Forums Trip Reports Tioga, Unknown Virgins, and Disco Balls
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    1421 Posts

    … another installment in the never-ending jimw fascination with Tioga Pass …


    Last weekend at Tioga was sooo good, that I just had to go back again. It didn’t take much convincing to rally the usual crew. We also hatched a secret plan to crash the ttips gathering the same weekend, involving a portable disco ball setup inside the Backcountry Shortbus…

    … but I digress. First things first.

    Day 1

    We had some beta that the chutes off Dana and the plateau had been holding up through the week, so we were hopeful that they would still be good despite the predicted record high temps. Ray had been bitch squealing about not getting to do any big lines this season, so my plan was to get him into one. Specifically, “Unknown chute” off the shoulder of Dana. (There has to be a better name for that, but that name seems to be sticking now since that’s how it’s labelled in BCD’s book… :)) Ray wasn’t sure if he could handle it, but after looking down it the previous weekend and getting good reports, I was pretty sure he was ready to lose his Unknown Virginity. Storn wasn’t up for the bigger lines, but was excited to check out Dana couloir and push his limits a bit. This worked out because the approach to both was the same. And as usual, Buffy just wanted to ride. 🙂 We weren’t sure if we’d exit out Powerhouse or Ellery, so we decided to park a car at each.

    I had heard that Powerhouse was pretty much done, but we were hoping we might still be able to milk another run out of it. It was looking pretty thin down low on the way up.

    Ellery, on the other hand, was still looking good. Here’s a shot of the chutes, with the moon.

    This time we parked at the upper lot and took the summer trail approach. After a minor fiasco involving me forgetting my skins in the shuttle car (after pushing everyone else to get ready so we could start early), we were off.

    There seemed to be a pretty decent refreeze despite the warm temps. Mr. Chomps really helped!

    This approach is so much better than going up the shoulder. You can skin all the way to Solstice on a pretty consistent angle.

    When we got up to the shoulder, we headed over to Unknown, while Storn continued on to Dana. His plan was to summit, hang out for a bit, then drop the main Dana couloir. There were several other folks headed out that way. I figured with the warm temps, it would definitely soften up, even though it was reported to be pretty hard and variable the previous weekend.

    Buffy was on a mission, and when I got over to the entrance to Unknown, she was already strapping in and getting ready to drop. It was already looking prime at 10 AM. There were also 3 guys at the bottom who had just ridden it. Turns out these were JayTe’s buddies, Devin and crew. I got into place and snapped a few pics as Buffy dropped in wearing a t-shirt (Spark R&D!) and showed it who’s boss:

    That little speck at the bottom is her exiting the chute:

    She radioed back up and confirmed that the conditions were great!

    Ray was next up. When we started out, he said he wasn’t sure if he was going to drop it. He said he’d come over with us and check it out, and if it looked too sketchy, he’d continue up to Solstice or Dana. But once he got a look at it and the conditions, and watched Buffy drop it, after a bit of “sphincter introspection” (thanks to Sierra Fred on ttips for that term!) he went for it:

    Woohoo! No more complaints about a lack of big lines from Ray.

    I dropped in last, and found consistent nice corn all the way. It was in way better shape than when we did it for the first time last season. Better coverage, and better snow conditions. This time I brought the helmetcam, and maybe one of these days I’ll get around to posting some footage…

    Buffy and Ray both stoked at the bottom:

    We radioed Storn and heard he was still climbing to the summit, so we started skinning over to the plateau. Buffy: “I think I see Storn up there!”

    Getting up to the plateau involved some of our favorite activites – split-skiing:

    … and splitbooting:

    No trip is complete without some of both!

    We took a little break once we got up to the plateau. Buffy and Ray pointing out our line:

    We had some lunch and then got into radio contact with Storn again. He was at the summit and getting ready to drop in. Here’s a shot of Dana Couloir, with two tiny specks in it that are people, and I think one is Storn:

    We watched the specks, then I saw one of them go directly in a straight line at a pretty fast pace for about half the chute. 😯 Not good. I was hoping it wasn’t Storn. We couldn’t get radio contact. Eventually the speck started moving down again, and we saw more specks coming down, so at least it didn’t look like anyone was injured. We found out later that Storn had in fact had a bit of a slide for life. The descent from the summit had been nice corn, and so was the entrance to the chute, but after the rollover it changed unexpectedly to hard snow that hadn’t really softened up, even at 12:30 on a really warm day, so it took him by surprise. I think there was at least one other person that took a slide in there that day.

    We weren’t able to reestablish radio contact at that point, but since it seemed like everyone in the chute was OK, and we had previously agreed to meet at the bottom of Ellery, we continued across the plateau to check out Powerhouse.

