Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bogus Basin Storm Tour

Its been a foggy, snowy/rainy drizzly week and this weekend was no different.  Even with precipitation everyday, there is just a slight accumulation of frozen, or not so frozen slush on the snow surface.  Even so, once you get away from the roads and the houses, and if properly dressed the backcountry traveling is sublime.  Today, with no time pressures I took a pull behind toboggan out to the Bogus Basin Warming hut, climbing up from Ice Lakes Lodge, approximately following the usual groomed ski trail, except that the trail has not been groomed for over three weeks and has been reabsorbed into the continuum of the backcountry by the regular deposits of precipitation and remolding by wind.  The snowmobile would never make it this far back in these conditions, so my only choice was to retrieve the propane tank, heater, stove ring,  and tea bags by foot - or leave it to good luck that the awakening bears would take no interest in the tea (or molding garbage) and that vandals would bypass the unlocked hut in the muddy months before the kit could be retrieved by 4 wheeler.

On the way up, I followed a very clear and distinguished set of bear tracks - a set that I believe weee left by some sleepy ursine staggering downhill hoping to find some food at lower elevations.  As I climbed more that once I crossed bear tracks heading down the Serena Creek Canyon towards the American River.  These tracks varied from one day old to several days old, as the snow had already begun to fill them in.

Along with the bear tracks were coyote tracks, and rabbit tracks.  The wind was blowing the wet snow/sleet at me the whole way, but I felt happy, and comfortable.  The deep snowpack will long be clinging to these mountainsides, but tomorrow I am to depart for Oakland and "The Green" - escaping this infernal drizzle for some tree and flower pollen.

Yesterday, I accomplished a similar chore at another warming hut, but with whimpy nordic skis on, and a fuller toboggan load, the uneven and at times steep terrain became very hard to negotiate with my awkward cargo in these sloppy conditions. Anyone watching would have been in stitches as the sled repeatedly  capsized bringing me to a sudden stop.  Today the work was going much better, with a differently loaded toboggan, and much sturdier ski equipment, the return trip down the mountain was a breeze, with my heavily burdened, but secure toboggan obediently following close behind my parallel tracks.  I did not want the trip down to end, but in short order I was back at the banks of the swollen Serena Creek and back to the parked car awaiting me patiently.

Ski into Bogus Basin to retrieve the warming hut propan tank, heater, and hot plate.  No groomer has been up here for weeks so its a quiet tour, breaking trail.  Lots of bear and coyote tracks

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tail end of the season...

The sun was breaking in and out of clouds, but the drizzle has stopped so I venture out and look for some light in the mountain landscape. As I drive towards Donner Summit, the high clouds open up and reveal the fog layer hovering over Donner Lake 1,000 feet below. The snow is saturated with fresh rainwater, and the warm night temperatures are precluding the formation of corn snow. Large soggy blocks of cornice are breaking of up high and the roadside banks are calving like ocean facing glaciers. Snow surface is that of pudding, with weak spots forming over tress, rocks, and old wind scoured ridges that had become submerged by the record breaking snow late spring snow fall.

From 2010-2011 Serene Road house

Clouds still obscure the higher summit peaks, but Donner Peak captures the lower morning light, with the adventurous skiers tracks just barely visible from a few days ago. The abandoned train shed is very obscured - keep in mind the face normally exposed of these sheds shows 16 foot walls as a formidable barrier to skiing down this aspect of the mountain. Now, a quick hop and you've forded the glide crack on the downhill side and on your way down to the lake below.

From 2010-2011 Serene Road house

After checking the time of the sunset, I set out from home, walked one block, put on my skis, and skinned up the ridge between Royal Gorge and Soda Springs, what I call Royal Springs ridge.  Here I can see an unobstructed view of e saddle of Donner Summit.  The clouds were building again, and a caldron of atmospheric activity was boiling up from the valley to our west.  I was hoping for a dramatic sunset with the multi-layered clouds, but as soon as the sun dipped into the moist air near the horizon, it was lights out.

I "ripped hide" - removed my skins, and had a glorious ski down through the buttery spring snow before all light was gone from the sky.

From Royal Springs Ridge at sunset

From Royal Springs Ridge at sunset

From Royal Springs Ridge at sunset

From Royal Springs Ridge at sunset

From Royal Springs Ridge at sunset

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Leaving Donner Summit

We packed up and left Donner Summit for the season. I'll actually go back to work some more patrol days through the end of the month, but all our kit is excavated from Serene road, and piled up in the dining room in Oakland.

Departing Serene Road with camper stuffed to the gills. Snow is slowing receding, but still towers over the top of the campier in the driveway...

From Spring-Summer 2011

In our long absence, a small herd of deer (5 total) appear to have taken up afternoon feeding habits in our back yard. I only wish they were a bit more like goats to save me the trouble of weed whacking.

From Spring-Summer 2011

Trailer Hitch Mounted Storage Box fits the folding Kayak

On moving day, we attached this new nifty hitch mounted storage box to the camper to help get all our stuff off the summit and back to Oakland for the summer.  It's just roomy enough to hold the folded and packaged double expedition Feathercraft K-2 sea kayak we'll be traveling with this summer.  Installation was a breeze, although the hitch mounting screw/lock assembly that came with the unit conflicts with the trailer lights electrical socket mounted on the hitch.  I'll ned to do some work on that.  With a $13 connector from NAPA auto parts I was able to connect the male 7 pin (circular configuration) trailer light socket with the 4 in-line round pin connector that came with the storage box.  Still working on the how to mount the back-up camera that used to be attached to the license plate, but is now obstructed by the box.  Here are some pictures in a slide show format:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring skiing after storm with Steven and Jessie

Watch a brief movie with dialog...

The blizzard has blown out it's fury and we are left with great spring conditions. High temperatures and bright sun sooth my aching muscles and we spend a weekend with family ski touring at Royal Gorge.