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Good Peaks for a Beginner in California

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Good Peaks for a Beginner in California

Postby jddeetz » Sun Oct 11, 2009 7:51 pm

Greetings! I am a beginner and I was wondering if I could pull on on of your wisdom:

Are there any peaks in the winter that are conducive to learning the basics of winter mountaineering? I hear Lassen is the traditional candidate for this, but I wonder if there are any others nearby. I have crampons and ice axe ready to go but need a place to break em in.
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Postby jvarholak » Sun Oct 11, 2009 8:08 pm

can't help with peaks (wrong coast) but add an experienced partner to your search to show you proper axe and pon travel technique including arrest.
i'm sure there'll be plenty of locals here to advise as to destination.
have fun...
john
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Postby phydeux » Sun Oct 11, 2009 10:32 pm

Where are you located in California? Your profile only says "California." Its a big state and your locality will determine what's available.

Also, anything more than "beginner"? Any experience in summer backpacking, maybe some off-trail scampering on trailess peaks?, or any basic winter camping and/or winter backpacking?
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Interesting

Postby srichert » Sun Oct 11, 2009 10:40 pm

I was wondering something along the same lines. I have done a bit of research and it seems like Mt Emerson might be a good bet as the approach isn't horribly long and there are several 3rd, 4th and low 5th class routes up it. Also, Cathedral Peak showed up on the radar, but that will likely be saved for a non-solo effort.

My question is more about the weather and snow conditions...I plan on coming prepared with crampons and an axe which I can ditch at the base if they appear unnecessary. I would appreciate any input on this one. To the OP, if you want to meet up and have a look at Emerson with me, shoot me a PM. I would just as soon have a bit of company on this attempt.

Steve
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Re: Interesting

Postby OortCloud » Mon Oct 12, 2009 2:58 am

srichert wrote:I was wondering something along the same lines. I have done a bit of research and it seems like Mt Emerson might be a good bet as the approach isn't horribly long and there are several 3rd, 4th and low 5th class routes up it. Also, Cathedral Peak showed up on the radar, but that will likely be saved for a non-solo effort.

My question is more about the weather and snow conditions...I plan on coming prepared with crampons and an axe which I can ditch at the base if they appear unnecessary. I would appreciate any input on this one. To the OP, if you want to meet up and have a look at Emerson with me, shoot me a PM. I would just as soon have a bit of company on this attempt.

Steve


When are you planning on going? I may be interested in joining and doing a few other peaks in the area.
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Re: Interesting

Postby srichert » Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:04 am

OortCloud wrote:
srichert wrote:I was wondering something along the same lines. I have done a bit of research and it seems like Mt Emerson might be a good bet as the approach isn't horribly long and there are several 3rd, 4th and low 5th class routes up it. Also, Cathedral Peak showed up on the radar, but that will likely be saved for a non-solo effort.

My question is more about the weather and snow conditions...I plan on coming prepared with crampons and an axe which I can ditch at the base if they appear unnecessary. I would appreciate any input on this one. To the OP, if you want to meet up and have a look at Emerson with me, shoot me a PM. I would just as soon have a bit of company on this attempt.

Steve


When are you planning on going? I may be interested in joining and doing a few other peaks in the area.


I am thinking sometime early next week- 19th or 20th. But I heard that they are expecting two feet plus snowfall this week so that could put a damper on things. I also want to climb at the leap in Tahoe if its not insanely cold...
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Postby jddeetz » Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:48 am

phydeux wrote:Where are you located in California? Your profile only says "California." Its a big state and your locality will determine what's available.

Also, anything more than "beginner"? Any experience in summer backpacking, maybe some off-trail scampering on trailess peaks?, or any basic winter camping and/or winter backpacking?


Ah yes, sorry for being so vague... I live in the Bay Area near Oakland. I feel lucky to have both Tahoe and Yosemite only 4 hrs away...

In terms of experience, I only have a little bit of summer backpacking with some dayhiking experience. I also have a minimal amount of rock climbing experience from the gym + a few peaks in Tahoe with class 3 routes.

What I am looking for ideally is a good place to practice snow travel via ice axe and crampons.

I initially wanted to use a guide service to head up Shasta, but because of the conditions this late in the season most of the routes are melted away. I figure if Shasta is unavailable to me for a while I can at least do some winter ascents of lower elevation peaks like Lassen or some of the others mentioned in this thread.
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Re: Good Peaks for a Beginner in California

Postby jddeetz » Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:03 am

squishy wrote:
jddeetz wrote:Greetings! I am a beginner and I was wondering if I could pull on on of your wisdom:

Are there any peaks in the winter that are conducive to learning the basics of winter mountaineering? I hear Lassen is the traditional candidate for this, but I wonder if there are any others nearby. I have crampons and ice axe ready to go but need a place to break em in.


