Joined: Fri Nov 19, 2004 8:41 pm Posts: 1622 Location: Santa Cruz, CA
With a last gasp of winter storms moving through Tahoe late last week, I decided I would make one last attempt at a powder day. The obvious choice - Roundtop!
So I had every intention of going to bed early Friday night and getting some rest before an o-dark-thirty start on Saturday morning. Yeah right. So after a late night party, I woke up at 4:30 after 2 hours of sleep with a hangover. And somehow I wasn't quite feeling it. I hadn't heard back from the usual suspects, so I had planned on going solo (assuming I'd run into more usual suspects in parking lot). And since I didn't have any firm plans, I only had myself to talk out of it... which, after 2 hours of sleep and with a hangover, was coming pretty easily.
Then I checked my messages and found that Buffy (liketoride) had changed her Tallac plans and wanted to meet up at Roundtop. So I willed myself to motivate and got on the road. Besides, what better way to work off a hangover than skinning out to a beautiful peak? The first few hours of the 4 hour drive weren't exactly helping with the motivation, but once I got to the snow line and saw these views from the road I got a second wind:
And by the time Roundtop came into view, things were really looking up!
I met up with Buffy in the parking lot at 9:30, and as we got our gear together we ran into some folks from ttips - towelie, and Sherpa1 and his buddy (Dan I think?). Then at the trailhead we ran into snownskate and his buddy, who unfortunately forgot his poles and had to use a stick.
The weather was really strange... but then, the weather has been strange around here all season so I guess it's not really all that strange. It was cold - below freezing, and there was a strong wind out of the E/NE. I've never been there with the wind blowing from that direction. With the wind and the new snow, it felt like we had been transported back to the beginning of the winter that was *supposed* to happen here.
The group on the way to the lake:
Buffy gets the first good look at the chute. Looking good! Wait... are those TRACKS in there?? Nah, just an illusion...
The east chutes that Eco/PJ rode the previous day showed no signs of their attack:
We skinned out past the lake and up into the bowl under Crescent couloir. Did I mention it was windy?
Buffy is enjoying herself. In this pic it looks like a typical sunny, warm spring day. Don't be fooled...
At this point we started booting up the chute. We really wanted to check out the conditions first if we were going to ride it. This is when the fun really began.
That snow in the apron was DEEP! I watched as Sherpa1 and towelie made slow upward progress by basically swimming in the stuff. Note towelie's long sleeve shirt and no shell. At this point, the wind had really picked up and was blowing up the chute. On top of that we had spindrift coming down the chute. The snow would get on your body and clothes, and the solar radiation would melt it, but then it would immediately freeze because of the cold and wind. I think towelie's core temp must have dropped a bit here, so that when he subsequently got the shell out it didn't help too much. He was saying how is problem is usually overheating. Who would have thought today would be so damn cold?? This was easily the coldest I've been this season.
So anyway, back to swimming in the deep snow. I broke out the secret weapon.
I was able to get up to the front and break some trail for a change! I think there were a few folks who finally saw the light of Verts that day.
Here's Buffy hanging tough, even with the boot postholing. I like touring with Buffy. She's totally chill, will go anywhere, and can rip any line; i.e. she's a good bc partner:
Once into the actual chute the snow got slightly more manageable. Then about halfway up it started getting variable, with some dust on crust on one side and pow on the other. Then near the top it got downright scary, with completely solid sections, and sucker coverage over rocks. The wind had done a nice number up there. In retrospect, we probably would have had better luck climbing the wider, slightly less steep chute that goes up far looker's left of Crescent, or even the lookers left variation that connects into Crescent midway down. But that's not what we did...
Sherpa1 near the top:
Sherpa1 decided to stop near the top in the main chute right where you can sneak in from the hanging snowfield. I traversed over to check out the hanging snowfield, and it was good... but the traverse was wind scoured and icy, with some rocks thrown in for good measure. So of course I continued on to the top. The others wisely turned around below the hanging snowfield. Here's Buffy and towelie getting close:
I topped out on the little notch, and the wind was howling up the chute through there. On the other side down lower the wind was blocked, and it was relatively calm and sunny. It was pretty strange. And then, as I was standing there admiring the views, I suddenly got that feeling.
It's that feeling that every backcountry traveller dreads.
You know what I'm talking about. The one that says:
Oh... my... god... I have to TAKE A SH*T RIGHT NOW!!!
Not good! Especially on the top of a peak with gale-force winds blowing up the chute (so to speak). Let's just say I'm glad nobody else chose to follow me up there. Ah, the things they don't tell you about in the guidebooks.
