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The Insane Early Season of Fall 2021

I've been really struggling the last couple years to maintain this website and blog. First came COVID and 2020, a real hit to everyone and anyone trying to get outside. All the ski resorts shut down, some of my friends and family didn't leave their houses for weeks, and people who kept doing things got shamed. Majorly shamed. To me it felt like a good time to get out into NV, and away from everyone and everything. So of course we kept backcountry skiing every weekend, but I just stopped telling people about it. My lips were sealed, trip reports piled up, and the amount of work to document it all -just kept growing. This trend continued into last year (the actual 2021 year), and I started to wonder: "Why do I care if anyone finds out what we've been up to? Why should I advertise all this great skiing to everyone, when one of the things we really love is solitude? When will I find the time to post all these posts I've been thinking?" And so I truly never did. And to be honest I'm still not sure I have answers to those questions.

But that was then, and this is now. My motivations have shifted somewhat. Conor (check out his lovely website: Skiing the Basin ) and I have been starting to work on a guidebook for NV skiing, and others have mentioned that they miss this blog, and that we should all take great joy in sharing our extensive knowledge and experience of the backcountry. Spread the love, so to speak. And with that in mind, I am to get back to it but perhaps with less time consuming writing, details, and extensively thorough posting. Just enough to share whats good and spread the stoke!

So without further ado, I present to you all the first post of the 2022 water year, a recap of the wicked Fall we've had so far.

Bloody Couloir 11/20/2021

Laurel Lakes Road sucks, like really sucks. It's so bad. With high snow levels we figured we could cut off most of the usual approach walk/skin by driving my truck up the road, and we did -to around 9,500 feet. But really, if you aren't an experienced 4wheel driver, or don't have a VERY capable vehicle, don't even bother. Washouts have made the road much worse than it was even just a couple years ago.

With no need for a truly alpine start, Spencer and I met Johnny and Natalie at the start of the road around 8, bumped our asses up the hill, and were all walking by around 9:30. Our initial plan had been to surmount the Y chute, and then try to find some corn on the SE side of the mountain. Sentinel Imagery had shown us that there was adequate coverage, but of course it couldn't tell us anything about the corn cycle or what time would be good for sun warmed snow at 12,000 feet (if any time), so we optimistically set off. As soon the main north cirque came into view though, we realized that the classic Bloody Couloir would be the way to go, especially since we hoped to top out and cross over the peak.

First views of the bloody. Looks thin, but... good enough!

It was clearly low tide conditions, but there would be enough to ski without worry. The snowpack was deep in spots and very supportable, a mix of chalk, windbuff, and some avalanche debris which had slid out during our first big storm of the year. In almost no time after leaving the truck, we had donned crampons and were nervously booting up the steep snow -wondering how edge-able it would be.

Yours truly somewhere up high.


Spencer making us a nice staircase.

I was feeling the elevation and all the friendsgiving pies from the last couple weeks, and took up the tail to the top. Last one to the summit, but still only about 3 hours from the truck -pretty dang good for the Bloody. We enjoyed the view and perfect weather for a few minutes, and then decided to poke around off the SE side.

Bloody Mtn Summit

Ski Mountaineering can make you look pretty dorky. Or maybe I always look dorky? (don't answer that)

Snow conditions on the Southeast Face were definitely NOT soft. Though surprisingly, there was plenty of snow to get in a nice long run, probably about 2,000 feet worth of turns. We took turns sliding down the pockmarked pack, before deciding we'd had enough and booting right back up to the summit. At this point I was really dogging it. I guess all that time sipping beer in Death Valley last weekend didn't prepare me for 12,000 feet.

Spencer and Nat on the SE face, with Red Slate Peak looming behind.

Back at the top I wiped off some sweat, and we all exchanged high fives before dropping into the Bloody Couloir. This line is one of the 50 Classic Ski descents, and never disappoints. It sits at high elevation, is cold and north facing, steep enough to keep you honest, and always fun. I think we were all a little nervous before dropping in, but the snow conditions proved to be plenty soft and edge-able, with even some delightful windbuff and faceted pow pow to be had in spots. Unfortunately my camera battery gave out about 1/3 of the way down, so you'll have to take my word for it rather than seeing fantastic images. We all agreed it exceeded expectations though!

Nat enjoys watching her man get studly on some soft snow at the top of the Bloody Couloir. Look at that leg angulation!

We took turns navigating all the parts of the couloir, and a short while later were navigating the rocky "shark tank" at the bottom of the line. Then it was just a little bit of dirt, some uphill road, some snow-covered downhill road, and a little bit more dirt back to the truck. We even managed to drive out the horrendous Laurel Lake Road with daylight to spare.

