Date: Saturday, May 5, 2012

Location: Lover’s Leap

Climbers: Jon & Nick

Photos: Jon & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: Since climbing the Northwest Ridge of Four Gables with Jon in January, I have not posted any trip reports as it has been a non-eventful winter in Tahoe. That is not to say I did not get any skiing in – in fact, I got a handful of great powder days in. However, all of the days I did ski were entirely spent at Alpine Meadows or Squaw Valley. I just never seemed to time it properly for any backcountry touring as the snowpack was either (i) non-existent or (ii) dangerous due to the persistent weak layer we had all winter. Meanwhile, the weather in the Bay Area all “winter” was nothing short of spectacular, and I mostly hung around and did a TON of road biking in the Coast Mountains (and have generally been training for a couple of triathlons this upcoming summer and fall).

The great thing about the lack of snowpack this Spring will be the climbing access it affords. As of this writing, both Tioga Pass and Sonora Pass are open to the Eastside and many High Sierra climbs will have very quick approaches that are otherwise inaccessible without skis/snowshoes for much later in the season. Further, I suspect the alpine ice season this year is going to be nothing short of phenomenal.

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Dates: Saturday, January 14 – Sunday, January 15, 2012

Locations: Peak 12,542 and the Northwest Ridge of Four Gables

Climbers: Jon & Nick

Photos: As noted (with some processing edits on a couple of Jon’s shots from Nick)

Synopsis: With Tioga Pass continuing to remain open, the lack of snowfall this year continued offered a unique opportunity to those so inclined: access to long, granite alpine rock routes with minimal amounts of snow in otherwise “Winter” conditions. By “Winter” conditions I mean (i) very short days, (ii) very cold temperatures and (iii) very strong winds.

Jon and I were itching the entire week to undertake a true winter alpine route that would involve a bivy at a high altitude. We combed through the High Sierra Secor Guide looking for route descriptions. Our search had a couple of parameters. First, since we were coming from the Bay Area on Friday, altitude was a key factor. We were hesitant to bivy up around 13,000 ft. + on Saturday night for fear of getting absolutely worked by the altitude. Second, the weather report was not looking promising. While Saturday day and night called for great conditions, Sunday was anticipated to deteriorate rapidly with a very strong wind event moving in (with Sunday night expecting sustained 100+ mph winds along the High Sierra Crest).

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Date: Saturday, January 7, 2012

Location: North Couloir of North Peak

Climbers: Brandon & Nick

Photos: Nick (unless otherwise noted as Brandon, with some processing edits from Nick)

Synopsis: While the lack of snow in the Sierra has delayed the start of ski season, it has also offered a historical statistic of sorts – namely, Tioga Pass is currently open in January. According to data compiled by the Mono Lake Committee, since 1933 Tioga Pass has only been open six times post-December, with the former record being January 1 in 2000. Being an optimist of sorts, I was excited as this offers easy access to the High Sierra for one approaching from the West side of the range.

Brandon and I had our eyes set on the classic alpine climb of the North Couloir of North Peak (12,242 ft). With the lack of snow and constant cold temps at that elevation, we were hoping that the North Couloir would possibly continue to hold ice conditions – although we were actually expecting hard neve. In either case, the chance to climb the North Couloir in January with a mostly snowless approach in winter weather conditions (think (i) cold and (ii) very windy) sounded too good to be true.

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TR: Cascade Falls

Date: Saturday, December 24, 2011

Location: Cascade Falls

Climbers: Jon, Rachel, Tony & Nick

Photos: Nick (unless otherwise noted)

Synopsis: First, let me say that wanted to get this up much sooner to offer some good beta on current Tahoe ice conditions, but a hectic schedule around the holidays prevented that. So unfortunately I can’t attest to whether this is representative of the current conditions at Cascade Falls (e.g., there has been a rain event and general warming spell as of late).

Having said that, although Tahoe (and pretty much all of California, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado) has received little to no snow, December proved to be a very cold month. Consistent cold temperatures and lack of snow make for good ice conditions in Tahoe (as fickle as they can be).