    I wanted to check out that “Bermuda Triangle” chute that we had looked at the previous week. For some reason we had a hard time finding the entrance. I guess it’s aptly named. Finally we found it:

    The cornice was still hanging onto my broken cornice cord from last week:

    And the rocks that we threw and bounced off the cornice were still there in the entrance:

    The snow also didn’t look as good as last week. That would have been the time to drop it. But I really wanted to give it a shot. I downclimbed a bit into the entrance to check out the snow. It was starting to get manky, but felt pretty stable. The crux would be getting past the rocks in the entrance, and avoiding the heavy sluff in the narrow section down below.

    I decided to give it a shot.

    The entrance was barely board width wide and involved a bit of sideslipping to get to the steep rollover where the rocks were. I edged gingerly over the rollover and tried to line up for a turn through/around the rocks, but eventually gravity took over and I had to go with it. I knocked one of the rocks down the chute with my tail, then turned across the chute and onto the hanging “triangle” snowfield, where I stopped for a moment to let the sluff go by. Then I dropped back in, made a couple turns on the snowfield and turned back into the chute where it narrows down at the bottom. At this point, what I *should* have done was pointed it onto the apron below in order to avoid the sluff. I knew this, but still my natural reaction was to make a couple turns to check my speed, and sure enough, the sluff caught up with me. Managing heavy sluff is definitely something you have to be ready for in these conditions. Just a small amount can still be a lot of weight, and enough to knock you off your feet. The sluff started forcing my board down the runnel it had formed, as I fought to get up and out of it. Eventually I got out onto the apron. It wasn’t pretty, but I made it down. And at least I got some entertaining helmetcam footage. 🙂

    Here’s a shot looking back up from the bottom. The sluff washed away most of the tracks, but really I was there! 🙂

    I’d definitely like to go back and ride it cleaner in better conditions. Next season…

    Understandably, Ray and Buffy wanted nothing to do with that chute after I made it look so fun. So they headed over to the fin entrance to Powerhouse. I was too far away to get good shots of them descending, but here’s Ray on the runout:

    Here’s the crew posing below the chutes and demonstrating “shot block smiles”… unfortunately I was too far away to get the full effect. You bite into a shot block to cover your teeth, and then smile to make it look like you’re missing teeth (OK, maybe we were getting a little tired at this point…). BT is right above Ray’s board in this pic.

    Buffy was still feeling spunky though, the telltale sign is the pigtail antennae:

    The spunkiness started to wane once we got about halfway down the final snow finger, however. Last week, we were able to ride around this section. This week, it was a full-on exposed waterfall that we had to downclimb through. No wonder all the rivers in the valley were raging compared to last week!

    Then we got to do some more splitbooting back to the car.

    Finally we got back to the car. It was only 2:30, but it felt like we’d been out forever. All we wanted to do was drop our gear in the car, drive back up to the lake, and chill.

    That was when Ray announced that he couldn’t find his car key.

    After several minutes of frantic searching through the pack and various articles of clothing, the key magically appeared… from his pocket. 🙂 I don’t know if he was just messing with us, but I was just glad we didn’t have to walk out of there!

    We drove back up to Ellery to meet up with Storn. He wasn’t back yet, so we set up shop on the rocks. Ray brought the full-on lounge kit, including a nice ripe watermelon!

    Meanwhile, Buffy and I went for a, um, “refreshing” dip in the just-thawing Ellery lake. Got some helmetcam of that too… 🙂

    Finally Storn showed up… on the road. He had walked down from the upper Tioga parking area. Apparently the radio had failed due to getting wet, so he couldn’t get in contact with us. After the slide experience in Dana, he was understandably a bit shaken, and so bailed on heading up to Ellery, and followed the canyon back down to the road… then walked the road back down to Ellery. So he was beat when he got back to the car.

    But at least he was in one piece. A quick descent to the Mo-mart for a meal revived us all a bit. Then we headed out to Mono lake and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

    The original plan at this point was to head up to VA Lakes to crash the ttips party with the disco ball setup… but we were all just too beat. It woulda been fun; we’ll just have to save it for next year.

    Day 2

    Sunday was supposed to be even warmer than Sat, so we woke early and met up with wavy at the Mo-mart… unfortunately before they opened for breakfast. Today’s plan was to play around in Ellery. Buffy and I also wanted to go check out Ripper, since we had heard reports of good snow there earlier in the week.

    Starting up Ellery:

    JayTe’s friends Devin and were up ahead of us, with the same plan.

