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Archive for the ‘Backcountry Skiing’ Category

Dates: Monday, May 7th – Friday, May 11th

Locations: Ansel Adams & Yosemite Wildernesses, including Donahue Pass (11,056 ft.), Mount Lyell (13,120 ft.), Simmons Peak (12,497 ft.), Kuna Crest South (11,812 ft.), Koip Peak (12,968 ft.) and Mount Wood (12,657 ft.).

Skiers: Jon & Nick

Photos: As noted

Synopsis: Towards the end of April each year, Jon and I start pouring over topo maps to piece together potential multi-day tours into the High Sierra. It is one of my favorite activities of the year, as there is so much potential for exploration deeper into the range. This year, the High Sierra had a pretty weak winter, so snowpack depth was of paramount concern. Colin was nice enough to link us to some NOAA snow coverage and SWE models that over layed on maps. Using this enabled us to quickly scrap some ideas we had been thinking about in the more Southern Sierra, as the snow coverage looked really thin.

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Date: Saturday, March 17, 2018

Location: West Shore Lake Tahoe (Rubicon Peak)

Skiers: Andrew, Alex, Nick and Mike

Photos: Alex, Nick and Mike. A special thanks for Alex to being willing to lug a DSLR and take the vast majority of pictures, all of which turned out amazing.

Synopsis: Words can’t really describe how fun this day was. We were treated to an amazing day of ultra deep, stable snow. At times, it was too deep to even ski, as we focused on a low-angle zone on Rubicon Peak in light of avalanche instabilities. It was great to ski again with Alex, who moved up to Oregon last year.

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Dates: Monday, May 22 – Friday, May 26, 2017

Locations: Mt. Gould & West of Palisade Crest, Eastern Sierra

Skiers: Jon & Nick

Photos: As noted

Synopsis: With a great winter and a huge spring snowpack in the Eastern Sierra, Jon and I spent the early part of map pouring over topo maps and deciding where to plan a five day ski tour. We had originally intended to cross the range over a variation of the Monarch Divide tour, but ultimately the hassle of car logistics turned us towards a loop style tour starting and ending on the Eastside. With no shortage of terrain, it was simply identifying a zone we wanted to stay in for five days. As is the case, sometimes planning only takes you so far, as we had set out originally on a tour leaving out of Onion Valley, but a broken ski boot on the first day quickly changed our plans. Fortunately, some quick MacGyvering ultimately kept the train on the rails, albeit on an entirely different track!

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Locations: Hidden Peak, West Shore & Herlan Peak, East Shore, Lake Tahoe

Skiers: Jon, Andrew, Nick & Mike

Photos: As noted

Synopsis: My life trajectory has really validated the theory that good things come in pairs. Ultimately, this TR is A Tale of Twos, so to speak. Two general themes, life and skiing. Two seasons, last year and this year. Two little boys, really struggling then triumphing. Two particular days. Two peaks on two shores of Tahoe. Two life arcs, pre- and post-parenthood. Two inversion layers, above and below the fog. It goes on and on, as does life…

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TR: Desolation Wilderness

Dates: Saturday, February 6 & Sunday, February 7, 2016

Locations: Desolation Wilderness, South Lake Tahoe (Ralston Peak, Dick’s Peak, Janine’s Peak and Maggie’s Peaks)

Skiers: Saturday: Jon, Andrew, Alex and Nick, and Sunday: Jon, Mike and Nick

Photos: As noted

Synopsis: After a period of heavy wet snow the weekend prior, last week a very strong high pressure moved in over California (and much of the Mountain West), leading to above average temperatures and a quickly solidifying Sierra snowpack. After 4 days of melt/freeze cycles and shifting winds, we settled on heading into Desolation Wilderness for a couple of bigger days alpine terrain. With above average forecasted temps, we new going in that working the compass dial and time of day would dictate quality of snow conditions, and in retrospect I think we nailed it both days.

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Date: Sunday, January 10, 2015

Location: Mount Tallac, South Lake Tahoe

Skiers: Jon, Mike & Nick

Photos: As Noted

Synopsis: While every day out in the mountains with friends is a day well spent, every once in a while a day will come across that literally just makes you stop, look around and deeply appreciate your surroundings. Sunday was one of those days for me.

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Dates: Saturday, January 2 & Sunday, January 3, 2015

Location: North Lake Tahoe

Skiers: Noah, Pat & Nick

Photos: As Noted

Synopsis: Following periods of heavy snow during Christmas week, the Tahoe Basin was subject to particularly strong winds that impacted much of the alpine zones above tree line, leaving wind scoured surfaces. However, the near tree line and below tree line terrain sheltered the snow from the intense winds. Coupled with very cold temperatures, the tree skiing continues to be excellent. With more storms forecast this week, fingers are crossed for more days out like this.

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Dates: Saturday, December 5 & Sunday, December 6, 2015

Location: South Lake Tahoe

Skiers: Sat: Andrew, Alex, Noah and Nick; Sun: Andrew, Mike and Nick

Photos: As Noted

Synopsis: Last Thursday, another small storm fell dropping between 5-12 inches of snow across the Lake Tahoe basin, depending on aspect and elevation. Saturday was largely a warming trend and rather mild weather, while Sunday brought very intense, gale-force winds (with gusts of near 90 mph on higher elevation ridge tops late Sunday afternoon).