While climbing up at 90-Foot Wall with Brandon the week prior, we spotted Cascade Falls from the road and it looked very thick. After some more research, I got some good beta on conditions, so Jon, Rachel, Tony and I decided to head and check it out.

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Dates: Sunday, December 4, 2011 (Climbing) & Saturday, December 10, 2011 (Lunar Eclipse)

Locations: 90-Foot Cliff, South Lake Tahoe & San Francisco Bay

Climbers: Brandon & Nick

Photos: Nick (unless otherwise noted)

Synopsis: With the severe lack of snow in the Tahoe and High Sierra this early December due to (among other things) a high-pressure ridge sitting off the coast of California, Brandon and I decided to test the weather last Sunday for some winter-cragging in the Tahoe area.

Our original intention was to head to the Leap and test out how cold it really was, but we were quickly dissuaded by the shaded aspects, strong winds and below freezing temps. Therefore, we headed over to 90-Foot Wall in the Emerald Bay area for a good top-roping zone in the sun.

As a bonus, this past Saturday was a full lunar eclipse that was best viewed in the Western U.S., with the peak occurring at 6:30 A.M. PST. Given that the next full lunar eclipse will not occur until April 2014, I felt the need to get up and combat the light pollution of San Francisco and try and capture the event.

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Date: Sunday, October 23, 2011

Location: Lover’s Leap

Climbers: Alex & Nick

Photos: Alex & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: With the snow of the early October 6th storm long faded into memory and recent warming temps, I knew Sunday would make for a good day trip to the Leap. After many suggestions by myself and others, Alex has recently taken up climbing, with his first foray into outdoor climbing at Indian Springs and Donner Summit earlier in August.

With the stable weather and Alex fired out to get out of the climbing gym and back outdoors, I knew a Leap trip was in order. And with Corrugation Corner (5.7) and Bear’s Reach (5.7) on the agenda, I would dare to say that is about as good as it gets for a first trip to the leap for Alex! A nice welcoming to the world of exposure…

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Dates: Saturday, October 8 – Sunday, October 9, 2011

Location: Hetch Hetchy, Rancheria Falls Trail, Yosemite National Park

Hikers: Sarah & Nick

Photos: Nick (unless otherwise noted)

Synopsis: Sarah and I had originally made plans to head over Tioga Pass to the Eastern Sierra and head down to Convict Canyon to hike up into Lake Genevieve and Lake Wit-So-Nah-Pa with views of Red Slate Mountain. We were hoping to get great views of the changing leaves in the high country and the solitude of Convict Canyon.

Unfortunately, on Wednesday-Thursday a strong storm from the PNW moved across Northern and Central California and dropped 1-2 feet of snow in the upper elevations across the Sierra above 8,000 ft. While Tioga Pass did open on Saturday, reports of an abundance of snow up high had caused us to change our plans earlier in the week.

Ultimately, we both wanted to stay out of the snow and this gave me the excuse to head to Hetch Hetchy – and area I always wanted to explore but frankly just drive right on by every time I am heading into the Park or the Eastside.

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TR: Matthes Crest


Date: Sunday, September 18, 2011

Location: Matthes Crest, Yosemite National Park

Climbers: Jon & Nick

Photos: Jon & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: After a successful trip on the Northeast Couloir of Mount Gilbert the day prior, Jon and I headed on yet another early alpine start for some ultra-classic climbing on Matthes Crest. Matthes Crest is one of the most unique climbs I have ever done. Approaching from the Cathedral Lakes trailhead, Matthes Crest is a very unique granite knife-ridge that was glacially formed. Although it is only about 500 vertical feet from the ground, the knife-ridge itself runs for over a mile long. Similar to most parties, we climbed to the North Tower and rapped from the dedicated rap rings.

Ultimately, it rightly deserves its recognition for its classic status, offering awesome climbing, great exposure and unbelievable views.

