April 9 –10, 2011
Cross Couloir, Mt. Tallac & Angora Peak
Alexis, Clement, Warren & Nick
Alexis, Warren & Nick (each as noted below)
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you view it) one of the joys of ski touring is dealing with variable conditions. After amazing corn skiing in Carson Pass last Sunday, the warm cycle continued for most of the week leading up to a pretty strong re-freeze Wednesday night. A small low-pressure system then moved in, dropping 3-6 inches of fresh snow along the upper elevations of the Sierra Crest on Thursday and Friday. Yes, that is one of the few times this winter we are talking 3-6 inches
rather than 3-6 feet
While we headed out on Saturday to ski steep lines in a bit of powder, what we found was steep lines in quintessential “dust on crust” conditions. While the ski conditions were essentially nothing to right home about, we still had a great day both days.
Saturday, April 9th – Cross Couloir, Mt. Tallac
The East face of Mt. Tallac as seen from the skin track. Photo: Nick
Driving out to the trailhead Saturday morning, our goals were really non-existent – namely, we were just going to have a look around up on Tallac to see what looked interesting. While the popular Cross Couloir was on our minds, we were open really to explore and find something fun to ski.
As Alexis notes below, pondering the skinning options, and deciding to head to the standard track towards the summit. Photos: Alexis
Weather was very fickle during the day, starting very warm – warmer than the forecasts. But clouds moved in and the wind picked up a bit cooling things off.
First views of the North Bowl, a popular descent option. Photo: Alexis
As we headed up, we saw another group descending the North Bowl. Photo: Nick
The turns looked good and the snow appeared great. Photo: Warren
As Alexis notes, Clement continued on towards the upper face with the sun making a nice return as the temps were dropping a bit. Photo: Alexis
We moved up and around the backside to take a look at the East Face lines. Photos: Warren & Alexis, respectively
Once at the top, we scouted the Cross Couloir. From the East flanks, the top main entrance to the couloir proper did appear to be wind-scoured and rather hard/icy. Notwithstanding, Clement stepped up and agreed to drop-in first and test the waters. Perhaps Clement’s Chamonix days made this seem like a walk in the park!
Clement dropping in The Cross, taken from a distance near the hanging snowfield entrance. Photos: Nick
Meanwhile, Alexis was posted on the rock-outcropping by the tree to capture the line closer. Photos: Alexis
Clement skied the line very well – although I would call the sound effects of the snow similar to someone dragging some nails across a school blackboard!
Despite the hard, wind-scoured conditions near the top, Alexis dropped in the main entrance after Clement had exited the Couloir. Photo: Warren
Macro of Alexis nearing the first jump turn. Photo: Nick
And a close-up perspective. Photos: Warren
A strong jump turn here, Scott Schmidt style… Photo: Nick
…Led to Alexis somehow pointing up-hill here! Photo: Warren
Alexis continues down the upper portion of the couloir. Photos: Nick & Warren, respectively
After Alexis met Clement in the safe-zone exit, Warren and I headed to the alternate entrance from the hanging snowfield. Warren was on tele-skis and not akin to tele-turn steep crust, and meanwhile my bones were chattering after watching Clement and Alexis drop the hard and crusty upper portions. The upper portion was just outside of my pay grade for the day!
Unfortunately, the snow on the hanging snowfield was also pure ice crust up top. Once cutting above the first set of the trees and dropping into the bottom half of the couloir, any fresh snow would immediately and rapidly sluff away. Pure dust on crust conditions, unfortunately.
Alexis and Warren await at the bottom as Warren and I would later drop in above and to the looker’s left of the trees in this photo. Photo: Alexis
After re-grouping, we cut across the apron to another couloir we thought may hold better snow. Meanwhile, the weather began to lightly snow. Photo: Alexis
This time it was not dust on crust – just crust! An add frozen runnels from the warm spell early in the week. Essentially, Saturday was not the day for steep lines. Nevertheless, we had a fun time side-slipping, hop-turning and general survival-skiing down icy runnels. Photos: Alexis
At the end of the day, you just can’t always hit the conditions perfectly. The folks we saw in the morning on the North bowl appeared to score big, while we were carving our way down icy couloirs. But, with smiles on our faces and still having a good day out. The fresh falling snow was a pleasant surprise as well.
Finally, back to the lower bowls, the skies immediately cleared, the sun came out and we actually found some soft snow without a huge crust underneath. We were treated to a great ski of several thousand feet heading back to the car. Photo: Warren
Sometimes, meadow skipping is just the call! And it delivers so good! Photo: Nick
Sunday, April 10th – Angora Peak
On Sunday, the weather called for a warmer day which we initially hoped would bond the snow to the steeper slopes a little better. We realized it would have to be timed perfectly, however – least things become a sloppy mess and riddled with instability.
We headed through the burnt forest towards Echo and Angora Peaks. Photo: Nick
In the early morning light, Angora and Echo bowls both looked good. Photos: Nick
The cornices on the most Eastern part of Angora are big as usual. Watch out for these when it starts getting very warm. Photo: Nick
At the top of Angora Peak, we were treated to some great weather. Nice warm day with zero wind. Our attempt to time the snow perfectly diminished greatly, when we implicitly decided lunch and nap-time was better served. Damn that was such a great day. Photo: Nick
Ralston Peak looking very good this year. Photo: Nick
After our leisurely break, we decided that we would head over to take a look at Halls given it was more North facing. Alexis and Clement looking at mini-halls. Photo: Nick
Nick gearing up to ski around to main Halls, with the S-aspects of Tallac in the distance. Photo: Warren
At the top of Halls, Nick and Clement discussing descent options to Clement. Photo: Warren
Near the top the snow was variable with some small wind-effect and other deeper pockets. Photo: Warren
Unfortunately after playing around on the low-angle upper snowfield, we started to discuss that the steeper aspects would like be very similar to Cross Couloir in that the soft snow would likely sluff off quickly, leaving an icy layer for the later skiers. After some more discussion and the warming temps, we bailed on Halls.
After ski-cutting some of the more South aspects of Angora bowl, we realized temps were way too hot and the snow was starting to wet slide a bit. We headed over to more N-aspects in the trees and descended through dust on crust back to Angora Lake. Photo: Nick
Ultimately, Sunday just ended up a short tour with a fun climb, a good relaxing summit and a mellow and short descent. We finished the day with a wrestling match between Alexis and Clement by Angora Lake, and some nice beers back at the trailhead.
Still, a good weather tour beats pretty much anything else I could do!