The drive on pavement was uneventful, but windy at times, and the trailhead seemed cold for this time of year. A trail that normally bakes climbers in the summer was actually comfortable in a sweater all day - we climbed with the sun in nearly constant temperatures from around 6500' to 10k where we had lunch before stepping onto snow for the last 500' of gain to Red Lake. Quite a contrast to the McGee Creek drainage where I had been on skis from 9k and saw no dry ground or free water above 10k, Red Lake had dry campsites and open water at 10500'. The 7.5 minute topo map shows the trail correctly, on the north side of the creek and several hundred feet above the water, while the older 15 minute quad [is quite wrong.]
Arriving at camp in the early afternoon poses a dilemma - do you snooze or cruise? Linda wanted to do Tinemaha that afternoon and Split the next morning, but we weren't psyched up for that and decided that getting in some ice axe practice was more in line with the goals of the trip. Besides, Noriko had a headache and wanted to catch up on her sleep. We all took a pass on Split and watched some rodents check out our packs.
The rest of us hiked around the lake to a steepish slope with a good runout, where we tried out some traditional and non-traditional glissade and arrest techniques. Everyone was pleased to find that arresting in corn snow works just as well withOUT an ice axe, and we had varying degrees of success with head-first-on-your-stomach simulated falls. (That's the toughest position, because you can smash your face with the ice axe if you do it wrong, and we found out that various instructors teach some pretty different techniques while comparing notes!)
Before it got dark or cold we sauntered back to camp for dinner, then called it a day as the snow crusted up. Overnight it was about 15 degrees, much colder that expected, but the wind we had driven through seemed to avoid our chilly valley.
Jason had neglected to collect water the night before, and his pump froze immediately in the morning. While trying to thaw that out his nose decided it was time to paint the town (or lakeside) red. Not a good start, but the rest of us started out slowly to keep warm while Jason stopped the nosebleed and caught up with us easily.
A few easy snow slopes mixed with easy second class boulders got us up to the bowl south of Tinemaha, where we had a short map-and-compass refresher and verified which lump we were heading for. One fairly steep section (easily avoided, but not by us) provided a chance to discuss cross-body ice axe holds and how to avoid spinning out on hard stuff with no crampons. It's more real when the snow isn't slushy! In the upper bowl, in the sun, we scrambled across an unavoidable rock field to a 40 degree snow chute. The chute was hard enough to require crampons (unless you're crazy like me) which Ron and Linda donned for a bit of practice. The entire route could have been done safely without an ice axe by staying on rock, but we sought out chances to practice. Noriko's crampons seemed not to fit her boots, reminding us all that equipment should be checked for wear and fit before each trip even if you've used it before! Jason lead the rock route since he had not brought crampons.
Secor rates the south slope of Tinemaha as Class 1, but it's really Class 2. Easy, but not trivial, and completely bare of snow for the last 700' or so. (The snowpack around Lake Tahoe is heavier at 7k than here at 12k, at least this spring.) We stayed on top about 45 minutes, in shirt sleeves with no wind, enjoying a peak that only gets visited 3 or 4 times per year. I was testing a roll-up plastic sledding sheet for glissading, which easily doubled my speed and made even the lesser slopes exciting, and everyone got in a bit of sliding on the way down as the snow softened in the afternoon sun. A relaxing trip in great weather, we didn't set any speed records!
Packing up, packing out, and driving got us back to Big Pine around 7pm, late enough that Ron and Linda headed south immediately. As the rest of us had dinner in Bishop, it turns out Linda was surviving a front tire blowout on 395. Ron was right behind her and used his cell phone to call AAA for a tire change - no damage to the vehicle! We didn't check for rock cuts after the 4WD road, but since the one-year-old tire disintegrated there's really no way to know if it was that or some other road hazard.
All the participants got the peak... and the 12 people who cancelled off the trip probably had a good time somewhere else! (Except the ones who were sick or injured, making us feel even luckier to be in the high country.)
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