So anyway... eventually I got strapped in and started down. I made one turn on the hanging snowfield, and slowly inched across the frozen crossover into the main chute. The upper part sucked, so I did some sweet survival sideslips till things softened up enough to make some decent turns. Toward the bottom the snow seemed better and I let it open up a bit, then got a little nose-heavy in the deep and heavy snow, and BAM!! I beatered it out into the apron and stopped right above Buffy, who had a great view of the spectacle, but unfortunately didn't have the camera at hand. Oh well.
I did get some helmetcam footage, and I was really hoping that part was going to turn out, but the camera crapped out right on the first headplant. Doh! It's still pretty entertaining though. I'll try to get that up soon.
At this point we were cold and over it, so we traversed over to the bowl that drops down near the lake, and finally got in some good turns. Here's Buffy gettin' some:
Check out those poles. They froze up and she couldn't collapse them! Time for some flicklocks...
A few good turns:
Back at the lake we found some refuge with Sherpa1 and towelie, and were finally able to take a breather/have lunch/warm up. Check out the ice on Buffy's helmet strap and in her pigtails. That's what was forming on us all the way up the chute.
One last look on the way out. So inviting... such a tease!
All in all it was still a great day, and it's always fun to get a little pow in spring. If only there weren't that pesky wind. Oh well, there will be other times. One of these days I'll get it right like PJ did.
On the home, I shot this Gratuitous Pano (tm) from Roundtop to Kirkwood. I bet the KW folks are kicking themselves for not staying open one more weekend. It would have been epic!
The drive home was pretty much auto-pilot... but then as I got close to Jackson I saw a sign for Black Chasm cavern. I noticed it on many drives through the area but never stopped. The sign said it was 2 miles from the road. I figured what the hell? Might as well check it out. Besides, by now I was low enough that it was back to summer weather. It's well worth a stop. Really interesting geological formations inside the cave, including rarely found helictites.
After that, it was a long drive home, and finally, some sleep!
And with winter officially over, it's now full-on mountain biking season in Santa Cruz! We decided to check out the trails the next day. It was weird going from freezing my ass off (uh, literally) one day to sweating like it's the middle of summer the next, but hey I'll take it.
Working a new trick, called "Fresh Off The Short Bus"
Awesome trip report Jim, f-in hilarious! Glad you made it up despite your hangover and lack of sleep. It was really fun riding with you. The helmet cam video was sweet. Sorry I didn't break trail for you like I was supposed to, but I just couldn't catch up to you. I'm going to have to get some verts.
Joined: Wed Jun 07, 2006 3:06 pm Posts: 157 Location: Kings Beach, Ca
This TR got me laughin', I had the same experience on Mt. Adams last year....unfortunately it was a busy, wide open summit with not much shelter from the eyes or wind.
I still can't believe you summited, it must be those "huge arctic snow balls" (stolen from Colbert). I've only been knocked off my feet once by the wind and Saturday felt like it was going to be a repeat.
Thanks for the helmet footage btw, it gave me a good idea of what the CC actually looks like at the top w/ that rollover.
Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 6:09 pm Posts: 388 Location: Chamonix, France
heh, i had the same summit poop fiasco on Mt. Whitney in March. One of the other guys on the group had it half way up the mountaineers chute, which was much more difficult to handle in terms of privacy though.
Joined: Sun Jul 17, 2005 2:23 pm Posts: 453 Location: Howell Mt., Napa Valley
Nice riding jim. I got a sh!tty story. I was up at Hull one time by myself for two days, and I was sick with the mudbutt. I was on the summit just before dropping in and I had to fart. Oops! I actually sh!t my pants. The lemon in the Led Zeppelin song came to mind...
I was glad I didn't have any tentmates that night!
That's where the ShartShort (tm) comes into play, right there. Jim - now I'm starting to think you really should market those things. No more worries about 'summit poop fever' and packing it out gets a whole lot easier.
This is my friend Rich holding his 'little 14er,' the result of a blown gasket at the top of misery hill on Shasta.
Jim - that TR was a crack up. The 'Short Bus' is a pretty sweet move - you should try try to pull one in competition for sure.
Joined: Fri Nov 19, 2004 8:41 pm Posts: 1622 Location: Santa Cruz, CA
You know, believe it or not I did actually have a pair of Shart Shorts (tm) with me... but they were in the pack instead of properly installed! DOH!! I coulda been happy like this guy, but NOOOO:
jib describes the perfect scenario where Shart Shorts (tm) rule. I mean, you can't get much closer to the definition! Ray, maybe we should send him out a pair to beta test, whaddya think? SF, I do like the no-hassle pack-out that the Shart Shorts (tm) provide, and they are in fact NASA approved... but there is still something about that paper with the giant bullseye in the Shasta pack-out bags that just makes you actually want to use it. That is pure marketing genius at work. Ray we gotta hire that guy.
Tommy - no new bike (however as you can see I am sporting a new and improved look), that's the Enduro I ride when I don't feel like pushing 45 lbs of DH bike around!