Post subject: Re: Tioga, Granjero, Longboards, and Flying Monkeys
Posted: Thu May 14, 2009 7:39 am
Joined: Fri Nov 19, 2004 8:41 pm Posts: 1619 Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Well, it seems like as soon as the 120 gate to Tioga Pass opens, all the usual suspects come out of the woodwork to get their steep on. This year was no different. From what I heard, a bunch of the Tahoe locals were out there right when they opened the gate mid-week last week, and pretty much every steep line out there had already been skiied (most of them multiple times) by the time the weekend rolled around. But as it turns out, the spring snow had been recycling itself very nicely, so lines that had been skiied one day were totally fresh the next. It's a bit of an odd snowpack in the Sierra this spring - really thin down low below 10k, but quite good up high. This works out nicely for getting the high mountain pass roads open in time to access the goods while they're still good. And right now... they're good. It's finally spring in the Sierra!
As usual, I left Santa Cruz way later than I intended. At least I didn't have to fight traffic, but this put me in Lee Vining at 3 AM. After a 3-hour power nap in my favorite parking lot, I woke to this view.
I had a feeling it was going to be a good day.
I wasn't sure exactly where I was going to go, and a last minute change of plans had me rolling solo, but I was sure I'd run into someone I knew out there, so I headed up to the Tioga lake parking area. Some sights along the way.
Dana Plateau. Good up high, burnt down low.
Powerhouse. Still looking good up high, and enough snow down low to make it worth the full descent.
Ellery. This is when things started really looking up. Good snow all the way to the car, and the chutes were WAY more filled in than this time last year, and also more filled in than a month ago.
So I got up to the Tioga lot, pulled up next to the one other car there, and... turns out it was Granjero and Shane (Factor on TGR), and their buddy Phil. It was funny because exactly one year ago I met Shane randomly at the summit of Mt. Dana, and I had run into Shane and Granjero at the top of Crescent couloir on our trip out there in epic pow a month ago. So this seemed kinda like destiny. I had never actually toured with these guys before though, and I knew they were all super strong riders... so I was little intimidated at first. But it turns out they're super chill guys, and really fun to tour with.
We headed out across the lake:
... and onto a frozen snow climb with some "character building" skinning. Let me just say the Mr. Chomps kicked ass in this stuff! The other guys were jealous.
Pretty soon we were up on the shoulder ridge of Dana. Looking back towards Conness and North Peak:
The crew, with the shoulder ridge in the background:
Views over to some cool stuff off to the west, the Kuna Crest:
Here's a pano of the Dana Plateau from this point. You can still pretty much skin all the way across the plateau.
We wanted to check out the "unknown" chute on the shoulder of Dana, and soon we were there. Rider's right entrance doesn't really go through the rocks.
Shane decides to huck into it anyway:
Just kidding. Here's Shane next to the slightly more sane rider's left entrance. Kinda hard to tell, but there's a track in there. We found out later that JayTe and gimpy had ridden it the previous day.
Looking down into it from the side:
And from the entrance:
It looked prime... but we wanted to check out Solstice as well. So we continued up the ridge.
We passed by some other sweet-looking chutes along the way. There are probably 3 or 4 nice chutes that go between Unknown and Solstice.
As we were approaching Solstice, about 6 guys got there ahead of us, coming from the summer trail approach. That approach is nicer because you can skin all the way to Solstice. Turns out one of the groups was JayTe's crew. It was cool to finally meet him. He said he had been up there all week, and told us about all the sick lines that had been hit, and how great the conditions were. We watched 2 guys drop into Solstice, and it looked great! Super smooth, and you can sneak in to rider's left of the cornice. So we got ready to drop in, but first Granjero said he needed to take care of something with his monkey.
Next thing you know, he's slingshot-ing this stuffed monkey doll off the cornice. It's one of those dolls that makes a, well, a monkey noise when you launch it. There was a pretty strong west wind at this point, so that monkey really got some air (you can see him in the top left of the pic below). He landed about halfway down the chute, and then took a slide for life most of the rest of the way. Unfortunately, he was then covered in sluff, and wasn't wearing a transceiver, so we'll be doing a body recovery when the snow melts.
After the monkey ceremony, it was time to drop in. Granjero goes first.
... followed by Shane
... and Phil
Couple shots midway down:
It was great corn! It probably could've stood to ripen a tad more before we dropped, but all in all it was a great run, and one that had eluded me for a long time, so it was nice to finally get to do it.
Well that was fun, now what?
Closeup of Dana couloir. It looked a little more wind-affected than the other lines out there.
A few of the lines that go through between Solstice and Unknown:
Phil and Shane getting ready for the short climb up to the plateau, with Unknown chute in the background:
After a short rock scramble we were able to start skinning again towards Ellery Bowl.
Pretty soon we were on top of Chute Out, which looked very filled in and good to go.
