Tahoe Backcountry Report: Terrible Snow, Terrific Terrain

Miles Clark | BackcountryBackcountry

Report from January 23rd, 2020

Brought to you by Alpenglow Expeditions

I woke up today exhausted after a terrific day at Squaw yesterday.

I went backcountry skiing anyway.

As we climbed through a gorgeous, fairy-filled forest the high temperatures (up to 50ºF) melted the snow on the trees and dripped all over us.

Alex in the magic forest. image: snowbrains

It was as if it was raining at times.

We climbed on.

On the ridgeline, we dried off a bit, wore T-shirts, and enjoyed the filtered sun, warm temps, and absence of wind.

Spines… image: snowbrains

Up top, our zone looked stellar, but we knew the snow was going to be questionable.

The heat of the day was spiking as I dropped in.

My first turns were surprisingly good.

Chunks. image: snowbrains

The wind had pressed the snow up high and the snow was soft on top, a bit grabbed, but supportable.

As I lurched down the wind-spine and approached the true spine the snow began to change.

Once on the spine, I was struggling to keep my skis together.

Tip shot. image: snowbrains

The snow was grabby, was losing its wind-pressed firmness, and was becoming mank.

About 5 turns into the spines I almost lost it as my skis each went a different direction, I did the splits, lifted one ski off the snow, and put the skis together again.

This move ended up too awkward to recover from and I went down on the following turn.

Big and small. image: snowbrains

The snow was a deep, funky, mank as I struggled to finish the spine and lumber my way to a safe zone.

Alex came down and disovered many of the same challenges that I had.

We were convinced:  it wasn’t worth another lap.

Lichen snow tree. image: snowbrains

We limped up the skin track at a snail’s pace due to terrible glopping of snow onto our skins making each ski double to triple its normal weight.

No amount of pole whacking or stomping ever truly freed our skis of the sticky snow.

At this point, under a big tree, the snowmelt dripping (tree-pee) was a downpour.

Glop. image: snowbrains

We crested the ridgeline after a valiant uphill battle and hoped we could make it back to the road without putting skins on again.

I was truly spent at this point and couldn’t stop thinking about a hot shower, a big stretch and a long nap…

Alex crushed it guiding us back to the road and we glided right to the car without having to put on skins again.

Aliens. image: snowbrains

All in all, it was a great day with great terrain and a great friend.

But man, that snow was tough…

The good news is that we don’t have to go backcountry tomorrow!

Currently, it’s raining at my house in Squaw Valley (10:42pm).

Ridge. image: snowbrains


image: sierra avalanche center, 1/23/20


Rocks and Alex. image: snowbrains
Gear and Ice. image: snowbrains
Art. image: snowbrains

Glop. image: snowbrains

Ice rose. image: snowbrains

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