Wednesday, April 8, 2009

08April 09 - Rowton Peak - April snowstorm

After more than a week of bluebird days, melting corn snow, and temperatures in the 50's an April snowstorm blew in with an attitude starting last night. In less than 30 minutes, the clear day became foggy, temperature dropped 25 degrees, and fresh snow decended upon the summit. This morning, the snow was still falling so Jeff and I opted for a ski close to home - Rowton Peak - just east of Serene Lakes. Diane dropped us off at the trailhead and our intention was to ski a loop up and over Rowton Peak for a few laps on the south side, then back home again before lunch. The big picture was onscured, but close-up the forest was beautiful. We climbed from lake level staying just to the north of the ridge and the cold wind that ripped across it. To our right, the mountain dropped off into the foggy abyss of the American River Gorge. Past trips up this ridge informed us to stay just below the ridge and follow it to the summit. From there, a seemingly endless set of runs awaited us on the south facing bowls. Visibility was soupy, and at times we were not sure if we were skiing down, across, or up the slope - which lead to some spectacular falls when a turn downhill turned into an actual turn uphill into a windrow of blown snow. Whoopie.

An April skiing Fool ripping up the south slope. We skied down, following the mountain's folds, staying up on the ridges, avoiding the steep drainages. Down and down we went - one rib to the next, out of the alpine zone and into the big trtees below. Down some more in the trees, swooping around the big trunks avoiding the melted tree wells, and seeking the right downhill line leading to the next turn until we were stopped short by a cliff band running across the whole mountainside, buried deep in the forest. Skins on, and up we go again. No sense in jumping off a perfectly good snow slope into something unknown below the rocks - besides, how were we ever to get back up the stupid cliff if we continued down.

Going down again - or was it up - or across? The flat light was playing tricks on us while we were above treeline - so we aimed for rock outcroppings, small trees (crumholtz) and the larger trees which dotted the mountainside - just to give us some speed perspective and to keep oriented to up and down.

A frosted tree greeted us on the ridgeline - a sturdy senital standing guard on the ridge - with views to the north and the south. Sap chilled and thrown back into winter mode by this late season storm.

Ice rime on the long needles.

Up again after another lap down the adjacent fold along the ridge. We could stay here all day and not ski the same line twice.

At last, we drop on the west side of the ridge and aim our skis for the road and home. Following the streams and forest openings, we were back on Soda Springs road in 25 minutes - called Diane on the cell and were home for lunch.

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