The 4th of July Chutes have been on my bucket list for some time now. In the last couple of years at least, they have melted out near or prior to the full opening of Blackwood Canyon, and I have missed the window of opportunity to get up there when they’re still going off. With such a bad snow year in Tahoe, I figured it would be best to head up as early as possible. After receiving the beta from a friend who had been up a few days earlier (thanks Hazen Woolson!) that many of the chutes do in fact go, and the road was just about clear of snow, it was time for a multi-sport June 1st adventure with my friend Katy Hover-Smoot.
With the majority of the road closed, it was necessary to bike the last 5 miles to the beginning of the Ellis Peak trail. Biking with skis is a chore, but we kept our packs to the bare minimum, and the relatively mellow grade of the road meant that the ~2000 uphill feet went by pretty painlessly. Not to mention, beautiful views abound.
When we reached the trailhead, we shoe-packed for about a half hour through patchy suncupped snow through the forest and up to the ridge. As we found out, it’s relatively possible to skin up, but shoe or bootpacking was simple.
We got a good look at several of the chutes from the looker’s right flank of chutes, and headed the rest of the way up. It was still early and a lot of the chutes were in the shade, so we first skied a decently wide and prominent chute. You knowledgeable readers can probably fill us in on the names. Some of the chutes have a couple weeks left, while others are starting to thin and pinch out. Dr. Robb Gaffney, who I had spoken with the day before, showed up shortly after our first run. He had scoped out another, very picturesque line to the looker’s right of where Katy and I had skied. I headed back up to take his advice, and Robb took this amazing photo:
Katy and I opted to attempt to ski back to where we had hidden our bikes, and very much to our surprise, it was a successful mission. We only had to take our skis off once, after some extremely well planned out navigating through heavily pinecone-infused snow and a maze of closeouts and shallow tree wells. After getting back to our bikes, it was a fast and smooth descent back to the car! The mellow grade actually meant that not a whole lot of breaking was necessary, and the closed road meant you could point and send with no concerns other than the distracting views. A great way to end the adventure!