Tioga Pass Report: North Peak Couloirs | by Josh Daiek

Guest Author | | Post Tag for Conditions ReportConditions Report

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words and images by Josh Daiek

(editors note:  please check out Josh’s website for more great adventure stories:  JoshDaiek.com)

After an epic first day up on Tioga Pass, I drove away staring in the rear view at jagged peaks that define the Sierra and offer endless ski possibilities. I was excited, anxious and eager to be back on the pass, to push further and explore more. I arrived home and immediately started making phone calls trying to convince friends that we need to go back and explore more of Tioga Pass. When it’s 70 degrees out people tend to forget about skiing and move on to their summer time hobbies.

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I was elated to here from my friend Kristian Geissler telling me he was fired up and looking to ski some steeps! I instantly picked up my guide book and began rifling through pages looking for the next adventure. As I flipped past an image of the North couloir on  North Peak, I immediately knew this would be the next mission! I made calls to local ski shops and friends who have skied the area, gathering as much beta on North Peak as possible. I learned the approach can be rather brutal with a 2.5 mile walk up a dirt road before reaching a 3 mile skin to reach the base of the peak.

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From what I gathered I thought it might be a good idea to bike up the road with our gear and ski tour when we reached snow.  Because I’d never done it before and didn’t really know the route, I didn’t want to bring the extra gear if it wouldn’t be worth it though. I proposed the plan to Kristian and he agreed it was worth a try. I was also glad to hear from him that he had found a couple more friends to join us too, Michelle Parker and Jeff Wright! The crew gathered a night before our ski mission for some camping and hot dog roasting. We anxiously sat around the fire awaiting morning and the epic mission that lay ahead!

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After a decent approach to the base we began hiking straight for our objective, the North couloir of North Peak. As we slogged our way up the steep apron temperatures continued to rise and the snow began to heat up fast. We found ourselves in a bit of a precarious situation as we crossed over giant patches of hollow snow that seemed to be melting from the bottom up. One at a time we made our way through the exposed areas and into safe zones scrambling as fast as possible to avoid the danger. I was relieved when we finally made it to the base of the couloir and into it’s shady embrace. Step by step we kicked our toes into the steep slope of North couloir plunging our ice axes deep into the wall with every step.

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After exiting the couloir we were all fired up as this was probably the biggest, steepest couloir that any of us had ever skied! Knowing there was another couloir a bit higher up the mountain, we threw our skis on our packs and began hiking up again. As the 2nd couloir came into view it appeared to be a bit more exposed and sun baked. The crew wasn’t too sure it would be worth it, but I was hungry for more and decided to go for the solo mission while they sat back sun bathing at the bottom and keeping a close eye on me.

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I felt a little deja vu as I slowly made my way up the 2nd couloir kicking my toes into the steep wall and plunging my ice axe in with every step. When I finally made it to the top I took my time to gear up and relaxed as I took in some beautiful views of Mount Conness. I dropped into the now shaded couloir and was surprised to find the snow in good condition. Creamed corn the whole way down, this really made my day!

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