Ski Mountaineering

Northern Sierra Peaks
April 10-14, 2003

Leslie Hofherr



We were hoping for a March miracle to supply plenty of snow for this trip but it didn't happen. It did dump in the Tahoe area a week or so before this trip supplying some needed snow for skiing peaks in the Tahoe area. The plan was to do day ski trips popping peaks and car camp. I suggested an agenda consisting of Pyramid Peak, Round Top, Mount Rose, and Ralston one peak per day. Participants were Ted Lenzie, Reiner Stenzel, Steve Stewart, Angel Ocana, Susan Livingston and me.

Saturday we met at 7:30 am to ski Pyramid Peak and started by 8:15 am from where Rocky Creek flows under Highway 50. While we were gathering people from the meeting place at Echo Summit, Ted stashed some tasty Pyramid drinks in the creek to cool for our return to the cars. We started by hiking up Rocky Creek. After we got out of the thick forest and had crossed the creek we put on skis and skinned up the creek drainage to it's source just below a small ridge leading to the summit area of Pyramid Peak. It was an overcast day providing whiteout conditions on the summit block and lack of any views of the Lake Tahoe area. Just below the summit block the weather was more forgiving and the skiing was great with good snow and intermediate roller coaster type bumps to the ridge area near the source of Rocky Creek. As we skied down the mountain the snow conditions turned to heavy snow making turning a chore. Again we hiked down through the thick forest and returned to the cars by 3 pm.

Some people headed into South Lake Tahoe for ski repairs and shopping and others headed to take a shower and soak in the hot spring water at Grover Hot Springs State Park. Eventually everyone got a shower and we headed out to camp and dine in the forest near the campground. The weather prediction was for a storm to move in so we decided on an early start to try to get in a peak before the storm.

People did get up early but only to head to the camp ground to use the facilities negating our early start time for Round Top. By 7:15 am we were headed toward Carson Pass. The sky was overcast and it looked gloomy. It looked so gloomy that Susan decided to head back south. The rest of us put on our skis and skins and headed toward Round Top. The ski to Round Top is supposedly marked with blue diamonds on the trees. We saw some of these diamonds on the way to Winemucca Lake below Round Top. We experienced some white out conditionson the approach to Round Top.

From Winemucca Lake we could see that there was a white out on the summit block of Round Top but the slopes going up to the summit block looked fine.

We skied up the snowfields on to the ridge and then over to just below the summit block of Round Top. We explored the rim-covered rocks of the summit block but did not go to the summit. We skied down the intermediate snowfields to the lake. The snow consisted of good snow mixed with breakable crust in some areas. As we skied back to the cars the sun came out and it became a beautiful day. The sky was blue and there were no clouds. We looked back and could easily see the summit block of Round Top. We were back at the cars by noon. Steve wanted to try to ski Waterhouse Peak from Luther Pass. He had heard good things about this peak but had never skied it. So we decided to look at it and possibly ski it.

The snow had become wet and heavy by afternoon but this did not stop an ascent of the twin peak next to Waterhouse. The route up this peak is obvious from the road and those that made it to the top had a view of the Tahoe area peaks. Waterhouse has an abundance of trees and provides downhill skiing between trees. With the heavy snow it was hard to make turns around these trees. I decided that sidestepping was the best solution while everyone else skied down. We were back at the cars between 4 and 5 pm.

Since the weather appeared to have cleared we decided to head north to Mount Rose. Some people went out for dinner while others joined Stan at the campground for dinner. Stan was on a bay area trip to ski Waterhouse Peak. We camped near the start for Mount Rose but in the night the storm came in and it was snowing big fluffy flakes when we woke up. Ted suggested a two dollar breakfast and head to Ralston.

We started up Ralston in the falling snow but found the snow coverage was not good for the ascent to Ralston. We decided to turn back. Angel, Reiner, I headed toward Mammoth Lakes and Steve and Ted headed home toward Folsom. The Tahoe area has many intermediate level peaks that can be skied in a day. I look forward to another trip to ski some of these peaks.


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