Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lassen Peak Corn Harvest

California's Lassen Peak was a favorite of last year's volcano tour. Steep lines, uncrowded slopes, easy access, and excellent corn snow. Despite fighting a chest cold all last week, I was determined to partake in this year's Lassen "corn harvest," so I awoke at 3 AM Saturday morning, and headed south on I-5. By 6 AM I convened with Galen, Phil, and Alyson (all of whom drove from Reno the previous night) at the Emigrant Pass parking lot (6,450') in the Devastated Area of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Around 7 AM we were bootpacking less than a mile of bare ground and patchy snow before donning skins on contiguous snow at 7,000 feet, just above the north bank of Lost Creek. Unfortunately, Alyson was forced to turn around due to equipment issues on her split board, but Galen, Phil, and I trudged on despite very gusty (and dusty) conditions. My lungs were burning with every step due to my lingering respiratory ailment, and I was taking in cough drops for the entire ascent as we battled a persistent gale up to 9,500 feet on Lassen's north ridge. However, the breezy conditions kept the skiing surface firm, and we were rewarded with 2,500 vertical feet of near-perfect corn.

Phil and Galen ascending the Lost Creek Basin shortly after hitting the trail

Phil climbing out of the Lost Creek basin

Skinnable snow on the flats below Lassen Peak

Another party ascending the gut of the northeast bowl

Galen and Phil enjoying lunch and (relative) shelter from the persistent gale

Beginning our ascent of the north ridge

Feeling small

Phil pausing to enjoy the view

Galen admiring Lassen's summit plug

Looking back at Lassen's apron from the north ridge, Lost Creek is the trench-like basin near snowline on the right-- we ascended the ribbon of snow to its left

Galen bootpacking the last few feet of our ascent to a rock outcrop at 9,500 feet

Phil and Galen scoping things out before dropping in

Phil carving perfect corn

"Not bad!"

Galen's turn to shred

The smile says it all

Hero snow

Looking back at our tracks from Emigrant Pass

Future project: Reading Peak, east of Lassen

Another future project: The  northeast facing "Bowloir" on the east ridge of Lassen

Our approximate route
Some addition info on skiing Lassen Peak: Receiving an average of over 500 inches of snow per year, Lassen is typically one of the snowiest places in California. However, with this year's drought conditions in much of California, expect prime season for skiing Lassen to be in the next month or so (a month or two earlier than normal).

The best time to ski is right after the Lassen Park Highway opens (the Highway reaches 8,500 feet on the southern flank of Lassen peak, for easy laps), so keep an eye on the park's Spring Road Clearing page for updates.

Meanwhile in Oregon, winter is back!

[Updated 4/23/2014]

Our Lassen timing last weekend could not have been better for corn snow. This week a few cold storms are dropping into the Pacific Northwest from the Gulf of Alaska, and are expected to drop up to two feet of snow in the high Cascades.

Here is this morning's webcam image from Crater Lake:

The NOAA forecast for Crater Lake:

The three-day Oregon snowfall forecast from UW:

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