Beginner Winter Mountains?

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LordGarican

 
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Beginner Winter Mountains?

by LordGarican » Sun Jan 04, 2015 6:59 am

Hello,

My friend and I are considering a foray into winter climbing, as we have both previously spent some time hiking, camping, and scrambling up in the sierra during the other three seasons. He is slightly more experienced than I, having been on a handful of university-led trips in the Tahoe region, while I've only been hiking on light snow in the late spring, where weather and conditions were not major concerns.

Are there any good mountains that the two of us could tackle together to slowly build skills? I am worried most about objective hazards, as while I know my own limits in climbing inexperience in winter conditions means neither of us are skilled judges of avalanche or weather conditions. We are both out of the bay area, so climbs on the Western side of the Sierra, or up near Tahoe would be best as we wouldn't need to spend a whole day in travel. Is this reasonable? Or should we really team up with some more experienced people to get the hang of things?

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Steve Pratt

 
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Re: Beginner Winter Mountains?

by Steve Pratt » Sun Jan 04, 2015 3:44 pm

I would start with Castle Peak. It has year-round trailhead access from the ski resort. You can easily do it in a day from the Bay Area. Getting lost is almost impossible as you can hear the interstate from almost the whole route. And it has places here and there to practice ice climbing, mixed climbing, self-arrest and Avalanche safety.

Supposedly Lassen is a good winter trip, but I am not familiar personally.

If you don't mind driving a half-day, Mt. McLoughlin near Medford, OR is a fantastic overnight winter climb. There is a snow-park almost due south of the summit. The route is completely cross-country, but you just follow your compass north. Being in the Cascades, it has plenty of snow, but the elevation is low enough, the temps are quite comfortable. And Avalanche risk is very low (just pay attention, because you will be completely alone up there). It is about a 3-4 mile snowshoe followed by 1 mile of step-kicking/cramponing.

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Re: Beginner Winter Mountains?

by phydeux » Sun Jan 04, 2015 4:46 pm

DEfinately not LAssen. The NPS doesn't plow the roads inside the park very far from the entrances due to frequent snowfall and the volume they get.

If you're not experienced with winter conditions you might want to try hiking out of Yosemite Valley. The valley floor is somewhat of a slush pit in winter, but hike up the trails leading out of it and you'll find lots of snow-covered areas that are great for getting some winter camping experience. Also look around the Tahoe basin - plenty of peaks in that area that should be great for getting some winter experience. Hikes around the Bass Lake area would also be a good starting point.

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LordGarican

 
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Re: Beginner Winter Mountains?

by LordGarican » Tue Jan 06, 2015 6:25 pm

Thanks for the great ideas guys, Castle Peak and various Yosemite things seem like great options -- snowpack seems a little small at the moment through, so might wait on these for a few weeks.

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JHH60

 
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Re: Beginner Winter Mountains?

by JHH60 » Tue Jan 06, 2015 7:42 pm

You might consider an organized avalanche training class. They are taught throughout the winter and are fairly reasonably priced. I took one at Bear Valley through MAS and stayed at their bunkhouse with other students who were backcountry skiers and climbers. It was an inexpensive, fun, informative and comfortable way to spend a three day weekend in the snow.

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LordGarican

 
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Re: Beginner Winter Mountains?

by LordGarican » Tue Jan 06, 2015 9:31 pm

JHH60 wrote:You might consider an organized avalanche training class. They are taught throughout the winter and are fairly reasonably priced. I took one at Bear Valley through MAS and stayed at their bunkhouse with other students who were backcountry skiers and climbers. It was an inexpensive, fun, informative and comfortable way to spend a three day weekend in the snow.


Hm, interesting idea. Seems actually a bit expensive to me, at ~$450/wkend? That's the same as a mountaineering course/trip, and only a little less than something like a guided Shasta expedition... At any rate, I'll keep this in mind but my frugal side is hurting!

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jareds

 
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Re: Beginner Winter Mountains?

by jareds » Wed Jan 07, 2015 4:55 am

Was up on castle peak last week. snowpack is 'small' but there's still 5 feet of snow everywhere, plenty for what you want to do. skied to andesite ridge up toward Castle Peak to just under the main west-facing cliffs -
turned around because of 50mph winds, not because of lack of snow. If you're looking to get your feet wet that's where you should go, and you can go there now.

Another easy place to go would be Carson Pass. Just google Carson Pass, drive until your phone says you're there, park in the huge parking lot and then walk around. It's like walking around in a city park (same at Castle Peak), tons of people around. Either side of the road, there are parking lots on both sides. Getting up high on Round Top etc will require some knowledge/gear, but even then if you go soon (before another storm) you can get up there with relatively no gear and a relatively high level of safety in terms of snow conditions.

There's an avi 1 course in Reno in March, not sure the cost. Info here:
http://www.thebackcountry.net/bb/viewto ... 2643#p7252
definitely recommended if you're planning to be in the mountains in winter.

good luck!

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JHH60

 
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Re: Beginner Winter Mountains?

by JHH60 » Wed Jan 07, 2015 5:32 am

MAS lists $425 on their website for Avy 1; looks like you might find some classes for a little under $400 elsewhere. I enjoyed the MAS experience because the location at Bear Valley was good (took my wife and she had fun XC skiing while I was in class) and lodging reasonable since we stayed in a shared condo above the gear shack that MAS students could use for relatively little money. Don't forget that you are getting three full days of instruction when you take an avy 1 class. While you can do a guided ascent for something like that amount of money, most of the time will be spent climbing, and only a few hours learning new skills.


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