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Date: Saturday, September 17, 2011

Location: Mt. Gilbert, Northeast Couloir

Climbers: Jon & Nick

Photos: Jon & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: After arriving back from Europe the prior day (and Jon separately also arriving from Spain the prior day), Jon and I headed down to Bishop to once again give a go at the North Couloir on Mt. Gilbert (13,106 ft.). Last year we headed down much latter in the alpine ice season, and after a foot of snow fell, avalanche conditions were unsafe and lead to the Triple Skunk on each of the North Couloir on North Peak, the North Couloir on Mt. Gilbert and the Harrington Couloir on Mt. Thompson.

Fortunately, this year we headed back earlier in the season without snow on the approach and the weather was great. We ended up climbing the Northeast Couloir as it was more sustained without a burnt-out middle section, but now we both want to go back and climb the North Couloir proper. I guess we still have time this season!

Unlike the Triple Skunk , the approach was entirely dry well up onto the glacier just below Mt. Gilbert. Therefore, the approach was much faster (by several hours) and we made good time.

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Dates: Wednesday, September 7 – Thursday, September 15, 2011

Locations: Geneva, Chamonix & Annecy, including the Arête des Papillons – Aiguille du Peigne, Chamonix

Synopsis: Sarah and I headed over to the Swiss and French alps for an amazing trip, including first-time visits for each of us to Geneva, Chamonix and Annecy. I was extremely fired-up to visit Chamonix, THE Alpine Climbing and Skiing Mecca. While in Chamonix, I was able to link up with Tahoe-local Ben Mitchell for some climbing. Ben is an AMGA/IFMGA guide from Truckee that guides in Chamonix in the summer months (as well as for Alpine Skills International in Truckee in the winter and Points North Heli Skiing in Alaska, among other guiding pursuits). Ben and I climbed the classic Arête des Papillons on the Aiguille du Peigne in Chamonix.

Most importantly, the trip was a perfect combination of relaxation, sightseeing/photography and trilling adventure (including paragliding from the Plan Praz station heading towards the Plaques du Brévent) with the most amazing travel companion in the world!

While this TR does contain some amazing climbing and paragliding shots from Chamonix, I also just wanted to showcase some of the amazing sites and views presented during the entire trip in chronological order.

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Dates: Saturday, August 27 – Sunday, August 28, 2011

Locations: Stately Pleasure Dome, Pywiack Dome & Dozier Dome, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park

Climbers: Brandon & Nick

Photos: Nick (unless otherwise noted as Brandon)

Synopsis: Brandon and I headed up to Tuolumne Meadows for a great weekend of climbing on some classic multi-pitch dome routes: (i) Great White Book on Stately Pleasure Dome, (ii) Holdless Horror on Dozier Dome, (iii) Zee Tree on Pywiack Dome and (iv) Errett Out on Dozier Dome. The weather was great and the scenery spectacular.

I also got to try out my new camera for shots from the ground (as I would never climb with this thing): a Canon 60D with a Canon 15-85mm F/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens. All climbing shots (and shots from the summits) are with my much smaller Panasonic LX-3.

On the drive in Saturday morning, the skies were very overcast and there was some very sporadic rain (in quantity, location and time-lapse). We got a little worried, as rain + granite slab = no fun. However, the rain didn’t seem to impact the Tuolumne area (other than about 2 minutes of very light rain over Tenaya Lake) and the skies eventually cleared up during the day.

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Dates: Saturday, July 30 – Sunday, July 31, 2011

Locations: Indian Springs & Donner Summit

Climbers: Alex, Colin & Nick

Photos: Alex & Nick (as accredited) – although virtually 99.9% of the shots in this TR are Alex’s

Synopsis: Ultimately, this was a great weekend of moderate climbing with some good buddies. I honestly haven’t gotten out much this summer due to a pretty hectic schedule of work, travel, moving and other commitments. Everything always balances out, however – so I was just excited to be able to get out over this weekend. Other than a great day at the Leap climbing Surrealistic Pillar over Fourth of July weekend, this would only be by second climbing outing this summer.

