Returning to Winter

Two boards, two guys, one slope

Two guys, two boards, one run

After a week of backcountry powder skiing in Canada, I was a bit worried about the conditions we were coming back to.  With no Internet connection for the week, I wasn’t sure what, if anything was in the forecast.  The snow gods must have sensed my concern, because the night we returned, it snowed.

Skiing to Lake Winnemucca

Threading the needle above Lake Winnemucca

Cold temps and a second sleeper storm later in the week meant that we were still finding powder stashes through last Friday, which boded well for the holiday weekend.  We knew we’d have to share the snow, but figured that there was enough terrain at Carson Pass for everyone’s tracks.

Views of Lake Tahoe from Alpine County

Views of Lake Tahoe from Alpine County

Yes, not all the rocks are covered, but we were pleasantly surprised with both the coverage and the snow conditions.   Sunday’s trip yielded windboard, powder, and big grins.

Signs of fatigue

With spring like temperatures and the hordes of people this holiday weekend, finding winter-like snow without a ton of folks to share it with has been challenging, but not impossible.  The rule of thumb, or injured finger in my case, has been northerly facing aspects that aren’t near the backcountry icons (i.e. Tallac, Jake’s Peak, Carson Pass).

Today’s back country adventure took us to Red Lake Peak, near Carson Pass.  Our Colorado friends were impressed.  Expansive scenery? Check.  Good snow? Check.  Steep skiing? Yup.  The natural amphitheater of cliffs and steep lines by Crater Lake had our friends planning a return trip later this week.

Despite the very accessible trailhead on Highway 88, we saw very few people today.  Apparently this is rare in Colorado, further impressing our friends.

Overall, the 3500 odd feet of vertical today was surprisingly good.  Slightly wind affected powder at the top, turning to soft powder/corn snow lower down, with a smidgen of refrozen snowmobile tracks before we reached the car.

Were I not so tired after 3 days of consecutive back country skiing, I might have considered another lap today – or tomorrow. As it stands, I’m perfectly happy to enjoy the photos from the weekend and let my legs recover from the nearly 10,000 feet of climbing and skiing I’ve done this weekend.

Carson Pass early season


Early winter at Lake Tahoe tends to result in recreational limbo.  There’s not enough snow to ski beyond the few resort groomers, and there’s too much snow on the trails to mountain bike or hike.

So low-expectation explorations are required if one doesn’t want to head to lower elevations for snow-free trails. On Sunday we headed out to Carson Pass, near Kirkwood, for some low-angle touring with the dog.  We knew it would be rocky, but were a bit surprised by just how many were still visible.  After negotiating the approach to Winnemucca Lake (usually much easier in deeper snow pack), we decided to attempt skinning up towards the saddle next to Round Top.  Conditions were bare enough for us to quickly recognize the folly of that goal.  So after a few hundred feet of up, we headed down.  It was a nasty, brutish descent, with wind affected snow that didn’t do much to hide the rocks lurking underneath, and some ugly survival skill like turns on my part.

But it was a glorious day to be out, and it was nice to feel the rhythm of skinning again, even if it was mostly cross-country.

When Stupidity Endangers Others

To celebrate Independence Day, N and I decided to escape the crowds at the lake and go hiking near Carson Pass.  The first few miles of trail are quite popular, but we figured once we got past the wildflower section we’d have it mostly to ourselves.

What we didn’t bank on was encountering a truly retarded individual enjoying his morning campfire near Winnemucca Lake.  When I smelled smoke I started to panic, but N saw it was a campfire.  When he went up to speak with said sorry-excuse-for-a-human about the fact that a) wood fires are not permitted in the Mokelumne Wilderness, and b) everyone was on high alert because of the nearby wildfire in South Lake Tahoe, the twenty-something dude (it’s always a guy, isn’t it?)  told N that ‘all the other fisherman around the lake had campfires all day yesterday’, so he figured it was ok to do that as well.  This despite the large orange signs at the trailhead that clearly state “CAMPFIRES PROHIBITED”.   Yaay for reading comprehension skills!

We didn’t hike much further in, primarily because I was worried that said dumb*** hadn’t properly extinguished his fire, and I sure didn’t want to be deep in the wilderness if flames began.  So we hiked back, N checked on the campfire to confirm it was out (and reminded the dude of his idiocy once again) and briefly explored a side trail that took us towards Ebbetts Pass.

On the way out we stopped at the Carson Pass Visitor Center, where we saw how the current administration’s budgeting means that there are not enough rangers to patrol these highly flammable wilderness areas.  N reported the problem to an older volunteer, and when he described the campsite, learned that not only was this idiot lighting illegal campfires, but he wasn’t even in a legitimate campsite so there was no way to properly identify him.   And since there were no rangers or Forest Service staff on duty there, nobody could go and make an arrest or shoot him or whatever he deserved.   I was so annoyed by this.  Unless these jokers actually caused a fire (that would then require lots of manpower to put out), there was no way that the Forest Service could pay attention to this area.  Anyone else see the irony?  I believe we have the leadership of our brush-clearing President and his anti-environment, self-absorbed politicos to thank for that one.