State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: XIV

State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: XIV

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State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: XIV

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April continues to work its dirty business on our historic snowpack. Snow banks are shrinking, rivers are practically running down local streets as the snow melts, yet there continues to be top-notch turns to shred throughout the greater Sierra Nevada. The best thing is there’s no sign of good skiing or riding letting up anytime soon.

Tahoe looks like there will be solid coverage to slide on well into June, especially off in the higher reaches of Desolation Wilderness. To the north some trailheads up around Mt. Shasta are still covered in snow for many miles. April’s blistering rays can try their best to kill the season, but finding turns for the next several weeks won’t be too hard for those still motivated to get after it. The trick will be how to lock into the highest quality turns, which as we saw this week can be tricky when you have unsettled weather as the dominant pattern.

We saw a few sloppy inches fall on Wednesday, which actually smoothed out a lot of terrain. We’re still not in a perfect corn cycle, but early on in the week the snowpack was freezing up high and offering some truly stellar corn skiing on south aspects and warm manky almost close to winter feeling descents on true north aspects. Avalanche danger concerns have primarily remained wet snow instabilities due to warm day time temperatures, and watching out for truly sloppy conditions as a result of a lack of a proper freeze. I had a few laps this week on snow that most certainly suffered in quality from not taking in a good freeze the night before, although the tree terrain I skied still held up enough to warrant a few smiles.

Carson Pass was especially holding some great corn turns at the early turn of the week.   The first two pictures (not the rappel shot) are from this day’s mission as well as the next few that follow. Not only were we treated to a gorgeous view of some seldom skied lines to the south of the Tahoe Basin,

but we also found around 3k feet of close to perfectly consistent corn.

It wasn’t all that ideal to ski such a glorious run and have to hike back out of it in the day’s heat,

but at the top we were able to do a quick detour to the top of Round Top Proper with some fun rock scrambiling,

and found some great skiing in the alternate couloir next to the Moon Crescent proper. Here’s my buddy Toby dropping in.

As you can see Round Top is fat this year. The Moon Crescent is as wide as I’ve ever seen it. Our line starts at the enterance just lookers left of the main Crescent Couloir.

Another glorious mission to the Eastside also helped keep the stoke high this past week. For this adventure Jeff Dostie and I were able to finally ski a line we have both wanted to slide down for a really long time. Conditions were good on Split, and specifically in the East Couloir. We found powder on the riders right north facing wall, and a mix of crust and crunchy snow on the riders left wall. This is not a route for anyone other than ski mountaineers as just the added gear you have to haul along, which we used every bit of, is a major deterrance to many backcountry skiers. Take your normal pack, add an extra liter or so of water, ski crampons, whippets, a rope, harness, biners, ATC, two ice tools, boot crampons, and extra food and quickly your pack weighs almost as much as it would if you were spending the night. Still, with a short WI4 section of ice climbing invloved, a 14,058′ summit, 7700′ vertical feet from the car, bushwhacking at the base, downclimbing with exposure, and a rappel you need every little tool and piece of gear you can to make it back to the car in one piece.

Here’s what the line looks like from afar,

a sick shot I found on the Internet (our line is dead center),

and a really cool tree along the approach.

As you gain the first 4k feet or so you start to get a view of the Split Mountain Massif.

As we switched over from skinning to booting everything got real slow. It was difficult booting conditions and the WI4 frozen waterfall also took time to climb, protect, and switch back over to booting mode. Here’s a shot looking down from the first pitch.

Trudging on we summited a bit later than we had hoped,

but found some pretty good snow to guide us back to the business.

By the time we had made it to the ice buldge to downclimb, and rigged the rappel we finally started to smile after spending time in what we both feel is one of the most aesthetic lines in the Eastern Sierra. Here’s me on rappel,

and my view of Jeff as he rapped down.

Searching out the south aspects on our way out of the line we were unbelievably lucky to ski more than 5k vertical feet of high quality corn on the refreeze. We obviously took way too long on the mission, but that’s what doing this one in a day is all about. And just like that we went from ice climbing and skiing cold winter snow to cacti,

and my fovaorite Eastside transition in the spring; ski boots to flip flops.

Our local weather still looks a little so-so next week with some small disturbances in play this weekend, and possibly one later mid-week. However, the early part of the week shows temperatures dipping below freezing at night with warm day-time temps to match. Hopefully that means some Grade A corn will be available for us all to enjoy in Tahoe, and if you’re looking to get out of town the Eastern Sierra continues to beg you for a visit.

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The snow was absolutely dumping out of the sky. You know when it snows so hard that it’s kind of a nuisance? I mean I love powder skiing as (…)

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