After raging Squaw Monday, I met a few friends at Carson Pass in the dark Tuesday a.m. hoping we could get a few laps in before the sun had its way with the all the new snow from Sunday and Monday. Even though we had gotten 4 grand of vert in before 10 a.m., our last lap faced N-NE and had just the slightest tinge of affect, which made me wonder if it that was it for the week. Our other laps fared well as they faced due north.
Red Lake Peak is a worthy gem for sure, a haul from the North Shore, but Carson Pass does offer you an opportunity to start skinning above 8500’, which in and of itself makes it a good choice when the weather dictates a high starting point. Couple that with the potential to shuttle a car and save some extra trail breaking/skinning and you have a clear answer for why this is a definite Tahoe area classic. It’s worth skiing with someone that knows the ropes at first to get your bearings, but you can park one car at either the base of Crater Lake, or where Caltrans normally sets up to do their chain control for Kirkwood. This staging will depend on what you want to ski. The chain control parking will let you ride the sick E-NE gully to the road, and the Crater Lake spot will let you ski out from the summit through Crater Lake, or let you get a lap on neighboring Steven’s Peak as well. You’ll want to start you mission by parking at the Meiss snowpark, which is on the opposite side of the road and just slightly past the Carson Pass snowpark (that you’d park at to ski Roundtop) to the west.
This morning we skinned from the Meiss lot across the ridges to the summit of Red Lake, skied one lap to Crater Lake, did one more, and then took the East Gully out. Somewhere around 4 grand of skiing with 2 and half to 3ish of skinning, and the initial skin is more like a big traverse so it saves a lot of time/energy. But the Death Star was bright at 10 a.m., and hopes for Wednesday seemed to be diminishing by the second. That is until my buddy and I scored another great day on Angora.
We didn’t ski anything rowdy, just the north trees and what’s known as the “Avi-Chute”, but the trees were protected enough to keep the snow cold, enough that it still hit us in the face on the steeper pitches. Wednesday was when the real baking happened and reports far and wide spoke of total bake-outs to almost to 9,000 feet. A bit disheartening, but hey, it’s April, and I figured Thursday would be a good down day, and provide a chance to get creative for Friday.
A quick trip to the Dana Plateau seemed in order, and my partner and I cruised south early with hopes we could farm-out a few powder turns. The report I can share, from roughly the Walker/Sonora Pass area down to Lee Vining is that coverage up high is looking phenomenal! I wished we could’ve stayed for a few more days, but the weather looked to shift again Saturday, which it did, so it was a good thing we got up there Friday.
Approaching the Plateau is always a fun endeavor. You go from somewhat mellow skinning in a gorgeous, but relatively mild setting, to huge classic Sierra granite walls and rad-looking couloirs in a matter of minutes.
I’ll spare you the details of our ascent up the alternate approach to Third Pillar, but what I will say is if you ever choose to ascend the Plateau this way, know which way you’re going. My partner had done it once before, but we got off route, and the 5th class climbing moves over exposure made for some shattered nerves before we even had time to figure out what to ski. After tossing a few rocks in Third Pillar and watching them bounce down what appeared to be a firm, but probably carvable surface (not sure if the choke is in or not either), we settled on skiing the Ripper Chute.
Ripper was perfect powder all the way out to the bottom of the apron. It was so good we did another hot lap to milk some more pow before the bottom 2 grand or so lent itself to close-to perfect corn. A good time for sure, and for those interested, Caltrans has been clearing the road over 9k already, which means the road to the pass could be open pretty soon! Keep an ear out for that as Dana proper including the Solstice and Dana couloirs and everything else up there looks amazing.
And then we get to start this week off with some more blower, all be it not quite as much as last week, but still more snow for April. Not much action in terms of weather this week, but it will be warm, so get some pow while you can, and maybe we’ll be back to a corn harvest by next week.