Sunday 8 March 2015

Tahoe: ski, ski, hike, mountain bike

This year's winter adventure!  First, a day of Alpine downhill at Squaw, Lake Tahoe.

View from the lobby at Squaw Creek Resort.  This place was amazing.
View from our room. Yes, that's a heated swimming pool and a number of hot tubs.  They were excellent, thanks for asking.  Did I mention there's a ski run and a chairlift that ends practically at the bar?
It was a terrible, terrible year for snow, but recent falls meant the skiing was still decent.
IIRC this is the top of the Siberia Run
That was the easy bit, next we took an "Intro to Backcountry Skiing" course with ASI. We got an intro to all of the gear in the outdoors shop (which is an amazing store BTW): bindings, skis, skins, beacon, probe, and shovel.  Then we drove to Sugarbowl, practiced with beacons, and skinned our way up Mt. Judah.  The whole left side of Sugarbowl was closed due to lack of snow, so we had it to ourselves, and once we got high enough the snow was fine.

Approaching the summit of Mt. Judah
View of Castle Peak from Mt. Judah

This ridgeline is the start of the classic Sugarbowl to Squaw route.
Looking SW from Mt. Judah

Looking NW from Mt. Judah, we dropped off this side to ski out.  Only the north faces of the mountains had any snow left, and it was mostly very crusty and sun-affected :(

Rather scary icy drop (basically a cliff) off the summit.  Easily the scariest thing I've attempted to go down on skis.
To our guide's credit, we got a few good turns in powder, but that was all we managed for the effort of climbing to the top.  Such were the conditions.
We grabbed dinner at the excellent 50-50 brew pub in Truckee, then drove out to the Donner Summit California State Sno-Park.  We parked the car there (permits required) and hiked under the freeway and up the road on the other side.  The Sno-Park map says that road (i.e. the one that turns into the ski trail) is drop-off only, but we saw lots of daytrippers parked there over the weekend, and some overnight cars too.  We parked overnight on the Saturday without getting a ticket.  YMMV, especially if the road needs to be plowed...After a short walk in from the trailhead there was an open area in front of a large meadow next to Upper Castle Creek that was perfect for camping.

Cooking up breakfast the next morning
Our campsite, with Castle Peak in the background
 Since the snow was so bad we gave up on the idea of skiing and decided to hike up Castle Peak instead.  We had boot chains which we figured would be enough to get us to the summit in the current conditions.

Castle Pass, Castle Peak in the background.

View from the summit.  Getting up the last bit was tricky, and would have been a lot easier with crampons and an ice axe.  The people coming up behind us had exactly that :)

View from Castle Peak summit

View from Castle Peak summit

After coming back down we had some daylight left so we headed up Donner Pass and watched some people rock climbing.

Donner Lake from Donner Pass

Beautiful warm day on Donner Lake.  Every jetty was occupied with people picnicking, drinking beer, or doing yoga :)
Another cold night, this one with lots of frost: 17F (-8.3 C)

The next day we opted for something completely different: mountain biking on ridiculously fat tires.  On the advice of the back country store we took the Jackass trail, riding right from the shop.

Snow more than about 10cm deep beat me, but with some more practice I could probably ride it.  Most of the trail was free of snow but there were some reasonably deep sections on the fire road ascent.
The Jackass trail is amazing single track.  Beautiful banked berms on lots of the turns, awesome jumps off rocks.  Amazing amount of trail work.

It was kinda muddy, but with the ultra fat tires meant we weren't trenching the trail or doing much damage.

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