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Date: Sunday, November 29, 2015

Location: North Lake Tahoe

Skiers: Andrew, Mike, Morgan and Nick

Photos: Andrew, Mike and Nick as noted (although everything was shot with various forms of cellular machines…)

Synopsis: So far in November, the Tahoe Basin has been consistently receiving small winter storms on a weekly basis. What has been interesting is that November in the Tahoe Basin has been below historical average for both total precip and snowfall. However, with the horrible “winters” the past several years, everyone is obviously excited with cold, consistent snowfall coming in. This past week in fact, Tahoe got a very cold storm dropping down from Alaska the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, followed by well below average temperatures the remainder of the week into the weekend.

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Date: Saturday, March 14, 2015

Location: Matterhorn Peak, Eastern Sierra

Skiers: Jon & Nick

Photos: Jon & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: As the “winter” has progressed here in California, I have been doing a lot of road biking… Long periods of high pressure, sunny skies and warm temps have largely dictated February and March. California was treated to a much needed storm about a week ago, which provided some moisture for the state and a blanket of low-density snow at high elevation. While not the base-building, heavy cement we really needed, no one was in a position to complain.

However, as quickly as the storm came, high pressure and warming temps generally returned. On Wednesday, another storm came across the Sierra that provided several more inches of snow, followed by a warming trend and high pressure. The weekend called for great weather for a mission down to the Eastern Sierra, in search of remaining “wintery” snow at high elevation, north-aspects.

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Date: December 2014

Location: North Lake Tahoe

Skiers: Jon, Noah & Nick

Photos: As noted

Early season in Tahoe this year was coupled with big expectation and hype (including the December Mega Storm), which as typical largely under delivered on account of fluctuating snow lines. As of present, we are once again combatting a high-pressure ridge off the West Coast leading to another dry January. As I sit and await our historically biggest snow months of February and March, I think back to some great days early season in December. There were certainly good days to be had, both in the resorts and touring in the backcountry.

Similar to the rising tides and fluctuations in the weather, each day had its ups and downs. Once such great day in December had a lot, in fact!

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Date: Saturday, March 8, 2014

Locations: Sierra Crest, North Lake Tahoe Basin

Skiers: Colin & Nick

Photos: Colin & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: Armed with high-pressure, clear skies, a decent re-freeze the prior night and a light, Southwesterly wind, Colin and I decided to head out last Saturday for the classic Sierra Crest tour from Sugar Bowl to Squaw in the North Lake Tahoe Basin. I don’t think I am surprising anyone in saying that this season has been pretty bleak in Tahoe for snow accumulation, and I think a lot of the pictures below will show how thin the sun-exposed aspects are right now. Still, it felt great to get out on a longer tour and get some exercise. I particularly like these “meadow skipping” type tours where you cover longer distances to see a lot of terrain. I particularly like multi-day tours in the Eastern Sierra in the Spring, but this season (like last season) is looking like May will be more devoted to High Sierra climbing.

Warning – there are not a ton of action ski shots in a tour like this, but figured I have not posted a TR in a while so why not.

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Skiers: Alex, Andrew & Nick

Date: Sunday, March 21st

Photos: Andrew (edited by Nick in Lightroom)

Synopsis: Alex, Andrew and I headed out Sunday to a higher elevation zone around Tahoe to try and take advantage of a couple of inches of fresh snow that fell over the weekend. Below 8,500 ft, the approach conditions are getting rough and involve quite a lot of patch to patch skinning and indirect routes. Up above 8,500 ft however, there is still good enough coverage for some good turns.

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Skiers: Pat, Alexis, Alex, Andrew, Jakob & Nick

Photos: Alex & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: While we have received very little snow since early January, I have actually be having a great time in Tahoe out in the mountains. The days are getting longer, with great weather, great views and good friends. Below is a collection of photos from a number of days out in the Tahoe Basin backcountry (as well as some Big Basin shots thrown in). Intermixed with all of this has been a number of days at the resorts just ripping groomers with Sarah, which has been a lot of fun.

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Locations: Trimmer Peak, Grouse Rock & Munchkins

Dates: Sunday, December 30th & Tuesday, January 1st

Skiers: Tony, Jason, Jon & Nick

Photos: Nick (unless otherwise noted, but with Nick’s camera)

Synopsis: It’s been a while since I posted a full TR, so figured now is as good as a time as any. Conditions around the Tahoe Basin have been great recently, with a dramatic change in snow amounts since December of last year. Although we do have some interesting things going on in our snowpack due to some deeply buried PWLs, which led to a pretty sizeable avalanche cycle just after Christmas. Therefore, we played it pretty conservative in the trees, with great skiing to be had!

