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Suggestions for Beginner snow climbs?

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Suggestions for Beginner snow climbs?

Postby AndyR » Sun Mar 23, 2014 1:39 am

Hi, first post here. I thought this would be a good place to ask this since it seems many of the members of this site are accomplished mountaineers :) . I do a lot of hiking (some climbing) in Lake Tahoe and the Eastern Sierra throughout the summer, but only recently have decided to start doing some winter climbs. But I don't want to dive right in to some very steep colouir climb my first time out and get in over my head (literally!).

So, what are some recommended snow climbs that can be done for a noob like me? I took a basic winter mountaineering class and (kinda) learned some basic ice axe/crampon techniques. I'm definitely going to work on the basics for a while on some easier slopes until using this equipment is second nature, but when I'm ready to tackle a "real" snow climb, I don't want it to be too sketchy my first time out.

Again, I'm pretty familiar with the Tahoe region and most of the East side, but for now, maybe just some suggestions in the Tahoe area? East side suggestions are fine too, but since I live in the Bay Area, I'd prefer to keep it more "local" for the first few attempts. I don't know if there's much out there, as we didn't really even have a "winter" :(

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Suggestions for Beginner snow climbs?

Postby BCL » Mon Mar 24, 2014 2:30 am

Lots of reasonable options around Tahoe: Round Top, Castle Peak, Pyramid Peak, Red Lake Peak, Mount Tallac, etc.
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Re: Suggestions for Beginner snow climbs?

Postby fogey » Mon Mar 24, 2014 3:46 am

I'm not sure what you're looking for. When you say you do "some climbing", is that technical climbing or scrambling/bagging peaks? If the latter, the obvious California choice for climbing on snow is Shasta, where there are plenty of classes, classes combined with climbs or just guided climbs--learn on the job and get acquainted with a fantastic mountain.

As the prior post says, most Tahoe peaks can be climbed in winter, which would mean climbing on snow (except this year). Most of them can also be skied to the summit, and skiers (and snowboarders) account for most of the winter ascents. (Just taking the list in the prior post as a sample, the exceptions in the list are Roundtop and, under some conditions, Castle Peak, which have class 3 rock summits even in winter.) Maybe it's because I've skied them, but I wouldn't get much satisfaction from hiking them with an ice ax and crampons and watching skiers go by me on the way down. At Tahoe or elsewhere, if you're going to climb on snow in the winter, keep an eye on avalanche conditions--good info here for the Tahoe area: sierraavalanchecenter.org

If you like summiting mountains, and don't like climbing scree, there are east side peaks that are much easier to get up on the snow in the spring before the snow melts than they are in summer. One is Mt. Dade, whose easiest route, the Hourglass Couloir, is a straightforward snow climb when there's snow but said to be a scree field once the snow melts.
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Re: Suggestions for Beginner snow climbs?

Postby jdmorris » Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:15 pm

I just went up a SE "chute" (more of a big bowl right now) on Tallac last Saturday and it was about as mellow as a 1000' 35-40 degree snow slope could be. Mount Tallac Rd. is gated at 89 but parking is plentiful and the extra mile of pavement is quick. There are lots of opportunities to climb snow as easy or spicy as you like and the south slopes corn up nicely for skiing or glissading down if its warm or sunny. There are some steep and open areas that would provide great opportunities to practice self arrests, too. Attached is a picture of Liz near the top. I posted a pic from Crescent Moon on Round Top last week although I'm not sure it'd be as ideal for a first steep climb!

JD
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SE Chute.jpg
Nearing the top of a SE Bowl on Tallac
SE Chute.jpg (342.58 KiB) Viewed 572 times
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Re: Suggestions for Beginner snow climbs?

Postby ScottyP » Wed Mar 26, 2014 2:02 am

I will be in Truckee in a couple of weeks for 13 days if you want to hook up and do something. I have a little experience in the area....
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Re: Suggestions for Beginner snow climbs?

Postby ScottyP » Wed Mar 26, 2014 2:13 am

AND a few spare bedrooms!
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Re: Suggestions for Beginner snow climbs?

Postby Trawinski » Wed Mar 26, 2014 2:55 pm

I'd put another plug in for Round Top. I think it's a great training mountain. I was there on Saturday and it still has plenty of snow. Get a real early start though (or bring snowshoes) because it can get a bit punchy. But the portion from Lake Winemucca up to the west shoulder is fairly steep and will give you good ice axe and crampon training. You can also glissade down, pick up some speed and practice self-arrest skills. We got about 5 good glissade runs down on Saturday. The upper summit block is mostly free of snow right now, except a little icy field at the base of the true summit, which makes things more interesting.

Not on route finding: Everyone I talk to, including me, has had problems getting through the woods immediately south of the trailhead. The blue blazes mark a trail down to Woods Lake. You really want to stay to the east, skirting the west side of Elephants Back. There's a well worn set of tracks in the snow, but if you only watch the blue diamonds on the trees, you can easily go off the more direct trail to Round Top (as I did last weekend).
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Re: Suggestions for Beginner snow climbs?

Postby Deb » Wed Mar 26, 2014 11:28 pm

Trawinski wrote: Not(e) on route finding: Everyone I talk to, including me, has had problems getting through the woods immediately south of the trailhead. The blue blazes mark a trail down to Woods Lake. You really want to stay to the east, skirting the west side of Elephants Back. There's a well worn set of tracks in the snow, but if you only watch the blue diamonds on the trees, you can easily go off the more direct trail to Round Top (as I did last weekend).

You just gotta FEEL the direction! Shoot an azimuth for Round Top and stay on course. Damn ski tracks are everywhere....now mine are there. :D
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