

The mid-winter, wind-loaded snow near the top broke away just beneath them and caused an avalanche that tumbled down the entire face of the mountain.

“I basically watched an entire mountain release at my feet,” Mingori said. “If I had been two feet lower on the mountain I wouldn’t be here today.”

To remind others to be safe the guidebook opens with a full page warning about the dangers inherent to backcountry snow exploration.

Exploring the Eastern Sierra, however, isn’t all danger. It’s often inspiring.

Greenberg’s most memorable day happened in 2011 at Laurel Mountain. It was in an area he’d seen from the highway and never had the chance to ski. But it was a big snow year and another round of storms dumped enough fresh snow to provide another opportunity.

“Those are a couple lines I wanted to do for a long time.” Greenberg said. “When you have something, especially something you look at that regularly … it makes it just that much more valuable.”

___

Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, https://www.rgj.com


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