PETER GRUBB HUT AND CARSON PASS SKI TOURS March 30-31, 2003
Stricken by neck and shoulder pains, I was recommended to use Ibuprofen. This helped, so I took off for this spell of good weather. I haven't skied for two years, and with Spring approaching, this was maybe a last chance before the next season.
Arriving at the Castle Peak/Boreal Ridge Exit on Interstate 80 at 10:20 a.m., I got a Sno-Park pass ($5) from the motel reception desk here, and parked in the designated spots along the frontage road. It was fine enough at this time in the morning, with unusual warmth due to a high pressure zone over the area. I made sure to slather on sunscreen, as the altitude and bright sun would rapidly make sure I didn't sleep well if I didn't protect myself.
Many vehicles were parked at the ski trail road's end, possibly circumventing the fee charged by the State Park System to help pay for plowing. Normally, the start of the road here would be buried in snow. Now, one can drive up a bit to park off the pavement of the freeway exits. I recalled I parked here many times, decades ago, before too many cross-country skiers began using this spot. The government solution was to create the Sno-Park program. My inclination was to move to far lesser used areas, but the repeat sight of a familiar and readily accessible tour refreshes me.
Heading up the snow-covered roadbed, I followed the signs separating foot traffic from snowmobilers. There was once a movement to bar them from such a beautiful area, but that, like many viewpoints, came to nothing. The snow trail was well used, with many groups venturing into the backcountry here. While I saw many with big packs, I was to see none of them at the Sierra Club's Peter Grubb Hut, later.
I sought to be careful, not getting into a speed race as some local chapter activities became. Applying more sunscreen, I kept note of my progress to Castle Pass. Arriving at the ridgetop by about noon, I saw I had time to continue to the Hut. That took only some 20 minutes, and I was able to cut a few turns while descending the short hill to Round Meadow. Tracks were everywhere. In another time, I would be joined by like-minded skiers, to telemark Basin Peak, or maybe to ski the north slopes of Castle Peak. No longer! Mainly snowshoe trips are scheduled by the two local chapters, with old timers like me released to the wind.
My time to the Hut was one hour and forty minutes. I had to get to Reno early enough to not have my reserved room dispensed to others, so I quickly toured the Hut's interior. They have installed solar panel powered, battery saved, electric lights, and even a hydraulic wood splitter. Same old dirty mattresses, though!
Leaving the Hut after 12 :30 p.m., I was back to the Interstate in an hour. The snow conditions here were nice spring conditions. It was almost a T-shirt day.
Motoring on to the Patagonia Outlet, I picked up a jacket from repair. While their out-of-warranty, wear repair fees may seem exorbitant, they do an excellent job, and won't leave you wearing rags. With plenty of daylight left, I was too tired to consider any more walking, hiking, or auto-touring this day. I had done some 21 miles walking, the day before, along the Parkway. Checking into the casino/hotel, I hit the buffet line as soon as they opened, and enjoyed another sumptuous meal.
Not sure if I lost or gained this trip, due to a big (for me) win at some slots, I watched magic hour from my room on the 27th floor. Making another casino round to enjoy the evening, I retired even before the late night news.
Monday, I woke up just after 5 a.m., and caught the TV forecast for this day. "Windy," was the appraisal. Depending on the weather, I had considered driving down to Bridgeport, and Twin Lakes, to ski Crater Crest (11,394'). This is a nice, fairly gentle peak to ascend, with even a trail to start. Unambitious today, I slowly prepared my things, and left the hotel by 6:50 a.m. I had a small breakfast enroute, and then I needed another day use Sno-Park pass. I got one at the Auto Club office in Carson City, NV, then motored on for Carson Pass.
Since I was concerned about the snow being still frozen, I sought to delay my start. I couldn't wait any longer, and took off up the snow trail by 10 a.m. It was crusty in the trees, but soon the snow corned up and I wished I could yo-yo ski all day. However, there was a peak waiting. I imagined I'd climb Round Top (10,381'), but would see how the wind went. The trail was well compacted, and I hardly ever had such an easy ski. Tracks ran up and down the hills, visible from miles away. The peak made for nice photos, however.
Having to don my parka and pile balaclava due to the wind, I shuffled onward. In about an hour and a half, I reached Winnemucca Lake. There were some ski tracks, and some snowshoe tracks. On none of these tours were any bare spots or rocky sections to impede skiing. But, a few peaks could be hiked with minimal snow to cross, as Red Lake Peak (10,063') across the highway.
Too early in the day to quit, I followed some tracks up to the north ridge of Round Top. I achieved some 9,500 feet elevation, before I had to stop. Spindrifts were being blown, higher up at, I'd say, 50 mph. I spied a set of big footprints going to the top, but it was just too much for me. I had my ice axe, but having had such nice, snowy days on this ski peak, I declined to taint the memory.
Headed back at 1 p.m., I made short work of the hill, with a few falls, I'll admit, since I haven't tele'ed in years. The long traverses I skied across in minutes. Why people prefer now to snowshoe, leaves me in wonder. Back to the parking lot at 2:20 p.m., I changed out of my ski clothes and packed up my gear.
I stopped in Sutter Creek, CA, since the Mormon-Emigrant Road was still closed. Walking a bit, I shot more photos, with diffuse light coming from high overcast. A great meal here would have done me fine, but I have to save, and eat at home, or at a local, cheaper eatery.
Skiing some 14 miles with about 2,000' gain total, I have definitely aged in my abilities. I remember the days when 13 miles and 3,500' gain made just one day of touring. I had figured to give up ski mountaineering, but this might be the one last bash before I sell off my gear.
Photographically, I used my digital camera all of both days without having to keep the batteries warm in my pocket. The air temperatures were well above freezing. I packed it away for the downhills, and had a regular film camera along, as well, for the Carson Pass trek. I shot some 160 digital images, and maybe ten frames of Kodachrome.
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