Saturday, April 24, 2010

Springtime transitions

Packing the truck this morning in shirt sleeves. Listening to the bird
song. A neighbor's dog comes to visit, then departs. A hummingbird
flits by, hovers near the open door, as if considering joining us on
our trip to Oakland, then decides better of it and departs for sweeter
fruits. Two robins bath in the snow melt stream flowing from beneath
the snowpack besides the house. Remarkably, the willows in the lane
are sprouting buds. The driveway is melted down to asphalt, a rare
occurance this season so we take advantage of the traction to pull the
camper down the grade and right up to the garage, load belingings and
take our leave in this window between spring storms.

David Galson, EMT
PO Box 742
Soda Springs, CA. 95728

Cell: 510-816-3885
Home: 530-426-3259


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mt. Rose area with Tony Jennings

(Slide show embedded below. Click anywhere in the image and the controls will appear at the bottom of the frame...)

A wet snow was falling at Donner Summit so Tony and I headed over to the Mt. Rose area, easily 1,000 feet higher than home to seek out drier conditions. We parked on the Mt. Rose Highway, just over the summit and skied north up to the ridge that leads to Mt. Rose. Falling away on the NE side of this ridge is a series of perfect pitched ski bowls - each with a local name - Proletariat, Hourglass to name a few.

The clouds blew in and over us, obscuring the view at times, and at others providing open views to the south and of Mt. Rose alpine runs carved out of the woods across the highway. Lake Tahoe was nowhere to be seen in the gloom.

Breaking trail in the dry fresh snow was no effort at all, as there was a firm base 4-6" down. We wound our way up the ridge, looking carefully at the corniced ridges above the bowls.

On our first run, we carefully picked an entry point at the top of the bowl with no cornice, and cautiously ski cut and loaded the slope at its edge. With no slippage, no cracking, no whooping and solid footing, I pointed my skis down the slope and made my marks in the untracked canvas. A few minutes later, Tony followed, and before we knew it we we stopped and skinning back up for another run. We had the whole basin to ourselves, and the silence was golden. Getting into a climbing rhythm, we each found our own pace and marched back up the mountainside looking at the snow encrusted stunted trees and small animal tracks which crossed our path.

The clouds lowered, the wind seemed to pick up a bit, but the snow retained its powdery consistency. The hands of the clock seemed to swing around their center point at twice the normal speed as we toured the area and before we knew it, we had to turn around and head back to the waiting car.

The long meandering ski down the exit valley brought us in close contact with the forest, but there always seemed to be an opening just big enough for a skier to squeeze through. Keeping our eye on the goal, we followed the contours so as to achieve our objective without having to climb. Sure enough, we popped out of the woods right at the parking spot. Another incredible Sierra ski tour successfully completed.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Matterhorn Peak with Jeff Kasten

(Slide show embedded below. Click anywhere in the image and the controls will appear at the bottom of the frame...)

A few hightlights...
From Matterhorn Peak with Jeff Kasten

From Matterhorn Peak with Jeff Kasten

From Matterhorn Peak with Jeff Kasten

Write up to follow...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sugarbowl Sidecountry with Ross

Ross road tripped up from Morgan Hill for the day and we ventured out of bounds for some thrills. The heavy snow from yesterday had set up into a thick crusty mass, so the riding down was not so enjoyable. The scenery was fantastic, which made up for the not so enjoyable down. We lapped up to Mt. Judah and looked over there for snow, but after a run down the south east side of Judah, we concluded there was no good snow to be had. We climbed back up into the resort, and spent the remainder of the day shredding the groomers. Go Ross!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jake's Peak with Jeff Kasten

A few selected individual images first...
From Jakes Peak with Jeff Kasten

From Jakes Peak with Jeff Kasten

(Slide show is embedded below. Click on the large "Play" button in the cetner of the screen to launch the slide show in a new window...)

The trail starts unambitiously and unpretentiously as a a few ski tracks leaving a dirty snowbank at the edge of route 89 past DL Bliss State Park, across from a few plowed out parking spaces on the side of the road. For a few minutes it seems like any other ski track, hewn from a fresh snowfall winding around the contours of the landscape headed in some vague direction slightly uphill through the forest.

Then, everything changes.. in a hurry. The vector of the proceeding track heads straight uphill, perpendicular to the fall line unwaveringly seeking the summit of Jake's Peak, like a compass needle pointing north in a lumpy sea - in the most expeditious way possible. If I were a cog railway, or a motorized cable car, or even a overpowered long track backcountry snowmobile this would make sense, but being a mere 50 something year old ordinary male specimen with far too much safety gear on my back this rapidly becomes a exercise in futility. Perhaps for the first skier, breaking trail in a fresh snowfall, with a wide ski and matching skin underfoot, the route the up track takes might make sense. However, one day after the fresh snow, on skis once proclaimed fat just a few years ago, but considered quite wimpy by todays 100+ cm underfoot standards I am working hard to cling to the mountainside without sliding backwards.