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Dates: Saturday, November 10 – Sunday, November, 11, 2012

Location: Alpine Meadows, CA

Skiers: Alex, Brandon, Jon, Marcus, Mike & Nick

Photos: Alex, Jon & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: During late last week, another early season storm fell across the Tahoe Basin with extremely cold temps (by Tahoe standards) and light, dry snow. A group of us headed up to Alpine Meadows for a couple of days of backcountry touring. I note “backcountry” as Alpine Meadows is currently closed until the resort opens in December, and therefore the terrain and snowpack is uncontrolled from an avalanche perspective at this point.

Ultimately, we had a great time skiing in good conditions without much incident over the course of both days. Alpine Meadows must have had upwards of 100 people backcountry ski touring, boarding and snowshoeing around the mountain on both days. I have heard of similar reports from Kirkwood and Sugarbowl.

However, as I write this Trip Report, I do so with some sadness and an introspection about the fragility of life in general. As I found after this past weekend, at some point on Saturday (likely after we had left for the day) a young skier suffered a traumatic accident while telemark skiing at Alpine Meadows. She was telemark skiing for the first time, likely enjoying a beautiful day with her friends in the exact same fashion we were elsewhere on the mountain. I since learned that she suffered a crash while skiing (and wearing a helmet) and struck a rock buried in the snow relatively hard. Ultimately, due to the strong efforts of her companions and the Alpine Meadows Ski Patrol (who were on site conducting training at the base), a valiant effort was made to transport her via helicopter to emergency care. Unfortunately, she suffered critical injuries in the fall and she has since passed on.

Since I first heard about this, a stark reality struck me:

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Skiers: Alex, Andrew & Nick

Date: Saturday, October 27, 2012

Location: Alpine Meadows, CA

Synopsis: Last week, the Tahoe basin was blessed with an early season storm that 2-3 feet of powder along the upper reaches of the Sierra Crest. Therefore, Alex, Andrew and I headed up to Alpine Meadows for some early season skinning and skiing. In the afternoon once the weather got too warm and the snow conditions too sticky, we got in some good practice on our avalanche rescue scenarios in a mock debris field we created near the base of the mountain. Generally, I tend to shy away from early season skiing in the backcountry as I get concerned about thin coverage and getting hurt. Alpine Meadows seemed like a good bet on both coverage and being familiar with the underlined terrain if we stayed closed to historically groomed areas. Although it was definitely pre-season conditions and AM is not yet open for about month – so we took it easy.

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Date: Saturday, June 11, 2011

Location: Sonora Pass

Skiers: Rachel, Andrew, Brandon & Nick

Photos: Andrew, Brandon & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: May in the Sierra is my favorite month. Typically, the days are long, the snow is consolidated and predictable corn, the weather is stable and the mountain passes are open making for easier trips to the Eastern Sierra. After such a big snow year this winter, we continued to get “plagued” by additional late season snow and low-pressure windows. It didn’t feel right to complain about snow and low pressure, but frankly, I was internally grumbling most of May. With work obligations and the like, I found myself trying to squeeze in weekend trips that would get shut down by weather.

Fortunately, Enginerd and I were able to pull off a quick stealth mission into the Evolution Range in between weather cycles in early May. Unfortunately, that was the only skiing I did the entire month.

After that, I would read reports of 100 mph winds on the High Sierra, mountain passes being shut down due to new snow or rock fall, and the like. Honestly, I was just ready to move on to climbing season and packed the ski stuff up.

All week I was debating with Brandon whether to just go climbing on Saturday or give Sonora Pass a chance. The weather looked hit or miss with the potential for clouds and no re-freeze the night before. With the ski stuff packed, it was a hard decision at the time to pull it out. Fortunately, we made the right call.

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Dates: Tuesday, May 10 – Friday, May 13, 2011

Skiers: Jon & Nick

Photos: Jon & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: Over a four day period in between weather windows, Jon and I completed the classic High Sierra ski tour, the Evolution Loop. In addition to the classic tour plan, we added in side trips to Mt. Goddard and the North couloirs on Mt. Lamarck. The Evolution sub-range of the Eastern Sierra is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful areas of the entire Sierra. During our four days on the tour, I would consider this belief to stand true.

Note that this TR is four pages long, with each page dedicated to each day.

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Dates: April 9 –10, 2011

Locations: Cross Couloir, Mt. Tallac & Angora Peak

Skiers: Alexis, Clement, Warren & Nick

Photos: Alexis, Warren & Nick (each as noted below)

Synopsis: Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you view it) one of the joys of ski touring is dealing with variable conditions. After amazing corn skiing in Carson Pass Last Sunday, the warm cycle continued for most of the week leading up to a pretty strong re-freeze Wednesday night. A small low-pressure system then moved in, dropping 3-6 inches of fresh snow along the upper elevations of the Sierra Crest on Thursday and Friday. Yes, that is one of the few times this winter we are talking 3-6 inches rather than 3-6 feet.

While we headed out on Saturday to ski steep lines in a bit of powder, what we found was steep lines in quintessential “dust on crust” conditions. While the ski conditions were essentially nothing to write home about, we still had a great day both days.

Pictures to follow. Note that this TR is several pages long, with the Cross Couloir on Page 1 and Angora Peak on Page 2.

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