A promising Spring of Adventure Skating in the Sierra Nevada high country has had its fits and starts. Specifically weather-dependent (needing clear nights and warm days), this spring in California has been intermittent with its cooperative weather. Add to that a record low amount of precipitation for March and April, and it’s been hit or miss for Spring skating tours. We’ve experienced everything from bottomless â€œmash potatoesâ€ to perfect frozen conditions on a variety of local excursions.
But, as we’ve said before, you can never trust that yesterday will be like today, and even though the weather looked dreadful for a high country tour last weekend (warm, cloudy nights, threat of thundershowers in the forecast), our intrepid quartet (including Mitch Dion, Jeff Schloss, and Tav Streit) embarked on a middle-elevation (7,000 to 10,000 feet) backcountry tour in a spectacular area of the north/central Sierra Nevada near Bridgeport. This tour, a circumnavigation of Crown Point via Peeler and Crown Lakes, ventures into the Yosemite high country, crosses the Sierra crest twice, and returns the same way via spectacular Barney Lake and Robinson Creek.
The weather on the drive down from Truckee was dreadful â€” cloudy, even drizzly at times. And the forecast wasn’t much better, leaving us to think this was going to be a SHORT trip, and we could be back in Truckee bike riding by the afternoon. But miraculously (despite our â€œDesignated Pessimist’sâ€ predictions), the skis cleared at midnight and the day broke bright and cloudless after our 4:30 am wakeup call. Even though we’ve embarked from Twin Lakes many trips, this was the first time we’ve headed due west, and the lateness of the trip in the season and the low snowpack led to easy hiking for over an hour to Barney Lake, which unfortunately wasn’t completely frozen. A short excursions around the lake, and we could finally mount our Fischer Revolutions for the steep gully climbing to Peeler Lake, sitting directly on the crest of the Sierra, uniquely draining both into California and Nevada. The texture of the lake was supremely, scrumptiously smooth, leading to a spectacular cruise over meadows and creeks down Rancheria Creek and Kerrick Meadows. After a few miles of unbelievably enjoyable skating, we made a 270 degree turn back up toward Rock Island Pass, our high-point at 10,100 feet. From there, it was fantastic corn skiing down to Snow, Crown, and Robinson Lakes, some of the best turns we’ve had all season, as the day warmed gently and the snow softened to perfection. From Robinson Lake, a last-minute route decision led to a drop off into a steep, narrow gully that, if the snow was nasty or the terrain turned into cliffs, could have led to some dicey skiing on our 147 cm., non-edged skate skis. But instead, it was a steep cruise on great snow that led us all the way down to the valley below, almost directly to our original tracks that headed up on our morning route. A quick dash over to our stashed running shoes, and the long hike back down the valley led to the culmination of an almost perfect backcountry adventure skate trip â€” something that couldn’t have been predicted, but thoroughly enjoyed nonetheless.
More photos are available on the Far West Nordic website: www.farwestnordic.org.