Cushing Classic ’09

The 19th annual Cushing Classic was this last weekend and I decided to make my first ever attempt at crossing the pond. The entrance had a little extra drop to it this year and after the first few people went no one was sure if it was even possible. A few people did indeed make it although it was more difficult than in years past. I myself was not so lucky. After the hard landing on the water I lost most all my speed and just sank. I have to say that trying to swim with skis on just doesn’t quite work. With my experience this year I will be well prepared for the next classic.

Myself about to hit the water

Myself about to take off

Sinking

Sinking

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What if this was still cool??

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Time for Shasta?

Last spring I posted info on the bleak outlook for Shasta skiing and now almost exactly one year later conditions are looking a little better. Might be time to gear up for a trip to the best volcano in California. Here’s what www.shastaavalanche.org had to say:

Current Conditions:    Access to the north and east side trail heads is still prolonged due to miles of snow covered roads.  Bunny Flat is the only trail head currently open.  Many people were able to summit this weekend in the warm temperatures and little wind (unusual for Mt. Shasta).  We had many wet surface sluffs but nothing too concerning.The snow pack is typical of spring weather with very firm conditions in the morning and corn snow softening by early to mid day.   Many tents have already been wrecked by winds this spring.   On April 4, winds at tree line were 113 mph and estimated at 150-200 mph on the upper mountain.  Be prepared!  While the avalanche season usually begins to slow down in April and May, we still recommend avalanche training and that you carry and use the backcountry essentials (transceiver, shovel, probe).  Several avalanche accidents including fatalities have occurred in April.  Be prepared to hunker down if a storm arrives, making sure you have an avalanche safe escape route.  Ice and rock fall is dangerous and you should wear a helmet, always watching above for falling debris.  Most of the south side routes are in good shape right now.  This is the time of year when late storms can come through and dump snow, so, always check the weather forecast before you climb and monitor the weather conditions and snow stability during your climb.  It looks like it will be hot during the first part of the week, then some cold fronts will be coming in with a chance for snow later in the week.  I imagine the winds will pick up when the low moves in on Wedenesday.  You will not find any running water on the mountain right now, so make sure you have plenty of fuel.  Most routes can be approached without snowshoes, but skis or snowshoes make it go much easier.

Upper Avalanche Gulch and the Red Banks from Lake Helen on 4/18/09.

Upper Avalanche Gulch and the Red Banks from Lake Helen on 4/18/09.

Avalanche Gulch on 4/13/08

Avalanche Gulch on 4/13/08

Route Info: 

Avalanche Gulch – John Muir Route (Regular Route) via Bunny Flat Trailhead:  This route is in good shape.  Rock fall hasn’t been too bad yet, but we have had a few.  To help avoid rock fall we recommend that you climb early and descend early.  Got helmet?  Another reason to climb and descend early is to avoid long running wet sluffs which could occur in the afternoon.  Skiing in Avalanche Gulch is good, but expect a variety of conditions at different elevations.  With smooth and firm snow in the morning, you must be able to self arrest with your ice axe immediately in case  you fall to avoid the 1000 ft. human luge ride.  With OK snow cover, many options are available now for routes through the Red Banks.  The trail to Horse Camp is buried, so carry a map and pay attention– people frequently get lost early season returning to Bunny Flat.

 Cascade Gulch, Shastina and West Face via Bunny Flat Trailhead:  Although many books list the Cascade route as easy, it also has a lot of exposure where it crosses the upper Whitney glacier, even when minimized to ¼ mile.  Glacier travel training is recommended.  Shastina is in good shape and skiable.  For both Shastina and Cascade Gulch, the route is in a terrain trap for avalanches, so make sure the snow stability is good before commiting hours of climbing to the gulch.  West Face is in good condition for climbing but expect some cross slope wind sculpting.

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Sometimes when the weather is bad, like today, it can be hard to feel good about where you live and then you look up and see something like this…

Sierra Sunset

Sierra Sunset

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Mountain Biking on Peavine Peak

Well it’s been a bit since my last post, mostly because the backcountry just hasn’t been lookin’ that great. A cold weather system moved in a couple days ago leaving just a small layer of dust on crust or as Sugar Bowl so excitedly announced “3-6 inches, get up here”!! So having a day off right in the middle of it I chose instead to ride my bike. Something I’ve only done twice since November. I drove down to Verdi to try out the Cow Canyon trail which is a new one to me. The trail starts on the south side of Peavine Peak just east of Verdi. I followed the single track up not knowing where it would end up, but found out that the top half is really meant to be ridden downhill. It became to steep to ride, well at least to steep for me and I had to jump on the fire road. I later learned that the fire road is the preferred route to the top with the single track being the preferred route down. Go figure.

Lower Cow Canyon with Peavine Peak above

Lower Cow Canyon with Peavine Peak above

So I made it to the top just in time for the snowstorm to totally engulf everything around me. A great time to not have goggles or sunglasses I must say. Even without them the single track was nothing short of excellent. Tacky dirt with a little sand mixed in made for a fast and fun descent. I also have to say that if whoever built the trail stumbles across this I found the trail to be well built. Fast with berms and rises where they should be. My legs were certainly tired when I made it to the truck, but no doubt ready to tackle the trail again…well, maybe tomorrow.

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Book Review: A Wall of White

wallofwhiteBeing that I once lived at the base of Alpine Meadows and am somewhat familiar of the incident I found this book to be very interesting. That is not to say that others will not enjoy this book as well. The many twists of fate and the life and death struggle of an avalanche make for a suspenful story. It was a quick read that at points could not be put down. I would definitley recommend this book to anyone who has lived in Tahoe or vistied Alpine Meadows as well as any skiers and people with interests in avalanches. It will make you think twice before going out in a snowstorm.

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Redemption on Jake’s Peak

A couple weeks ago I was turned around on Jakes not to to far from the top. It was such a bittersweet day because my skins were glopping so bad I couldn’t continue up, but the turns were  so good that it didn’t matter. Today, however, not only did I make it to the top the turns were even better than the last trip. After all the fresh I had at Squaw on Wed. I was not expecting the same today. As it turned out that is exactly what I should have been expecting. Although the snow had set up a little and was not quite as blower, it was still just as deep and untouched. If I had the energy I would have tried to go back for seconds, but one run of that is worth every bit of hiking!!
Andrea caught this awesome picture of Chappy slashing the pow

Andrea caught this awesome picture of Chappy slashing the pow

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