Thursday, January 29, 2009

2009 Jan 29 - Crow's Nest with David Stepner

Up the ridge right above our house, the weather is clear, and warm, and the views are astounding...

Off the first ridge, crossing through the woods to connect with the summit ridge.

Near the summit

The steeper pitch right below the summit rocks

Views of Mt. Lincoln from Crow's Nest summit.

dropping down on the south side of Rowton Peak.

Below Rowton peak.

Skiing down the south side of Rowton.

Now we skin back up and head for home.

Monday, January 26, 2009

2009 Jan 26 Patrolling at Royal Gorge

(You can click on any picture to enlarge it, then click on your back button to return to the blog.)

The brief storm cycle appears to have ended, but it left behind a glorious gift of lightweight powder on the mountains and tree limbs. The wind has been light, so the snow is in great shape, and has adhered well to the older layers as the temperatures have cooled down slowly. Today, the temperatures on the hill were mid- 20's - brisk, but perfect for nordic ski touring.

Basin Peak on the north side of Rt. 80 as seen from Lyle's Lookout. Basin Peak offers great skiing as long as the cornice on the ridge is stable. Approach to Basin Peak is from the Boreal/Donner summit trail head.

This is the view south from "Lyle's Lookout" - a wonderful spur trail at Royal Gorge. Off in the distance is Snow Mountain.

The "Stage Coach" trail passes by this open water that in heavier snow years would be completely buried at this time of year. The low angle sun was making marvelous sparkling reflections off the open lead here - not really captured in this photo. Where the trail crosses the river, a thick snow bridge conveniently conceals the running water, so there is no tricky stepping required.

The open water freezes over before becoming concealed beneath a snow bridge.

Boulders along the Stage Coach trail - one of our most favorite trail sections at the resort. The high alpine terrain, is marvelously open with views of the surrounding peaks. The thick trunked, but sparsely limbed trees are evidence of the harsh conditions at this exposed elevation.

Another view from the Stage Coach trail - with Devil's peak in the distance.

More Stage Coach boulders

A more densely treed portion of the "Killy's Cruise" trail.

As the afternoon wore on, a new storm system blew in from the north east. Here, the low eastern sun is highlight Castle Peak, while the clouds overhead tell of impending precipitation - more snow!!!

Wilderness Warming hut

We returned to the Summit Station Lodge, after closing up the Wilderness warming hut for the night, carrying out the garbage in our backpack, and sweeping trails between there and here for late straglers. As it were tonight, we rounded up three skiers late returning, then immediately went out on the snowmobile to pick up two others who had called in by cell phone to report of their delays on the trail.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

2009 Jan 23 - Storm finally arrives

Last night the weather finally changed for the better (for us) and a heavy wet storm has settled in and looks like it will be here for at least 4 days. We have 2" overnight and its snowing now at about 1" per hour. Yipee. Good snow dancing everyone! (Our house is at the black plus sign near the center of this radar image. )

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2009 Jan 21 - Crows Nest Ridge - Broken Binding

Its been mid-40's for two weeks now, with a rain storm predicted for tonight, so before the January corn snow is ruined, we thought we'd venture out to some new terrain. With a maceral sky all about and a storm expected we take care to pack and prepare carefully. Even though we'll ski in thin clothes our packs are stuffed with shells, sweaters, extra mittens and goggles.

After studying the map and wandering around here for 6 weeks straight now, we decided there was a great untracked ridge leading almost straight from our house to the summit of Crow's Nest, a peak on the ski boundary of the Sugabowl ski resort. Since it's mid-week and Royal Gorge is closed, we planned a route through National Forest land staying off any groomed trails.

Literally across the street from our house, we climb the steep snow bank at the roadside and enter the woods. Here in the sub-alpine at 7,000 feet, the trees are widely spaced and of a reasonable size. The forest is a mix of cedar, doug fir, and pines. There is sufficient snow coverage to bury all but the bigget windfalls. We look at the rise of the land, and point the ski track uphill trying to stay directly on the growing ridge, or just to one side or the other. In short order, we get a clear view of our destination, Crow's Nest Peak - some 1,500 feet higher and clear of any trees. A quick conference with the topo map confirms we can just ride (climb) the ridge upward and we should achieve our goal.

We slowly wander upwards through the thinning trees achieving the open ridge after about 20 minutes. Here the view is astounding - below us is the Van Norden Lake and surrounding meadow - and in the distance - snow peak and the Royal Gorge of the American River. Ahead and up the ridge we can see Mt. Lincoln, and the actual Donner Summit pass - opening to the mist and inverted haze clinging to Donner Lake far below. Then suddenly as Diane skied over a wind blown snow ridge, she felt a sudden liquidity about her boot and looked down. Her binding had ripped down a fold. You can see it here in the picture. This type of binding is known for failures like this. We had inspected the bindings just yesterday and they had shown no sign of fatigue then. Oh well....

We talked over our options, and the day still being young, Diane opted to tie the skis to her pack and head back down the tracks we had come up. I would continue up the ridge. The weather was holding off, so we were not so concerned. On the ridge the snow was well compacted, so she could walk easily without post holing. Once the slope became steeper, and faced more to the south west however, the going got a bit tougher. We stayed in phone contact every 30 minutes, and within an hour and a half, she was back at home sipping tea.

The snow is very well consolidated now, with over three weeks of warm weather, a week of heavy wind and no precipitation. These cornices along the ridge would otherwise present some risk, but today we could stomp right on the rim with no sign of weakness, or fracture.

This picture is looking back the way I had come up. The white opening is winding diagonally down left to right is the ridge I followed on my way up to Crow's Nest. The big white flat area to the rightof the ridge is Van Norden Lake and meadow another 800 feet below.

The south wind blown sides of the ridges are melted out and you can clearly see last fall's dried plants exposed at the snow's edge.

This picture is of Mt Rowton in th foreground, with Snow mountain in the far background - see posts from a few days ago for some pics from climbing Mt.Rowton. This is the south eastern face with some great ski runs down the left ridge and on two ribs that extend down separating the open slide paths. The approach can be made from the end of the Ice Lakes, at the termination of the unplowed county road, or from the State Forest approach we took today along the Crow's Nest Ridge.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

January 14 - Rowton Peak 7,380 feet

Diane on the summit of Rowton Peak, 7,390- feet. Tinker Knob and Mt. Anderson on the skyline. It was 50 degrees!!

Great views from the escarpment on our way up to the summit. Views look south over Onion Creek drainage and the Royal Gorge of the North Fork of the American River.

Looking to the south as we climbed the ridge, Devil's Peak in the distance in the distance. Warm sunshine had dried out the wind swept side of the ridge.

2009 January 8th - Castle Peak with Dallas

I returned to Castle Peak the following day with Dallas as we tried to ski the upper snow fields. A wet storm blew in at lunchtime and this is Dallas on Andesite ridge on our way south after a scratchy run down the shoulder of Castle Peak.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2009 January 7th - Ski Tour to Castle Pass and beyond to Peter Grub Hut

Creek bed on the way to Castle Pass

Castle Peak from the meadow. The snow fields below the rock bands are all skiable.

Wind blasted trees after a cold wet storm

Same grove a few days later after warmer temperatures

Sliers selecting routes on Castle Peak from the pass. Approach to the summit is made from the north shoulder (left side). There are some great runs over the left shoulder dropping to the lake below.

Peter Grub Hut - partially buried. Entrance is through the ladder to the door on the 2nd floor. There is now a solar panel which powers some 12 volt lights. Basin Peak is in the background.

Lenticular cloud over castle pass. The storm blew in the following day.