Tin Cup Creek and the Como Peaks- Tin Cup Creek leads the dedicated backcountry skier to the south side of the Como Peaks and El Capitan. It is a large drainage and the approach to these peaks is substantial, requiring a minimum 6-7 mile approach to the base of the East peak and 2000 feet in elevation gain. Once on the bench below the summits there is another 2000+ of vertical to reach the peaks all of which have fine ski descents on one aspect or another off the south side of the high ridge. With the four peaks all between 9500-10000 there is substantial ski terrain in this area. To reach the bench at 6300 below the east peak requires a bushwhack but this described route is not too bad. After the first creek crossing three miles from the trailhead, exciting in itself, the trail begins crossing numerous tributaries and springs coming in from the north. After about another two miles the trail follows a creek bed for about 100 yds. This is shown on the map as well. After leaving this creek, the first brushy meadow opens up on the north. Leave the trail and follow this opening north staying to the west of the creek and ravine and east of the cliffs for approximately 1500 vertical to where the forest becomes thicker. At this point it is not so steep and sidehilling west will deposit you at the toe of a large avalanche path next to a spring. Still a bit east of the falline off the East peak continue working west and gaining elevation to stay in the open. With skis on now it is easy to see many possible ski descents as the tourer continues on to the west, descending at times and ascending depending on the nature of the tour and conditions. To reach El Capitan continue west for another 4 miles gaining the high basin above Kerlee Lake, passing through a gap and continuing on to the base of a fine bowl in the west of the main drainage south to Tin Cup. Follow this bowl up to its head for 1200 vertical and then gain the summit ridge and the summit with another 800 vertical. It is possible to retrace the uptrack and then ski the big bowl back into the Tin Cup side but the prize is a couloir to ski that drops southwest into the head of El Capitan Creek. To return to Tin Cup requires a traverse east through a pass and back into the Tin Cup drainage. For miles this ridge affords spectacular views and plummeting ski descents. There are many cliffs to contend with on both approach and descent but given good visibility and ski crampons and self arrest grips the dangers are only moderate given good route finding. What a place. Highly recommended advanced tour. Minimum for an attempt on El Capitan of two big days in springtime fast touring conditions, preferably three days, unless you are a marathoner with virtually nothing in your pack, then count on one heroic long day of 20 plus miles and about 6500 vertical. There is open springwater along the trail, in the first gully climb, at 6300 in the east end of the avalanche path, and below the middle peak at the bench.
February 4- Don and I went for a big line and skied the east Como Peak's south face. At 4500' vertical it is one of the longest runs in the range. With variable conditions the descent took us and hour and twenty minutes as we rested every five hundred vertical. The skiing was challenging but softened by the bright sun and we enjoyed great views of the Fortress (Shard) and the sea of peaks to the north once we summited. El Capitan dominated the view again and we looked to see if the line there is ready again...hard to tell. With a six hour approach and another four hour return it ended in the dark as our longest day tour this year. I recommend south faces again as long as the sun shines. Last years tour to the top of the Tin Cup Chutes had yielded photos that showed that the cleft in the rock cliffs above the first major talus field along the trail would allow passage to the upper bench and then the upper mountain. Other than this pass the first draw and opening along the trail about a mile earlier also allows passage to the upper bench and the Como Peaks and El Capitan.