For the first hour I struggle to deny the inevitable tug of gravity carefully stomping my feet to set my skins into the firm thaw-freeze surface of the track, making steady, but slow progress upwards. The contours tick off in my mind, and the exquisite views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding snow covered mountains begin to unfold behind me and to either side. My heart is thumping in my chest and sweat is beading up and falling off my forehead. I've stripped down to a poly tee in an attempt to radiate off the excess energy my muscles are foolishly wasting, and I must stop every 15 minutes to recover a normal respiratory rate. Then, what seemed previously impossible, became a reality, The trail got steeper.

My skis no longer could hold traction in the track, and the distance between me and Jeff slowly and inexorably grew until he was out of sight ahead of me. I diverged from the broken trail and made my own way up the steep shoulder, crossing the main trail occasionally, dusting fresh snow off low hanging branches hanging tightly between trees, and sinking 6 inches with each step as my ski tips plowed a fresh furrow in the virgin slope. Unrelentless is the best word that comes to mind when thinking of the effort required to reach the 8,800 foot summit of Jakes peak from lake level. In the fresh snow, and at a more human angle, my skis, poles, and body again worked as they should and I followed a more rational looking sinuous route up the remainder of the climb to the summit.

What a view.... To the south and west the massive of Tallac, Jennies, and Dicks peak filled the horizon. To the east Lake Tahoe spread out before us - emerald blue with turquoise bays. To the north, Rubicon Peak, and off in the distance Mt. Rose snowy white against the deep blue sky.

After a rushed sandwich, pounding more liquids, and adding a few layers, I joined Jeff who was waiting patiently at the precipice, to consider our options for skiing down. We had spied and discussed a broad gully on the north east side which opened comfortably to widely spaced trees as far as the eye could see. The new snow was much more stable today than yesterday. The new snow seemed much better bonded to the old pack so a cracking slab seemed a small risk. Jeff led off and we skied leapfrogging pitches down and down and down and down over the undulating mountainside. We both recalled some cliff bands about 2/3 of the way down, so as we approached those pitches we slowed to more carefully scope out the roll-overs and run out of each pitch.

Before I wanted to admit it, the steep pitch gave way to a rolling hillside and once over the small rise at the base of our route, we were coasting to a stop near a ranger maintenance station just north on the road not far from our parked car.

Once again, the Sierra had dished up a sweet adventure, the weather and snowpack cooperated and we headed home with fresh memories of the beauty of the mature Sugarpine covered slopes of the west shore of Lake Tahoe.

Monday, April 12, 2010

North Maggies with Jeff Kasten

(Slide show embedded below. Click anyhere on the the cover photo, then look for the slide show controls at the bottom of the panel..)

Wind was howling out the window, blowing the 8" of fresh snow from last night in all directions. We know there will be more snow up high, and that on the north aspects more wind transported pockets await. Jeff picks me up at 8:30 am for the drive down to the south west shore of Lake Tahoe and the majestic peaks that tower over Emerald Bay. At the trailhead we back up to a snowbank - the only car there and break trail up the steep summer jeep road towards the wooded shoulder that will lead us to the summit of North Maggies - 8,800 feet - almost 2,000 feet above lake level.

The wind continues to howl during our first ascent, but as we round up onto the ridge, the topography somehow protects us from the gale and the temperature rises as we approach the summit. After a quick transition and a bite to eat, we pick a promising line and look for places on the mountainside where the wind has not scoured the surface down to the frozen base left from last week's warm temperatures. Jeff picks wisely and we are floating down in knee deep fresh snow through the widely spaced mature trees. We stay in the trees and away from the larger open slopes as we judge the stability in the snowpack in preparation for our next run. Even so, at the steeper roll-overs and other submerged trigger points an ankle deep slough cascades down the slope with us - moving slowly, and not gaining momentum as it moves downhill, we simply ski off to the side and let these disturbances pass - coming to rest at changes in the pitch.

Before we know it, we have crossed the filled-in and almost obliterated up-track so it's time to stop, attach skins to the skiis and return to the summit. The second climb seems easier, since the route is well enough defined and we have recent memory of getting up it - well mixed with the pumping adrenalin circulating in our bloodstream. This cycle, we linger on the summit and hope the clouds will clear to show us an unobstructed view of Lake Tahoe.

