Friday, April 17, 2009

17April09 - Pacific Crest Trail & Donner Lake Run

The snow has been melting around the house. The first floor windows are now exposed to the sun - HURRAY! - even though the north and west sides still have deep deposits. On the west side, the snow tunnel is beginning to show daylight through the thin remaining frozen crust. I suspect by tomorrow we'll have a porthole through to daylight on this side as well. The temperatures are already in the mid 40's when Tim picks me up fr today's tour.

We hitch a ride on the Lincoln lift and head down the Pacific Crest trail south towards Squaw Valley. The Eastern slopes call to us - we look for a break in the heavily corniced ridge - and find the perfect spot for our first run down in the Grade A choice corn.

The snow holds well - evidence of wet slides are visible on the steeper sections - but this early in the day the surface has not warmed enough for that to be a threat to us. Down to the meadow 800 feet below.

No rushing today - but the conditions won't last as the temperature is rising rapidly. We skin back up for another run. The ridge we came down is in the background here. We study it carefully during the climb - thinking of where we'll come down next.

During the climb we come across this sign - posted high on a tree by the Sugarbowl Ski Patrol - Our feelings are just the opposite. We MUST hike back the way we came - but not to escape - but to ski the run again.

Up to the ridge again.

You can see the heavily corniced ridge line. We stay well back and can often see the glide crack forming where the cornice has already begun to separate from the rock base and begin it slow (or perhaps dramatic) separation from the underlying rock.

This is a shot up of the route I took for the second run... Just off the summit, to lookers right of the big cornice there was a small spot on the ridge where there was no cornice, but a clear break onto the steep slope below. I skied down the steep ridge lookers left of the gully - watching the slope carefully should it begin to move. I had escape routes to each side of the ridge, and chose skier's left at the end, and came out between the two rock spires at the base of the gully - heart pounding almost as fast as right after the climb up...

We take a short lunch break, and begin to skin back up again. Another view of the amazing line down from the ridge. Whoo Ha!

This time we arch around to skier's right and climb up the shoulder of Mt. Judah. The wind and sun have eroded the snow on the summit, so we follow snow leads at the very top. Donner Lake in the distance - our final destination this afternoon.

Skiing the ridge below Judah to the radio reflectors.

We've left the summit of Judah and are touring over the ridge to connect to Donner Peak.

The ridge of Judah is also heavily corniced - an avalanch here a few years back reminds us to stay clear - especially in this warm weather.

Boot packing up to the summit of Donner Peak

Donner Peak summit.

Skiing down the"Lake Run" - beautiful conditions - exploring the route - roll after roll - reading the terrain to find a fin and safe route down to Donner Lake level where Diane should be awaiting us with a ride home back up the mountain. Looking back up at Donner Pass beyond Tim.

At last - a coyote - I've been seeing tracks all season. This guy was surprised to see us and trotted along to get out of the way. I barely had time to grad a quick shot before he crested the hill and shot out of view.

One more pitch and we are down to the road. We can see the houses in the trees below and are looking for a fun way down. I spot Diane's car at an open intersection. What a great tour to end the season with.

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