    Lots of cornice fall activity above the bowl:

    The stairway to heaven bootpack:

    Looking back at the bowl from the lookers left side. You can see the bootpack going up diagonally to the left.

    Looking down from above. A couple people are in the bootpack.

    Once on the plateau, Buffy and I started skinning over toward Ripper. We were able to skin most of the way, with a few sections of dry-tooling.

    Pretty soon we were at the entrance.

    The snow at the very top near the rocks was pretty rotten. Buffy is not kneeling here.

    The snow in the chute looked good though, and we could see earlier tracks from Devin and friend.

    So Buffy dropped in:

    Here we go:

    The snow looked soft… in fact almost too soft, though it was only 10:30. Buffy had some good turns up high, but then got sucked into the sluff for a bit down lower. It was similar to Bermuda Triangle the day before. Lots of heavy sluff pouring down in runnels that were best avoided.

    I dropped in, and found nice turnable snow, if a bit heavy… and lots of heavy sluff. Here’s a view looking back up from below at all the sluff:

    At this point, we weren’t quite sure what to do. Originally our plan was to drop Ripper, then climb back up. But there was no way we were climbing back up that manky snow. One option would be to head over to the Coke chute cirque and climb up that. But that was a ways away, and the coverage getting over there was already pretty thin. We went down a ways to scope it out. We could also just bail and downclimb/bushwhack the whole lower section back to the road, but that really didn’t sound like fun. The only other option was to head back up 3rd Pillar… which we then discovered was exactly what Devin and crew had done. Unfortunately we were a good 500 feet below their skin track at this point – they had traversed directly over from the bottom of Ripper, while we had gone down the apron a ways.

    It seemed like the best of our few bad options, so we started the long skin traverse. The bottom of Liberty chute looked pretty nasty.

    It was interesting climbing up 3rd Pillar. Gives you a different perspective. This is looking up from the base of the pillar itself. I want to climb that thing someday.

    Starting the bootpack. Major thanks to Devin’s crew for the solid bootpack! Fortunately 3rd Pillar doesn’t receive as much sun as Ripper, and the snow in the chute was a little more solid.

    Buffy approaching the choke. Definitely didn’t look like this woulda been fun to ride down that day…

    Finally we topped out.

    And here we are again…

    We got into radio contact with wavy, who was waiting for us down at the car at Ellery. Storn and Ray had already bailed so they could get back home at a reasonable time. So we headed over to the Banana Chute area.

    Looking down towards the car:

    And at the entrance:

    Man, what a difference a week and some high temps makes (…and more than a few people hitting the same lines…)! Here’s what it looked like the week prior:

    But, it still look good enough to ride. At that moment, who should show up but the long-lost Towelie! He ended up riding the same line as us, then we met up for some good food and catching up at the Mo-mart, where we also got to meet Kara from the ttips crew.

    Good times all around – once again Tioga delivers!

    2486 Posts

    GROUP SUPPORTis what its all about.

    I want to thakn JimW and Buffy for getting me out there. I really got worked up over this a few days before we went for it.

    I remember seeing this line for the first time a couple of seasons ago. At that time I wanted no part of it.

    HELL NO NEVERwas my reply when asked if i thought about riding it.
    I guess the steeper things you ride the more you get used to it so after seeing Jims TR from last week I wanted some action

    I dont think I would have ever made it on my own so thanks you 2 ( I think) :scratch:

    263 Posts

    It’s official…JimW has bigger balls than I do. Bermuda Triangle and Liberty, those are some proud lines Dubs!

    Way to sack up and ride unknown Ray!

    And Storn soloed Dana…radness!

    Super fun weekend with the CA crew! Thanks for always letting me tag along even though I’m a girl.

    Splitboarding is the answer unless Splitbooting is the answer, either way we're going snowboarding because America!

    1421 Posts

    @tex wrote:

    GROUP SUPPORTis what its all about.

    Does “Sack up, ya pansy!” count as group support? There’s a fine line between that and peer pressure… 🙂

    So, uh… way to sack up Ray!

    And Buffy would have you think that she’s “tagging along”, when in fact she’s usually out in front waiting for us to hurry up.

    OK group hug! :bananas:

    2486 Posts

    Best quote this season-spoken by Buffy as we looked down JimW’s line on the bermuda triangle

    Thats just a little above my Knar Bar Jim

    4149 Posts

    Another jimw Tioga classic! :headbang:

    ps. take some dang horizontal riding pics every once in a while so I can use one for the cover. 😉

    525 Posts

    nice TR jim.

    it looks like i missed out on a really fun time with ya’ll. glad you got tex into his big line for the year!