California is a big place, everyone may have a favorite location nearby, and all would be great training grounds. I learned on Round Top, it's off hwy 88...

http://www.summitpost.org/parent/150503/round-top.html

ps - get snowshoes as well..


Round Top sounds like an ideal candidate for learning a lot of snow travel skills. Its not so isolated that even if I got injured I would be in trouble. Also, the altitude is low enough that I can just focus on learning essential skills as opposed to acclimating simultaneously.
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Re: Interesting

Postby jddeetz » Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:09 am

srichert wrote:
OortCloud wrote:
srichert wrote:I was wondering something along the same lines. I have done a bit of research and it seems like Mt Emerson might be a good bet as the approach isn't horribly long and there are several 3rd, 4th and low 5th class routes up it. Also, Cathedral Peak showed up on the radar, but that will likely be saved for a non-solo effort.

My question is more about the weather and snow conditions...I plan on coming prepared with crampons and an axe which I can ditch at the base if they appear unnecessary. I would appreciate any input on this one. To the OP, if you want to meet up and have a look at Emerson with me, shoot me a PM. I would just as soon have a bit of company on this attempt.

Steve


When are you planning on going? I may be interested in joining and doing a few other peaks in the area.


I am thinking sometime early next week- 19th or 20th. But I heard that they are expecting two feet plus snowfall this week so that could put a damper on things. I also want to climb at the leap in Tahoe if its not insanely cold...


I might be up for trying Emerson, it's the first snow of the season so I bet it'll be light and powdery. Why don't people ever use snowshoes and ice axe combo? Why can't mountaineering be simple?

I'm not 100% sure if I'll be around 19th-20th but if I am you can count me in. I'll keep you updated.
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Postby keema » Mon Oct 12, 2009 1:21 pm

Round Top is where I gained most of my winter / snow experience. Nice snow shoe in. Good spots for snow camping. Some mild slopes for learning crampon and ice axe use.
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Postby Diggler » Wed Oct 14, 2009 6:44 pm

Round Top is a good candidate- short drive (well, for Bay Area standards...), easy access, good winter camping. Also in the area is Red Lake Peak.

Castle Peak near Donner (N. Lake Tahoe) is another good one.

Lassen is certainly a good candidate.

Yosemite is a great place to get your winter camping/mobility skills down. Wait 'til there's good cover & go to Badger Pass, then take Glacier Pt. Road as far as you want (snowshoes or better yet skis)- Dewey Pt. is a great day outing, or go all the way to Glacier Pt. for a longer trip- either a long day trip, or bring camping gear & spend the night there. View of Half Dome on a winter morning in the snow is something you'll never forget.

The most important thing to consider is the condition of the snow for the area in question. You want it hard to really learn the basics of self arresting (make sure there's good runout & a safe 'landing'), duck walk, French technique, etc. Fresh snow is good for mastering snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, etc. Avalanche conditions should also be considered- something you don't want to learn about by getting yourself into one...
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Postby jddeetz » Thu Oct 15, 2009 6:57 am

Thanks for all the great advice guys... I now have a few peaks in mind to build a foundation from.

Here is a bonus question someone may know the answer to:
A while ago I took an avalanche safety course in which they mentioned something about snowpack consisting of multiple layers of snow from different storms. When there is a dense snow layer on top of a light powdery layer, there is potential for an avalanche to occur.
A) So being that the ice axe is best used with a thick layer of snow bordering on ice, is it safe to say that whenever I have to pull out the ice axe I am in avalanche territory?
B) Is this why I never see anyone using an ice axe with snow shoes on (Because snow shoes are used for light snow, ice axe is for hard snow)?
C) Is there any way to predict the thickness of a snowpack to determine what equipment I will need?
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Postby Palisades79 » Thu Oct 15, 2009 3:30 pm

Since you only mention snowshoes, I assume you do not ski. In the Sierra ,skiing is by far the preferred Winter approach and descent becuse it is much easier and faster than snowshoes . In 30+ years of Winter backcountry camping and peak climbing ,I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen anyone very far from a trailhead on snowshoes. I've been on skis for one week trips in the Sierra without seeing one person on snowshoes. Current telemark and alpine touring gear can be used for Winter mountainerring too. Visit Marmot Mountaineering in Berkeley to see or rent gear. Take a look at the Rock Creek Resort website .
Have a great climb !
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