I was really pumped as well given that (i) this was Alex’s first time outdoor rock climbing (as he only recently began climbing in the gym) and (ii) I had not climbed with Colin in over a year due to his skiing injury.

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TR: Sonora Pass


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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Synopsis: Sarah and I headed for a quick weekend trip to Yosemite Valley to check out the large waterfalls given the huge winter snowpack this year. I have never been to Yosemite Valley to see the spring run-off. More importantly, I was very excited for the trip as this was Sarah’s first time in Yosemite. Although it was too short, Sarah really enjoyed walking around the Valley and I am sure it is the first of many trips.

Photos: Nick

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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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Date: Sunday, April 3, 2011

Skiers & Rider: Andrew, Alex & Nick

Location: Carson Pass

Photos: Andrew, Alex & Nick (as noted)

Weather & Snowpack: This winter in Tahoe has been unreal in the volume of snow, and in some cases, record setting. According to Tahoe Weather Discussion, for the month of March up to and including March 28th, “8-16 feet on the resorts in the last 10 days of non-stop snow, 11-21 feet in the past 2 weeks, and 13-23 feet in the month of March.”

Once the snow stopped on March 28th, that week brought a rapid warming trend. Unfortunately, nights were not refreezing so the snowpack was not transitioning to corn snow. After several days of heavy glop due to the warm days and nights, on Saturday night, April 2nd, we finally received what we had been waiting for – a very strong refreeze of the snowpack due to well-below freezing nighttime temps and a clear night for some radiational cooling of the snowpack.

As a result, Sunday we awoke to a strong refreeze, warming temperatures (capped around 40F) and blue-bird skies – the perfect combination for rapid corn snow growth.

Synopsis: Andrew, Alex and I headed out to Carson Pass in search of corn. Ultimately, our tour ran approximately 9.8 miles on skis, with approximately 4500′ of vertical ascended and 5200′ of vertical descended. Most importantly, this was Alex’s first day back in the backcountry following a full recovery from some spontaneous lung collapses last year. A proud welcome back indeed!

Pictures to follow. Note that this TR is several pages long.

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TR: West Shore – Tahoe

Date: Sunday, February 27, 2011

Skiers: Jonathan, Rachel, Warren, Alexi & Nick

Weather & Snowpack: Sunday was the perfect combination of bluebird and a relatively cold day for Tahoe. In addition, it was several days after a great Alaska-formed storm delivered 3-4 feet of fresh, light powder along the Sierra Crest in Tahoe. Fortunately, the snowpack stablized very quickly despite the cold temps.

VIDEO TR: A nice video of the tour along the West Shore on Sunday.

Some additional photos from Saturday at Alpine follow.

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Dates: January 22-23, 2011

Climbers: Jon, Rachel, Tony & Nick

Locations: Lee Vining Caynon, Main Wall & June Lake, Horsetail Falls

Video & Photos: Nick (unless otherwise noted)

Synopsis: We headed down to the Eastside over the weekend to take in some Sierra ice climbing in Lee Vining Canyon and Horsetail falls. Lee Vining Canyon Main Wall was in good shape with thick ice and cold temperatures on Saturday. On Sunday, we headed down to Horsetail Falls in the June Lake area. Unfortunately, recent warm weather and sun exposure from the prior week had melted out many of the flows and the ice was fairly hollow. Alternatively, we hiked around to a North-aspect, mini-flow and worked on ice screw placements, anchoring, etc…

All in all, a great weekend of climbing with a good group!

This TR contains both a Video TR and Photo TR.

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Date: Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Skiers: Colin & Nick

Location: Silver Peak (Tahoe Backcountry)

Summary: Colin and I headed out to the low-angle trees near Silver Peak for some storm day skiing. We skinned up an access road and through low-angle meadows with the intention to ski low angle trees and avoid any avy terrain (due to avy conditions). Upon reaching the intended zone, a weather system moved in and visibility went to around 5 feet, so we simply turned around and headed back to the car.

Still a fun day in the mountains, breaking trail through beautiful surroundings.

Here is a short video entitled “Breaking Trail” (my attempt at being artsy) – music is included.