    189 Posts

    Death slides suck! Too much wasted vert. Ray stepping it up rules! congrats. You’re all animals! :bow:

    246 Posts

    damn fine riding!

    just finished putting a new engine in my trusty van and am thinking of heading out that way this weekend for my first ever eastern sierra bc trip… any recommendations on the best map to get? i’ve been reading up on bcd’s book, but it’d be nice to have something a little more pocket friendly while hiking…. something like my trusty “fine edge” south tahoe basin map that has been my companion all season.

    875 Posts

    Looks like a lot of fun! Challenging lines and surviving them for some Whoa Nellie goodness :thumpsup: :thumpsup:

    165 Venture Divide/Spark Frankenburners/La Sportiva Spantiks
    163W Jones Solution/Phantom Alphas/Dynafit TLT5s
    162 Furberg


    1421 Posts

    I also forgot to add that Storn stepped it up in a big way on Sunday, by doing Ellery Bowl from the top for the first time, despite having been shaken from the slide experience on Saturday. Way to go! :bananas:

    Dave took it easy on Sunday and was testing out some new modified softboots from Gabriel, but sacked up in another way – by helping Storn unload all my crap from his car so he could leave. Anyone who knows me, know that this is no easy task! 🙂

    BCR – Yeah, sorry about the vertical pics. It’s hard to get them steep lines in there horizontally… 😕 I’ll keep it in mind!

    BS – I have a beat up old 7.5 quad map for the Tioga Pass area which has Dana and the plateau area, and a separate one which has Conness. I used those for years. I think I have the Mo-mart phone number written on one. You could also use the Natl Geographic map machine at REI (or Natl Geographic TOPO software if you have it) and print out a custom map. Also… if you happen to have an iPhone 3G, check out GPSKit. I’ve been using that lately and it rocks!

    1514 Posts

    Great report & pictures, Jim! And a really fun weekend!

    The brown streak follows my approximate tragectory down Dana Couloir. I kind of f*cked up and didn’t take this descent seriously enough.

    I summitted prolly just before noon and there were a total of about a dozen people up there. Jim, Buffy & TEX had dropped their line around 10 AM and they were totally stoked on conditions. Snow was soft up top and nice.

    I kinda blew off some clues such as someone saying that a climber had ridden much of the coulior on his ice axe trying to self arrest. But that was way earlier in the day. Also a skier who had climbed up it said he was gonna bail on riding it because it was really firm in there. But he had been on the summit for a while and that part of the coulior was in shadow still while he was climbing it. And the skier who had climbed with him was game to ride it.

    Anyway, from the plateau, jim radioed that the whole thing was in sunshine. Two skiers and a girl on a snowboard took off about 20 minutes ahead of me. Finally I took off from the summit around 12:30 and rode beautiful corn down Dana’s shoulder to the top of the couloir.

    The snow up top looked fine. I went for it right away. The chute kinda corkscrews a little to the right at the top and rolls over to a steep angle. Pretty much immediately I was on hard polished snow and I didn’t have my axe out or anything. It was really inconceivable to me that it wouldn’t be great corn or at least edgable.

    I did get things stopped, but my situation was precarious. It seemed unadvisable to try sitting down and unstrapping. So I reached deep into my bag of steeps technique. And the leaf started falling to the left. And then the leaf started falling to the right. And then the leaf started going faster and faster straight down the slope. There were some bumps and as I picked up speed I bounced a little and then butt-checked. Wow then I really picked up speed as sat down and lost the edge.

    I continued to accelerate and the slope continued to steepen. I didn’t see any feasable way to stop and I started to wonder how things would end up. I got going fast enough that the ride was getting unstable. When I would touch down my board to the snow, the force would jar me to the left or right and I would have to work to keep from tumbling.

    I had thought the slider’s left side of the chute would be soft for sure, as it had been in the sun for some time. But actually it was very smooth over there and I think a bit steeper. I was able to drift right or left a bit by angling the board. Toward the granite wall on the right, I found more and more lumpy tecture in the ‘snow’. It would jar the board violently, but I could feel it slowing me also. So I drifted to the right and kept slowing. Things became a bit nip and tuck as I neared the bottom of the wall. There was a gutter of crappy snow up against the wall and with that I was able to stop. I could almost touch the wall with my right hand and to the left the slope steepened and grew polished just a few feet away.

    Just sitting there was precarious. The skier came down behind me and stopped to inquire after my well-being. I was fine but my thumb hurt a little. I got up and rode out to the canyon.

    The trio that went ahead of me was at the bottom and I gathered that the girl on the snowboard had also had a long slide. She seemed okay though, but shaken. Her partners were helping her with her gear and things seemed under control.