Now, we pick the steeper, more direct line off the summit on the north side - a gully sandwiched on both sides with rock outcroppings. The slope is over 35 degrees, so we are prepared from some surprises. Moving cautiously from one safety point to another we leapfrog down the exhilarating run - keeping eyes out for moving snow - triggered by a propagating crack or the sudden loading of a sharp turn. Sure enough, just below the summit, an ankle deep crown forms and the slope releases. We are out of the way and safe as the excessive snow rolls down the hill - never really gaining any speed and coming to rest in the meadow runout below. Now, with the slope cleared, our minds ease and we carry more speed and linked turns down the first pitch to the alpine meadow below.

The views improve as the clouds clear briefly and we tour from one pitch to another, looking for signs that will lead us to the favorable slopes we seek and a safe route down the mountainside. The angle of the slope eases and the tree spacing widens. We relax and take breaks to enjoy the views of Jake's Peak, and the always incredible Lake Tahoe spreading out at our feet.

Before we know it the sinuous highway unravels before us and we must take off our skis and hike back up the road to our parked vehicle. What a rush. A great climb, good fellowship, a comfortable day in the high alpine all around without chills, or spills (except for that one bush Jeff discovered lurking just beneath the surface). We are not 5 minutes in the car before we are planning tomorrow's outing. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sugarbowl with sister Diana

(Slide show embedded below. Float over the image, click anywhere but the large play button and the slide show controls will appear in the bottom of the frame.)

We waited until 11:00am for the firm surfaces to soften, and to finish a fine banana pancake with Vermont Maple syrup (brought to us by Diana) breakfast, and then we stripped off our outer coats and began our mountain explorations. After a few runs on Disney skiing the east facing slopes, we lapped up and over Lincoln to Judah and the Summit Lift where we were rewarded with fine views of Donner Lake and the mountains to the south. The sun and warm air temperatures had worked their magic and the side country snow had softened to a manageable consistency - with a thick layer of corn formed over the firm frozen snow below. We headed out of bounds and slowed our pace as we relished the quiet, and calm of the high Sierra slopes. Each run we picked a slightly different line down through the widely spaced trees on the north side of Mt. Judah just above Lake Mary - each time heading just a bit further out, and running a bit lower down in an attempt to squeeze the longest run before sneaking back in bounds just uphill from the lift's base. At one point, we stuck our skis in the snow, and made "Sierra Lounge Chairs" out of our equipment. Reclining there in the warmth, we stripped even more layers off and enjoyed a relaxing lunch. As the day wore on, shadows eventually began to creep down from the mountain ridges, and the wet surface began to harden making our navigation more problematic. On a few occasions Diana's bark sampling exercises had us both concerned, but she always seemed to bounce back up, untangled from the foliage, and anxious to find some more turns.

First High Sierra Quilting Camp with Diana Galson-Kooy

From quilting camp with Diana

Diana comes for a visit and infuses Diane with a strong quilting mojo. A design is discussed and implemented. The team collaborates on fabric selection and works after skiing on composition choices.

From quilting camp with Diana

Using the refrigerator magnets as a "design wall" the quilt gets an early design review. Options are discussed, fabric choices are experimented with, and decisions are made on how to proceed.

Stay tuned as more photos are added to this post to reflect the quilt's progress.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Squaw Valley with sister Diana

Temperatures soared to the mid-50's as we explored the open slopes and empty lift lines at Squaw Valley. Seeking out north facing aspects, Diana pushed me to find the steepest, narrowest, and loneliest lines...all requiring exquisite views. We wandered south to north and back again, sampling all the lifts and finding laughs and grins, and shocking gasps along the way as lumpy conditions occasionally threw us off balance in precarious spots. North Bowl was skiing exceptionally well, and we cycled on the lifts to ski it over and over - each time in a slightly different place.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

XC Skiing with sister Diana at Royal Gorge

(Click mouse on image (except the big play button) to display play controls at the bottom of the image...)

Another 21" of fresh snow has fallen in the past two days. Although many folks have succumbed to cabin fever already, we are relishing the extended winter and replenishment of snow cover. It was well below freezing all last night, so this morning's snow is in fine shape even with the bluebird sky and warming air temperatures. The surface is so soft, even the woodland animals have not ventured out - so there are no visible tracks crisscrossing the forest floor. The surface hoar crystals sparkle in the clear sunlight and the crisp snow dust falls off the trees as the wind blows. It seems like we have the whole resort to ourselves after our early start but by lunch we begin to see other tracks at the intersections. Diana is giddy with enjoyment at getting out in the woods after her recent confinement for health purposes. If my camera had a smile detector, it would be reading 10 out of 10 as we smoothly glide over the wide open countryside.