Back in the valley we clinked beers (or maybe a Smirnoff ice), and wandered out to some hotsprings. There we celebrated (or bragged to those unfortunate souls who shared a tub with us) a successful and fantastic ski day. There's no doubt that coverage was pretty good for November 20th, but at the same time, theres also no doubt that we need more snow. Get it while you can! This classic early season line was a bloody treat.

Lundy Canyon & North Peak 10/29/2021

Hard to believe that conditions were possibly better three weeks ago, but they certainly were. The October atmospheric river really propped up our ski season in a big way, and if it wasn't for that megastorm, well, we still probably wouldn't be skiing. Instead Mammoth ski resort has been open for almost a month now.

A few days after the storm, we'd had our fix of Tahoe snow and decided to head down to the Eastside for some higher elevation and more interesting ski lines. The storm had been somewhat warm, so we hoped to find more pack at higher elevations. We had initially debated about skiing the Bloody Couloir (Fred said "Bloody is always in!"), but an Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center post showed that much of the couloir had slid out during the big storm, and was barren in the middle -can you see the debris pile in the photos above? So instead, we decided to try driving up Lundy Canyon to the snowline, then skinning miles further up to get to North Peak and its wonderful couloirs.

The day turned out to be quite the epic, and myself, Fred, and Conor were all quite shacked (sauced, beat, pooped, trashed, worked, etc) after making it back to the car. We started off with about 2 miles of dirt walking up Lundy Canyon trail, eventually transitioned to skinning near Lake Helen and all the fantastic lakes near Lundy Pass, and finally made our way up to the renowned North Peak Couloirs. After booting the main chute and enjoying some soft chalk (and burning early season legs on the descent), we cruised back to the lakes basin and hit both Dore Cliff and Mt Scowden on the way to the car. Off Mt Scowden we were lucky to find a reasonable amount of snow in the dogleg chute, which had sluffed down into a big poop chute of dirty snow, but provided skiing almost all the way back to the bottom of Lundy Canyon. In the end it turned out to be a 9 hour day, and... well I'll just put some pictures out there to do the talking instead.

Early Morning In Lundy Canyon

Conor doing his best Mario impersonation in the woods.

Do you trust this October ice? I think this was Shamrock Lake, photo thanks to Fred.

Scoping the way to North Peak's impressive North Face wall.

Fred and I under North Peak, photo thanks to Conor

Mid couloir selfie. Thanks Moment Skis for the rad sticks!

Going up

Coming down! There was a bit of an ice chute in the couloir still, and most of the snow funneled right down into it once I started skiing. Definitely would not have wanted to fall into it. That would have been a fast ride straight to the bottom of the peak.

Conor after our first real ski of the year!

Lunch is important.

Peering back into Lundy Canyon from the top of Dore Cliff.

Fred skis Dore while I look on. Thanks Conor for the photo!

Our exit line was a little spicy but then opened up. Photo thanks to Fred.

Hanging out in the Dogleg "poop chute", Conor's photo.

Conor in the dogleg. This thing felt like it went on and on and on. Or maybe my legs were just beat?!

Fred and I in the gut of the pooper. Some snow was good, some was bad! Thanks Conor for the shot, I think my camera might have died by this point!

Tamarack Peak 10/26/2021

I'm not going to put too much into this, I'm tired of writing this post and I think we all know about the monster Atmospheric River (AR) that hit on October 23rd - 25th (or so), and how epic it was. Luckily I had a couple extra hours off work in the morning, and Spencer said that the snow was excellent. So wham bam, we were up at dawn, and then managed to get in four stellar runs before 10:00 or so. It was mostly sierra cement style pow, with some softer wind-blown snow and some crustier wind-blown snow. Still one of the best season opening days I've ever had, and definitely my best October day ever in Tahoe. No complaints!

First dawn patrol of the year, and I'm barely awake but clearly stoked!

Spencer at Sunrise

The view from the top of Tamarack rarely disappoints

The snow didn't disappoint either. Spencer snakes one, following the mayor of Truckee himself.

By the end I'd skied two laps on the hourglass, one off proletariat, and one on the sunrise face of fireplug. Legs were trashed! As was fitting for a NV skier, I had extra time off because of NV day! Feeling the vibes? NV day, NV skiing, NV ski company (Moment), Sierra NV mountains, NV life ain't so bad!

Thanks for reading, and be on the lookout for some more updates and catchup posts soon! And pray for snow, it looks like the dryness is (unfortunately) going to continue for a bit.


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