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State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: XIII

It was another mixed week of powder, corn, and all points in between for Tahoe. Great turns were abundant depending on where, what, and when you skied with a whole lot of high quality turns being laid down on the Eastside as well.

As we rolled into this past weekend some select powder shots were holding from the new blanket of fresh the Basin received. However, those conditions were fleeting and soon thereafter the corn skiing started to go off again. I was able to find both types of snow conditions around the Lake playing with my chosen aspect, along with many other local shredders who were just plain getting after it. The skiing in Tahoe was pretty solid this week until Wednesday’s cold temps and dusting firmed everything up. Corn was being harvested on E-SE-S and even W facing aspects, although powder turns were available in those select locations where the sun had not been able to make its way in and start the metamorphosis.    

The early part of the week was also stellar down on the Eastside. With perfect corn down low and high elevation powder lurking on many objectives I quickly made plans to utilize the brief weather window to head south for some High Sierra skiing just south of Mammoth.

Saturday’s adventure will be reported on with its own post since the story that accompanies skiing the line in particular (the infamous Parachute) is worthy enough to stand alone for the stoke, comedy, and lesson factors involved. Stay tuned for that one.

Skiing around the Convict Lake area and off the classic Esha Peak was much more straightforward as both descents offered about as much as a snow slider can ask for during this time off year. Down low sweet corn. Up high, a possible transition area where the snow hadn’t quite made up its mind, and then silky smooth powder. Most of the photos in this post are from these two days.

The Convict Lake area is holding some great skiing and riding right now. This zone has arguably some of the most classic lines to be had in such a short proximity with Mt. Laurel, Mt, Morrison, and Red Slate Peak all being accessed by the local trailhead. Getting a late start my partner and I headed off for a random mini peak I had eyed several times upon visiting Convict Lake. The couloir is short and really boney up top, but had close to perfect corn on the lower flanks and powder tucked away under the walls on the north facing aspects.

 I was actually pretty surprised because even though I had skied powder in the area on Saturday by the late afternoon even protected north facing shots were crusting up at lower elevations. Still, just a little bit higher and a little bit more protected we found great powder turns and corn all within the stretch of a few feet.

 There’s just no place on earth like the Eastside…even when you have to walk a little bit extra to really earn those turns.

The following day we headed out for Esha Peak, linking up with a super nice couple from Truckee who were on the same mission. Crossing the creek at the pack station was simple, and the long colorful climb up the canyon was fairly easy given the north aspect and ability to break through the crust.

 As we continued to ascend the canyon a couple of faint ski tracks appeared on the Esha Headwall. This Headwall is characterized by several chutes that drop down from the summit. We weren’t so taken back that there were two tracks down the face, especially since the tasty lookers left walled chute was left untracked, but by the fact that their turns along with the whole face looked to be caked in cold winter snow.

Bypassing the usual method of climbing the chute we intended to ski I followed this groups general trajectory lookers right and skinned all the way to the ridge with a short section of booting.

The views from here to the summit were ten times what I was expecting. In this picture the summit of the great Red Slate bekons.

Couple the views with the fun adventurous class 2-3 climb up to the summit and we ended up checking into a much higher quality mission than I had initially thought we were getting into.

It’s not that Esha isn’t considered a classic, because it is, it’s more that there’s just so many amazing objectives nearby I always passed on this one thinking it wouldn’t be as worth the effort as something else. I love when I’m dead wrong on things like this as the ski out was nothing short of extraordinary. Even the dogs were scoping lines.

 The chute skied like perfect boot to shin deep powder for the people, and was full on face shots for the dogs for almost 1800 vertical feet.

After the transition period we followed the west facing wall and skied close to 4k feet of smooth corn all the way back to the car. The main trailhead is a little ways off if you plan on getting on Esha anytime soon, but the extra effort is more than worth it right now, and that goes for a lot of other Eastside hits as well.

Some lines are getting thinner and melting away, some trailheads are a bit further out than you’d expect, and some lines are just about as good as it gets right now. People have been getting after it too! The tracks I saw on Little Morrison and a host of other local peaks begs for snow sliders to keep tracking them up so if you feeling it get on the horse now while the getting’s good. But keep a watchful eye on the weather as there’s been many days where I chanced a partly cloudy forecast only to get completely skunked on my run from the sun not working its full Sierra magic.

The forecast for both Tahoe and the Eastern Sierra (central/north) look interesting this week as partly cloudy seems to be ruling the discussion. The Tahoe backcountry may be skiing like dust on crust briefly until we get some more radiation to break through the clouds on Thursday before a warm disturbance brushes us with a chance of showers on Friday. On the Eastside this can go either way as without the perfect Sierra high pressure in place snow conditions can vary greatly. I can also attest to the fact it was dumping at the Mammoth Hot Springs Wednesday morning, which meant dust on crust down low and a lot of it before you could find any sheltered powder up high.

But when your back up plan is an empty hot spring, it’s not really that bad of a choice anyway, and usually worth the gamble to search out the goods.

 

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