A Little Backcountry

Over the holidays in 1998/9, Oren Jacob and I did a couple backcountry trips in the Sierras. I'm just starting to do backcountry in the Tahoe region; if you enjoy hiking, and are already a good boarder or skier, it's highly recommended! The reward of backcountry is utterly different from resort riding, of course - you hike for an hour or three, and are rewarded with a pleasant vista to enjoy over lunch before the all-too-short ride back to the car. But the feeling of truly being out there is worth a lot.

Mt. Tamarack

Mt. Tamarack looms up off to the left as you cross Tahoe Meadows on the way to Mt. Rose. We parked the car and started walking generally uphill, curving around the slope to the left. It took about two hours of steady hiking to gain the peak; here's Oren wafting up the last few steps with Lake Tahoe all the ways down to South Lake behind him.

The solitude and quiet of the backcountry experience left a little to be desired on this particular trip, as there were a dozen or so snowmobilers parked near us in the Meadow, and in fact we ended up following snowmobile tracks all the way up to the top of Tamarack Peak. Well, at least it made the hiking a little easier!

A man and his board
The miracle of the self-timer Through the miracle of a nearby rock, and the self-timer, we managed to get both us framed in the picture!

I tried to take a series of photos that could do a panoramic turnaround, but if you've ever tried that yourself without a panoramic rig, well, you can guess how well that worked.

After lunch, we scooted off down the hill. By the time we got back to the bottom, the Meadow was awash in kids, up from Reno to play in the snow and having a great day of it!

Leo Hourvitz, come on down!

Donner Peak

A few days later we parked at the ASI lodge in Donner Summit and headed off towards Donner Peak. The route from there took us past a lot of snowboarders beginning to build hits along the abandoned railroad grade just off the road... Hmm, promising, we thought. In the sunshine by Sugar Bowl
At right you can see Oren crossing a sunny patch as we got over the first ridge of the day and turned left towards Donner Peak itself. We hadn't realized just how close this route went to the Sugar Bowl boundary; we saw folks cruising down the top of this ridge all the time.
Leo over Donner Lake
After climbing the right side of the peak, we got to the generally rocky top (this patch of snow notwithstanding). This is just a gorgeous place to be; on one side, you can see Sugar Bowl and Donner Pass; to the north, Donner Summit and I-80, and here, looking East, Donner Lake and Truckee beyond it.
The wider shot really shows how much Donner Lake is down in a depression. On the way down, we cut straight back towards the hut, which took us through a pretty narrow chute that came out above the railroad snowsheds and back to the snowboarders building hits.
Oren over same
Some whup-ass icicles

They had some tremendous hits going; we chose not to join them in doing backcountry backflips (or, in the case of one african-american backcountry dude, double backflips).

On the way back to the hut, we took a detour through the abandoned snowsheds. They were a little spooky, not in the least because the floor was covered with 2-3 inches of ice-cold water over incredibly slick glare ice (we were hiking with full packs and snowboards on our back, so the combination was clearly the most injury-prone part of the day). But the upside was seeing the icicles inside the snowsheds; here are some of the 20'+ monsters that were dangling in there. You can bet we were careful not to walk underneath these!

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