Granjero and Phil decided to drop Chute Out, while Shane and I checked out some of the entrances to the Banana chute area, just a little further down the ridge. JayTe had dropped a sweet line there:
It looked like great snow all the way back to the car! Shane and I were pretty stoked because there were still a couple of untracked entrances. While he went over to check one of them out, Granjero and Phil dropped into Chute Out.
Then I turned back to find Shane standing on top of the one entrance that sneaked through a bunch of massive cornices. This slope looked practically vertical from where I stood, and it was pretty damn impressive watching Shane drop in.
With each jump turn it seemed like he was travelling a good 10 feet in the air before landing.
Zoom in on that last one for a better perspective on the steepness:
Day-um!! It was definitely one of the most impressive descents I've seen out there.
I dropped in on a slightly more sane entrance, and found a bit of protected porn up high, turning to perfect corn as I went down. It was a great run, best snow of the day! The apron was just classic Sierra corn.
Looking back up and stoked to be here. Note the slideable rail and jib-able roof.
The view from below with the chute entrances noted (Shane's entrance is kind of hidden behind the ridge):
At this point it was only 1:30, so we grabbed the beers we had stashed in the snow, and hung out with JayTe's crew for a bit.
Gratuitous pic of False White, where it seems like 90% of the people were that day. Looked like a ski run at the end of the day. A good ski run.
We headed back up to get the other car, at which point Granjero informed us that he wasn't done yet.
What followed was probably the coolest thing I've ever seen up there.
He pulled out a longboard from the trunk, a pair of work gloves, a couple squares of plastic, and a blowtorch. He proceeded to make some downhill skate gloves on the spot. Just torch the plastic (from a cutting board) to start one side of it melting a bit, slap the glove palm on the melted plastic, then stick it in the snow to cool. Instant skate glove.
So then we put one car out in front and one behind, both with our hazards flashing. This is probably one of the only days of the year we could get away with something like this. The road had just opened, so there were hardly any other cars out. We only ran into a few cars the whole ride back to the Mo-mart.
Here we go.
Back at Ellery, now the speed starts picking up. Note the motorcyle, who almost ran into Shane as he ran across the oncoming lane to snap a pic of Granjero. Oops.
Granjero demonstrates the perfect speed-check slide, with Ellery in the background.
This is fun.
1000 feet down, only 2000 more to go:
A quick break to let the wheels cool off:
Another shot of Powerhouse while we're waiting:
Back on the road:
Chick on road bike, must impress...
Nothing to see here, move along...
Ah, the sight of Mono lake...
... and finally pulling into the Mo-Mart! The people in the car turning out of the Mo-Mart were quire surprised.
And upon pulling into the parking lot, one of the wheels disintegrated.
What better way to top off the amazing day we'd had so far, than a nice Mo-Mart meal followed by that super-rich chocolate cake they always have there. We were ready to pass out after that. In fact, that's exactly what Phil did, right on the lawn by the sign. The only problem was he didn't realize that part of the lawn was on an automatic sprinkler system... but he found out about 30 minutes into his nap as he was rudely awakened!
After chillin' at the Mo-mart for a while, we made plans for Sunday. I called Buffy and BGnight and convinced them they had to come down for the epic corn-fest. Then we headed off to a renegade camp with JayTe and turned in early. It was nice to get some actual sleep.
Post subject: Re: Tioga, Granjero, Longboards, and Flying Monkeys
Posted: Thu May 14, 2009 7:40 am
Joined: Fri Nov 19, 2004 8:41 pm Posts: 1619 Location: Santa Cruz, CA
After a great sleep, we woke early and met Buffy at the Mo-mart for a quick breakfast. Due to a communication mixup on my part, we missed BGnight, who had showed up a bit earlier, didn't see us there, and continued on to the pass and went out solo. Sorry about that man!
This time we decided to head directly up Ellery bowl to the plateau. Initially we had wanted to go up to the shoulder of Dana and hit Unknown, but it was warmer today, and with our later start we figured maybe that wasn't the best plan. The new plan was to check out 3rd Pillar, and if it looked good, drop it and climb back up. Then head over to Powerhouse and drop that. We also wanted to check out the "Bermuda Triangle" chute that JayTe had been telling us about. It's a sweet narrow shot to lookers right of the main Powerhouse chute.
We started skinning around 9 AM, and shortly after starting, a rock fell on the cliffs lookers right of Poop chute, and dislodged a bunch of bowling ball to torso-sized chunks of frozen snow. We kept thinking they would stop, disintegrate, or otherwise get lodged in the snow, but no, they kept bouncing down the slope full-speed toward us. It was surreal, like a game of human Frogger. Buffy was most directly in the firing zone, and she dodged quite a few of the chunks. Fortunately nobody got hit, but it was a real eye-opening experiences. Those cornices and rocks can come down at any time!! Here's one of the larger chunks. This thing was rock hard!
We stuck to the climbers left side of the bowl for the rest of the ascent, as far from the cornices as we could get. Once again, it was rock-hard snow for skinning.
Phil and Buffy:
Here Shane demonstrates the "ass-out" skinning technique for ascending steep switchbacks in icy snow.
Meanwhile, Buffy and I went straight up, thanks to our Chomps.