    It was hot in glacier canyon. I was splitbooting over some rocks when the adreneline deserted me all at once and left me totally burnt in the sun. Everyone else from the summit made beautiful lines down Solstice coulior. Thanks for the beta, dude!

    I decided I had had enough of dropping steep lines sight unseen for the day, so I bailed on the plan of going up and over the plateau to Ellery bowl. Instead I took the looooong trudge out the canyon to TPR and then splitboot the highway to the bottom of Ellery. And so ended a nine-hour suckfest. Actually, though, the climb up Dana was rad and so was the descent of the shoulder.

    On Sunday TEX was kind enough to talk me up and down Ellery Bowl. I was game to climb it, but in the crux started to change my mind and dig a platform. This guy climbed past and asked if I was gonna bail. I said I was new to this type of riding and needed to get my head together. He said be careful – someone slid down Dana coulior the day before. Yeah thanks, that was me.

    Anyway TEX popped his head over the top and yelled for me to c’mon up so I did. It was great up there and I was stoked. It turns out the guy who passed me had actually been talking about the girl who preceded me down Dana Couloir. He had seen her in the parking lot on Satuday and she had a nasty purple shoulder and creased helmet from hitting the wall. Damn!

    Anyway, the ride down Ellery was fun and about as steep as anything I’ve been on. It was a little firm still and there was some slip-sliding up top, but nothing like Saturday! Thanks, Ray!

    Thanks for always letting me tag along even though I’m a girl.

    Buffy always says this, but then she leads every climb and coaxes me down every hairball descent. Thanks for letting me tag along!

    Putting the poo in swimming pool since 1968.

    1514 Posts

    Oh yeah… the disco ball. I beat the Macgyver challenge of having to construct a backcountry disco apparatus with only 45 minutes until departure and no good ideas. I came up with this:

    A tripod from Black Diamond poles under tension from the weight of the ball. Yes, fully functional from the 115 VAC outlet in my car. Place on car roof, light from below, and add one part Dianna Ross, one part ABBA, and one part Ohio Players.

    Putting the poo in swimming pool since 1968.

    69 Posts

    Gr8 TR. Those are some steep lines!

    Storn, glad your ok! That sounds pretty FN scary. “sliders left” I like that

    Yeah Tex :rock:

    460 Posts

    Nice pics all. Thanks for sharing.

    That firm snow sucker punch is a bummer Storn, good job getting back in the saddle the next day.

    47 Posts

    another classic read jimw. always enjoy your reports. wow, what a difference a couple weeks make w/ super warm temps.

    and the guys name youre forgetting is jake :doobie:

    3 Posts

    Wild weekend at Tioga gang! I got my butt into and down Solstice and Chute Out Sunday. Thought I was on some steep lines till I saw your pics of Unknown and Bermuda. Way to ride Buffy, Ray, and Jim. We got to the top of Solstice to find Towlie hanging out up there with Sarah. He skied it and she walked all the way back down to the upper lot. uuuggh

    San Fran – Glad you are OK after your slide. Also glad I didn’t see it! (We were over on Dunderberg north Sat) Watching someone else slide big can pucker me up for a long time just when I am getting into steeper terrain. Hope that recovery ride on Ellery will keep you going in your steeper quest!!
    Bummer you were all smoked from the big day on Dana. The short bus showing up with the disco ball at the TTips gig would have totally rocked!! :rock: Next time!!

    “Letting Buffy tag along.” sounds about like “Waiting for MadTurtle” 😆

    1514 Posts

    @pete wrote:

    The short bus showing up with the disco ball at the TTips gig would have totally rocked!! :rock:

    Not quite, my friend. It would have totally disco’ed!!

    Putting the poo in swimming pool since 1968.

    740 Posts

    Whoa! Major throwdown, Buffy is my hero. :thatrocks:

    947 Posts

    @swanny wrote:

    Death slides suck! Too much wasted vert. Ray stepping it up rules! congrats. You’re all animals! :bow:

    I know the other guy who slid that day…he said exactly what Jimw/Storn described, that the upper section and entrance was so good it led him into a false sense of security…he was carrying an ice ax though and able to arrest, but said even after he arrested he still had a very sketch ride the rest of the way through that section.

    It’s always one of lifes ironies when you think you’re dropping the easier line only to encounter slide for life danger! Well handled storn!

    Excellent work all…I know Buffy was gonna head back up to do solstice this weekend, so I’m looking forward to reading about what I missed out on Sorry for bailing Buffy! I saw the conditions on thur/Fri, and it rained on me at 11k on top of mammoth on fri (along with the accompanying lightning storm)…then I got a little homesick….thanks for the invite though!

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