State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: XVI

State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: XVI

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State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: XVI

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As we prepare to celebrate the lives of two of the best people to ever call Tahoe home this Thursday, a few of us went up Tallac today to pay some respect in the only way skiers know how.

After meeting Archie, Parkhill, Duncan, Ben, and Andrew at the Spring Creek Rd. turnoff the six of us skinned up our own local giant and took in the views. Archie, a very good friend of Kip’s, was killing it. Working his East Coast lungs with a borrowed AT setup that hasn’t seen snow since the 90’s, Archie grinned and beamed the whole way up as the Lake shimmered it’s unique deep blue tone that never gets old.

Cresting the top ridge of Tallac it’s once again extremely clear that we’ve had a monumental snowfall year here in Tahoe. There’s so much snow on Tallac and in Desolation Wilderness there’ll be quality skiing to be had for many weeks for those still motivated to earn some turns.

After chatting on the summit with our buddy Jaime Blair and his friend Adam who were en route to drop “The Cross” we sent out a few good vibes and skied over to do the same. Half our crew took the riders left entrance, and the other half took the “Elevator Shaft” entrance.

Here’s Parkhill having some fun (notice how fat “Halls” and “Mini Halls” still are in the upper right corner),

and one of Alpine Meadows finest matching him.

As we continue to move on into May daytime warming, and overnight temperatures are the things to watch (with the absence of any precipitation). Not only did we observe several large wet slides on various aspects from our vantage at the top of Tallac into Desolation Wilderness, but there’s also been heaps of cornices breaking down, which could be extremely hazardous if you happened to be under one when it breaks.

As our group skied out to the bottom of Tallac, and we continued to reflect on our great friends, a huge soaring Bald Eagle flew overhead. I’ve never seen one on Tallac, and given our conversations and vibe on this day, one could only help but smile and give thanks.

Earlier this week, after hearing the news, I went down to the Eastside with no drive whatsoever to “get after it”. Looking for some reflective time in the Range of Light it seemed almost ironic that conditions were the most variable I’ve skied since my first trip of the season on the Dana Plateau this past December. But Jeremy and I just improvised and surrendered to the flow. With a short stretch of road to walk bringing you to almost 10,000 feet, the South Lake zone out of Bishop is caked with snow and was a good call to get out for a walk, and take in some nice views.

Mt Gilbert’s East Face served as our objective for this day. Signing the summit registry it was fitting to see that the previous entry from the day before was from some Tahoe folks sending out the same vibes we were. Skiing wasn’t that therapeutic though, since the winds and low temps of the weekend wouldn’t allow the snow soften up. But it still felt nice to be on top of a peak in the High Sierra, make a few turns, and really absorb the unique perspective around us.

Still searching for the right corn aspect we came into the chute we had climbed to summit Gilbert and found, dare I say, some pow.

Not much good corn skiing was found down below our little shot of powder as the cold temps and wind just had their way all day, so we pondered our options, and decided to stay as low and as south as possible for Monday. We ended up in Lundy Canyon and were pleasantly surprised to not only find smooth corn on our run top-to-bottom, but climb and ski a relatively mellow, obscure, fun chute as well.

While the line was walled, it required no use of hard-points, and never got much stepper than forty degrees. It had two cruxes that were easy to bypass by downclimbing, yet the aesthetic quality and randomness by which we just happened to decide to ski the line seemed so perfect for the day. Rockfall was our biggest concern, but the temperature stayed perfect for our whole ascent and descent with nothing letting loose.

We were treated to amazing views of Mt. Conness and North Peak,

as well as Mt. Dana and Ellery Bowl on our way up.

The Dana Couloir and Solstice Couloir are about as fat as they get right now. Word is crews are working hard on getting the road clear to Tioga Pass, but I wouldn’t bet on it popping super soon…although Whoa Nellie Deli is in fact open, so, maybe sooner than later.

Our ski down was as close to perfect as you could ask for with great smooth corn skiing for the entire run.

Conditions should be settling out by now down in the Eastern Sierra as the winds have finally backed off from their rampage last week. However, the forecast shows much of the Eastside is in a similar state like the Tahoe backcountry currently stands in that temperatures are getting really hot this week while the low’s are not facilitating a deep freeze. With clear skies radiational cooling will help the cause, but for the next week it’ll probably be best to be on your objective as early as you can.

With love and respect to our greater Tahoe-Sierra backcountry community I continue to wish you all safety, motivation, and continued inspiration through the time we’re all lucky to spend in the mountains. Our ski community has been hit pretty hard the past few years, and while I know we have one of the most vibrant, strong, and enthusiastic groups of skiers and riders on the planet, we must always remember that the mountains not only give a lot, but they sometimes take away a lot too. But one thing’s for sure, the lasting influence, good times, and memories Allison and Kip brought to Tahoe will never be extinguished. It would be impossible, and for that, I know we’re all grateful.

“You Know Our Love Will Not Fade Away”

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