After the Whitney trip I heard from Kim, the infamous Dr. Turnsallyear, 208 months in a row. It was great to hear from one of my favorite ski partners and friends. I had originally planned to do all the volcanoes after the Sierra. Family matters and life in general got in the way of that idea. I didn’t get all that I wanted out of the Sierra, mainly due to weather and my underestimating the scope of each of the days. The mountains will be there the next time and I saw some great lines to go back for in addition to my hit list. It’s such an amazing place and deserves a visit every year I think. I learned a lot and met some cool people along the way. I thought I understood the writing of Muir but you can’t, until you set foot in the beautiful valleys of the mountains that inspired him.
When Kim got in touch we talked about Mount McLoughlin but that didn’t seem reasonable given that the road was closed at the highway. That would make for a 20 mile day and with a 16 hour drive right after we finished up I needed something shorter. We discussed Shasta which seemed really appealing but also that would add a couple hours of driving. We settled on Lassen. This would be my 4th attempt for Lassen. All of my “attempts” failed due to the road not being open or the peak being closed for trail maintenance. The last time I rolled thru I let a curse slip, out of frustration and the ranger at the gate touched her gun. I apologized and left in a hurry. Hopefully this time would be good. I called the rangers from the top of Boundary to confirm that the road was open to the devastated area. They confirmed and I got on the road. I hit the Travertine Hot Springs in Bishop and the time slipped away. I finally made it to Tahoe for Tallac and camped at the trailhead. It was hot that night and I sweated it out in the truck. I decided to not ski thinking of the wet slide hazard. Then I headed to Truckee for coffee and wrestling with my dying laptop. From there I headed up 89 to Lassen. I hadn’t driven most of this route and enjoyed some fresh scenery. It was cool to go to a third mountain range for the trip. They all offer something new. The Sierra are grand. The Whites are actually just as big but from the east they remind me of the ranges of Colorado. The Cascades are different. They feature miles of forest and giant volcanoes spaced pretty far apart. These peaks soar to the sky but getting a view of them on the drive to their bases can be a little challenging. When I got to the Hot Creek Valley overlook I was stoked to really get a look at the objective. Wow that was a lot of snow. I headed up the road to get a look from the trailhead. Then I went back down to camp, outside of the National Park. Shortly thereafter Kim arrived from Oregon. It was great catching up. I love friendships where you pick up right where you left off. I find this type of bonding among my ski partners.
We got up at 5am and made coffee and oatmeal. We then headed up to the trailhead and chatted with the other groups that were camping in the lot. Since the campgrounds weren’t open camping in the lot is tolerated by the rangers. Everyone was just hanging out. As we got ready a few people asked why we were starting so early. Kim was off the couch so she felt like she needed extra time. We got started at 7:20ish. We headed up the road a little ways and got into the trees. This put us south of the main gully of the Devastated Zone. From there we contoured into the gully and around to the base of the North Ridge. We only had one pair of crampons between us so we figured the ridge would be the best way to go. We skinned as high as we could and then switched to booting. The crampons stayed in the pack the whole time and we got in some fun bouldering along the way. There were steaming fumeroles near the crater’s edge. It was cool seeing the granite blown out creating the scarp of the crater. There was cinder rock and snow and hardened lava beds. We took a really cool route. On the way to the actual summit the ridge got a little spicy with a few techy downclimbs. It was fun working together to get through it. We stood on top of both summits.
The descent was sublime. This was the finest corn run I’ve ever had. We dropped direct from the true summit and worked the north facing skier’s right line to get optimal snow. It was just the right depth and rolled over to about 50 degrees for a moment. Then the angle eased gradually over the 3000? span of the line. It just seemed to go on and on and on. The thighs burned and the speed got up there to unsafe levels for backcountry skiing. We stopped at the flats and looked back up at our tracks. The lower Devastated Gully was a little cooked and we leaned back a bit to avoid sticking. It got surfy but never punchy. It was nice to have groups ahead of us for the exit path and we skied it switch to the road and found change for a nickle in the snow bank. Unfortunately I fucked up all the skiing pics, sorry Kim. I should have brought the Nikon. Way to crush off the couch. Such a fun day with you lady.
We changed and went to Susanville for some dinner. We said our goodbyes and promised to make the time between hanging out a little shorter next go around. The volcanoes still beckon. Then I steered the 4runner towards Reno and the long drive home. Endurance driving takes you to another place. The journey is transforming. You may get somewhere but you also take a journey of the mind. The return has a different feel to departing. It seems to be more about reflection of where you’ve been and the adventures you’ve had. The thoughts of real life coming into play and the hard work you need to resume. It was an amazing trip and as it wound down and I returned to Colorado I was struck by how the mountains seemed smaller and the summits felt closer; as if everything is now more attainable.
Time to settle down for the summer and work my ass off. I’m also looking forward to spending lots of time with my kids. Hopefully my older one can reach his goal of skiing Elbert. Looking forward to showing him the ropes and helping him reach the top of Colorado.