Speaking of Chomps, Buffy had a great trick for temporarily carrying the Chomps on your ski pole, for short sections where you don't need them, but might want them soon after. Just loop the ski pole strap through the hole in the Chomps, and back over the top of the pole. Sweet! (Only problem is it doesn't work with Whippets...)
Pretty soon we were at the stairway to heaven bootpack put in the day before, which made for an easy ascent of the bowl headwall.
And soon we popped out on the plateau, with that familiar but never old view of Mt. Dana.
We headed over to the Powerhouse chute area to see if we could find the entrance to the "Bermuda Triangle" chute. After a few false alarms, we found it. Phil checks it out:
Looking down from the top. It starts with a narrow slot entrance, then there's this huge triangular hanging snowfield in the midde (hence the name), and then it narrows back down at the bottom. It looked sweet, and untracked. The only problem was an overhanging cornice hanging off the cliff over the entrance, which seemed a little sketchy, but we thought we might be able to cut it off. Hmm... we'll come back...
Off to 3rd Pillar. A couple other guys had the same idea, and got there just ahead of us. More Tahoe locals. It was funny, I recognized one of the guys from the parking lot at South Lake the weekend before, and Phil totally knew the guy. Small world. Anyway, the chute itself looked way more filled in than it was a month ago. Back then, it was unrideable. The chockstone in the middle was fully exposed, and the narrow section below it was less than board width. Now, the chockstone had snow on it and was negotiable, and there was enough snow in the choke to at least make it through. I went out on the edge and found a suitable rock with hundreds of feet of air below from which to sit on and check things out. There were already some tracks in it, and a bootpack back up.
The middle wasn't quite in the sun yet, so we decided to wait it out a bit and give it a chance to ripen. This provided Granjero with an opportunity to do his own little tribute to the late, great Shane McConkey. He had brought with him a Shane McConkey doll, complete with parachute. What better place for him to ski-base off of than 3rd Pillar?
3 - 2 - 1 - dropping!
The chute opens perfectly...
... and he floats safely down to a ledge below, where he will rest in peace. Long live Shane!
Now back to waiting for the chute to ripen. I had some time to kill, so I got a few shots of the scenery. Some of the chutes off the shoulder of Dana between Solstice and Unknown:
Powerhouse looking good, with North Peak just poking out way in the background:
Finally the chute looked good to go, so Tahoe guy #1 drops in (forgot his name).
Notice the runnel starting to form in the middle from the sluff:
Approaching the chockstone:
He chose to sideslip onto the top of the rock, then jump off the end:
Followed by a bit more sideslipping through the crux, which was barely ski width:
Now Tahoe guy #2, Jeremy:
Watching both of them sideslip down to the rock, and then again below it didn't look like fun... especially considering there were 5 of us. Any good snow would pretty much be scraped away by the time the last person went down. So we bailed back to Bermuda Triangle.
We were still a bit sketched about the overhanging cornice, so we though it would be a good idea to cut it off - we'd remove the hazard, and also test the slope. I had just gotten a Backcountry Bomb cornice-cutting cord, and this would be the perfect place to try it out. So we went cornice fishing.
It should have been easy. But there was some supernatural force keeping that cornice stuck to the rock. An hour later the cornice was still there. We broke the cornice cord. Twice. Used the snow saw. Threw huge rocks on the cornice. In the end, the cornice won. We could only get a tiny part of it to go. Here's what it looked like at the end. It's hard to see, but part of the cornice cord is hanging down from the cornice (I had to cut the cord). How lame. It turns out the cornice was totally solid and we could have dropped the chute. Now, we had to bail because we had surely weakened the cornice some unknown amount, and now there were also rocks in the entrance. Sorry.
Phil had (smartly) bailed halfway into the cornice cutting fiasco, and was already down the upper Powerhouse chute. We decided to drop in on the fin entrance, which was looking really nice. We let Buffy go first since she had put up with all of our sitting around and not snowboarding for so long, and besides... girls first! She drops in:
... and takes the inside line:
... all the way down.
Granjero goes next.
He goes outside. Waaay outside.
I gave my camera to Shane and actually got a shot of myself for a change, just to prove I was actually there
It was great snow all the way down! Perfect corn, once again. The crew was all smiles at the bottom.
Looking up at the Bermuda Triangle. We'll be back.
We still had a couple thousand vert to go though. We found some fun zones along the way. Granjero hits a nice windlip:
One last look back up:
Then I ran out of memory on my SD card. Which is OK, because if I posted any more pics it would probably exceed the bandwidth for this forum.
The rest of the ride down was fun and not too manky, and it was only about a 15 minute rock-hopping/bushwhacking session at the bottom to get back to the road. When we popped out on the road, we were surprised to find about 10 more people pop out right behind us. It was yet another Tahoe crew, this time with Glen Poulsen, another local legend. I also found out he had had a birthday celebration the day before, involving 50+ people doing the Dunderberg to Green Creek tour, and at least one person skiing naked down Green Creek.