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 Post subject: South Lake Tahoe: Waterhouse, Saturday 02/04/2006
PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 12:09 am 
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Joined: Wed Nov 30, 2005 10:50 am
Posts: 13
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
It was raining when my wife & I woke up at 7AM on Saturday Feb 4th at the SLT Motel 6, and we were working with 4 hours of sleep after a LATE start on the drive up from Santa Cruz. Things were much better after a quick fuel-up at Hot Gossip (our favorite SLT coffee house)! A bunch of our Santa Cruz buddies were in town for a mutual friend's wedding receiption at 2PM that day, and of them, 5 had expressed interest in doing a quick backcountry trip (virgins).

I was thinking of doing Echo Peak (http://www.thebackcountry.net/guidebook_detail.php?ID=51), but there was some avy risk involved, and I'm not doing my avy certification til March, so I didn't feel confidant leading my group into this terrain. Instead, we opted for Waterhouse Peak (http://www.thebackcountry.net/guidebook_detail.php?ID=69), which met our half-day time criterion, was virtually devoid of any avy risk, and in hindsight was a perfect introduction!

7AM, time to make some phone calls. Note: No Sprint / Verizon coverage at the SLT Motel 6. It is a black hole, as there is coverage in the immediate area. Seeing as how it was raining and early, and none of them had ever gone backcountry riding, I figured maybe a 50% success rate, but lo and behold, all 5 of them were in. Stoked! We met up, loaded a ton of equipment in my truck, and caravan-ed on the 20-minute drive up to the Waterhouse trailhead. See map here: http://www.thebackcountry.net/img/maps/topo_waterhouse.gif

The setup was me on my splitboard, with my wife's snowboard on my backpack. Everybody else carried their snowboards behind them. I have three pairs of snowshoes that I loaned out, which left two guys who had to hoof it, but fortuantely they didn't post-hole very much (sorry if anybody came up after us!). We were a motley crew!

The rain turned to snow at about 6500 feet, as forecasted (phew!). On 89 past Meyers, people were chaining up all over the place, and someone had gone into a ditch & cops were cleaning up. It was snowing moderately with 100-foot visibility when we were scouting for the parking spot, just east of Grass Lake, and we actually missed it and had to circle back. We got to the trailhead at about 9:30AM, at ~7700 feet, and there was one other car-full of folks already there with x/c gear, but they just hiked in about 1/4 mile and were sledding / playing in the snow. There was about 2" of fresh powder on top packed powder conditions, and there was a x/c ski trail, probably from the day before, of skier-packed powder that ended up being our route up. This was good news for the two guys in our group who didn't have snowshoes!

Since we couldn't see the peaklets due to the poor visibility and moderate snowfall, we just crossed between the big and small Grass Lakes, went up a few hundred feet, and then followed the ridge south for a bit. There was a fantastic view of the Hope Valley off to the immediate left, but Waterhouse peak was still socked in a cloud of precip. We started switching back up the eastern face of Waterhouse Peak. After about 1.5 hours into it, some of our group were pooped, so we agreed to have a safety check, gear up, and ride down. I'm guessing we were at about 9000 feet, maybe 10 minutes shy of the top, which for me was immensly frustrating but I wasn't going to make a big deal of it. Nobody else in my group had ever done backcountry snowboarding and I didn't want to be a nazi about things.

Snow conditions where we put in were very nice considering it was raining at lake level. We had 4-5" of powder that fell that morning, on top of packed powder that was neither crusty nor scratchy, so turns were easy. I had to stop many times during the ride down to make sure our group was intact, but we ended up coming out about a 5-minute walk from the parking lot. The snow near the bottom was less forgiving, slightly wind-drifted, and kind of hard to turn in. I took a big spill right in front some guys who were just heading up and lost a bunch of speed, that was a bummer. I'm not used to riding with 3 sets of snowshoes stuck to my backpack!

All in all, it was a short jaunt, but with fresh morning powder, we couldn't have asked for better conditions given the rainy winter the entire Tahoe basin has seen so far. It kind of reminded me of going to school in Burlington VT, where the snowfall was typically measured in inches, rain was always a threat, and I had to sharpen my edges every day. We made it back to the parking lot at about noon, and made the wedding reception w/o having to rush. And I was able to help five buddies get their first taste of the backcountry, so maybe next time we can do something a little more involved!

Next time, pictures. Working on getting a nice digicam for outdoor trekking.

-Jeff


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 2:14 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:15 pm
Posts: 2571
Location: san diego CA
Good Job Jeff, always nice to get newbies into the backcountry. So , are they hooked?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2006 12:11 am 
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Joined: Sun Nov 21, 2004 4:37 pm
Posts: 62
sweeet, thanx for your buds postholing up the skintrack.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2006 10:01 am 
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Joined: Wed Nov 30, 2005 10:50 am
Posts: 13
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
patroller420 wrote:
Good Job Jeff, always nice to get newbies into the backcountry. So , are they hooked?


Hmm, I guess I'll know if they were hooked when I suggest going on another trip. :) I had fun.

And re: postholing up the skin track, that reminds me. I went snowshoeing with my GF about three years ago, and we drove north from Truckee on 89 with the intention of snowshoing up and around Salmon Lake Lodge, which is run by a friend (during the summer!) and checking it out. When we got there, it was nothing but snowmobiles, so we decided to drive back a little bit to a trailhead we saw a few miles prior, that lead up to some saddle. I guess we were both pretty "safe" because we snowshoed right on top of some x/c skin tracks for the first mile or so because it was "easy", before we turned off and broke trail up the mountain. :oops:

Those x/c folks weren't very happy when they chanced upon us at the parking lot, but honestly we didn't know any better ... we had no idea they were going to ride back down the exact same trail they went up on (god, how boring!). Yeah, I have x/c skiing on my list of things to do when I'm 80 years old and am too infirmed to snowboard. And it sounds like a lot of bad karma will catch up with me at that point.

-Jeff


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