Tuesday, March 4, 2014

This winter begins in March.

Usually by this time of year, I have things dialed.  My gear.  My plans.  My expectations.  My packing.  Not this season.  It is only just starting.  The two to four feet of snow that fell in Tahoe this past week has not finally put us on the upper end of low tide.  What that means is that everything is either still real fun, or not yet going.  I just needed to get there.  When I left my home at 3:55 on Sunday, I felt that I had finally packed everything and had forgotten nothing.  Nothing important at least.  Then, ten minutes down the road I remember that I like to take pictures.  With my camera.  Which was at home.  Then, back at home, I could not find my fresh battery.  Knowing that I would really only be able to get a few pictures off, I headed back out the door.  I was making good time until I hit the caravan headed up to Kirkwood, near which, I would be meeting with some friends to go for a hike.  The resort had got skied out the day before, so there was no point waiting in line to ski bumps.  I mean, who does that?  Apparently 2700 cars worth of people do that.   Power to them.  But we were in search of something else.  Namely, fresh tracks and small hits.  We found just that.

Wanna go ski Kirkwood?   These people do.  

Tried to look back toward the resort to see how crowded it was, but we could not see past Notch Rock.

So Bob decided to give the skiing a try.

I met up with Alex, Colin and Bob around 8:45.  After a bit of gear talk, adjustments, and car shuttling, we were on the trailhead. performing a beacon check.  The snow did not feel blower.  In fact, it felt rather dense.  As we headed up, things began to get a bit lighter.  It felt pretty good in the trees, but out on the open face, things were a bit wind blown, with small soft slabs forming.  But were had plans to head to were we could find a few steeper pitches tucked into more moderate terrain.  At the top, during our switch over we discuss the day's conditions and made plans for our descent.  Felt good being with folks who take the snow seriously.  SAC had called the danger for the day moderate, but there still existed chances for an avalanche stepping deeper down.  No one wanted that.

Turns out, the snow was pretty good.

Colin enjoying himself, even though that pretty good snow, was also heavy, and could stop you in your tracks at times.

Alex getting himself up and over this little jib.

The upper slope is a bit more exposed, so a line through the trees held the best snow and offered the safest option.  The face, though, still skied well, even if it had a bit of a wind crust.  Once down toward tree line, it was basically jib city, with some moderate features, and plenty of small ones to jump around on.  This area is a series of three benches.  The first one is fairly small, and in a few more storms, will be just a roll over.  The second is a bit bigger, and grows to huge the further left you go.  The third ranges a from fun bowl, to a cliff band ranging between twenty to forty or more feet.  In between, it is low angle tree skiing loaded with small hits.  In short, good fun.  We enjoyed our selves, so took a second lap.

Once down in the trees, the skiing was quite fun.

Alex follows and tries playing "Touch the Nipple"

The climb takes just under an hour.  It is not a whole lot of vert.  On a good day, you can easily pull off four, or even five laps.  A group of four could ski five laps and slowly work there way around the hill, never crossing a track.  But we did just two.  Some had to get going and take care of life.  I just seemed to break my climbing bar.  It took a three people, a rope and a file to jam it back in place with out actually busting the binding.  We got it into ski mode, but putting it back in climbing mode just was not an option.  So I headed inbounds with Alex for a few laps.

And then finds a nice stump to launch off of.

Colin thought it looked like fun, so follows suit.

Here is a lower mountain wall slash.  Can you tell it was getting pretty think down low?

All in all it was a good day.  What struck me as odd were the number of cars piling into Kirkwood Valley.  At about 10AM, we could see a line of vehicles backed up to the Kirkwood Inn on 88.  I think they eventually parked cars over there.  Now, it was not a powder day.  That was Saturday.  It was not sunny.  In fact, it was blustery.  And chilly.  And precipitating.  It was snow, but juts barely.  I have never seen that many people at Kirkwood before on such a day, and I have been going to that place for well over a decade.  Good for them, but I am sure glad I was not waiting in line to sit on a slow cold life to skied hard packed bumps.  I was enjoying a hike with some friends, having conversations and jumping off rocks and landing in deep, soft snow.  Sure, I went inbounds at the end of the day, but by then, there were no lines.  Just four ski onto the lift laps.  Three of them through the fingers.  Which are a go for the season.  Get up there and have some fun.  Next Saturday looks sunny to boot.

So, the camera battery never lasted past the first lap, so there are limited pics.  When I walked in the door at home at 10PM that night, I found the battery within five seconds.  Right were it should have been.  Right were I did not look in my early morning haze.  Went to bed feeling pretty bummed about that.  Turns out, that battery was already dead.  So, no harm no foul.  Sort of.

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