Northern Peaks

17-22 May 2005 - by Ron Hudson

This was an Angeles Chapter Sierra Peaks Section trip led by myself and assisted by Patty Rambert. Five of us met Tuesday to climb Castle. The weather forecast was not good, but we had driven a long way and were driven to get these faraway peaks. And I wanted to get onto the Sierra landscape to start the season. We walked on snow all the way from the I-80 offramp parking. Did walk on boots along the W ridge, then to the summit rocks, then crampons. Kept the crampons on for the snow-and-ice-encrusted 3rd class (about 40 feet) just below the summit. All in drizzle and considerable wind. Cold! White-out at times. Most of us were belayed down. Back to the cars in softer snow, using snowshoes and in more pleasant conditions. Then off to Reno for a motel (cheap prices!) and good buffet dinner.

Next intention was Mt Elwell; it seemed it should be a short climb. But rain turned to snow, and the Gold Lake Road was getting snow-covered as we drove near the pass; we didn't want to take the chance sliding without chains or getting snowbound. So we retreated to a caf in Sierra City to discuss. Then we figured to give Adams Peak a chance-- farther east; maybe some rain shadow effect. Got to within a mile of the trailhead N of the peak; snow not too bad. Proceeded (still Wednesday) with our snowshoes to the brush 200' below the summit. Regrouped a bit for the windstorm raging in the tree tops and summit area. Found our way up there, signed the register in the 30-50 mph winds, and carefully proceeded down on the wet rocks.

After the summit we were just hiking back on the inclined forest floor among sticks and fallen branches, and the next thing Susan L. was on the ground in pain. She said she heard something crack in her ankle. The injury was not very discolored or swollen; I wrapped it with the surgical tape I always carry, and then she slowly limped out the remaining mile mostly on her own. We all retreated to a motel in Reno again. Susan and her husband Bill went on home, to find out she had a cracked bone requiring weeks in a cast. What a bummer for Susan, a very enthusiastic and strong SPSer who we will miss in the mountains for a while.

Thursday we three remaining (myself, Patty, and Tom S). then went to Mt Rose, figuring that it was a straightforward snow hike that could be done in the clouds visible from Reno. Wrong! Whiteouts on the highway, driving rain, and 30+ mph winds again at the trailhead even though it was fair weather in Reno. No point in suffering, so we turned around at the parking lot and then spent the day shopping in Reno and watching kayakers on the racing Truckee River at the new water park downtown.

Friday was supposed to be good weather for a change. The three of us drove to Mt. Elwell via Gold Lake again and the road was clear. Still clouds at the trailhead, though, but things got nice (finally!) as the day went on. Climbed pretty much up the face on snow, enjoying scenery and sun for a change. Still used snowshoes and axes. Then, that night we bathed, ate, and camped at the hot springs near Sierraville. At $22 a person for camping and bathing it isn't cheap, but they keep the place orderly and quiet. Yoga, Zen, and peace are the atmosphere there worthwhile for a night.

Saturday -- Sierra Buttes. We drove (with 4WD) to about the 5500' level on the road from Sierra City. Hiked the road and the deep snow, then on to the summit rocks and the metal steps and lookout tower. Axes and snowshoes were used but no snow or ice on the staircases. A beautiful sunny day with great views.

And then we drove on to car camp comfortably near Mt. Lola, our next objective. Sunday we walked across the bridge over the raging Little Truckee River and proceed on toward the slopes SW of Lola's summit. Raging Perazzo Creek was a problem for us, but we kept hiking upstream until we found a solid snow bridge to cross. The west summit slopes had little or no snow; apparently the storms blew the snow off during the winter. Coming down we then went all the way along the north ridge and down to the Perazzo Meadow area. Swimming was our only option to get across there, so we followed the creek and then the Little Truckee down to the other bridge, the one we had camped at. Then one mile back along the road to the car. Glad to have the bridges there. We next checked the access to English Mtn, but the road was closed by deep snow eight miles form the trailhead. We felt we had enough, said goodbye and proceeded home. All in all, happy to have five SPS peaks on this early season trip (with some severe conditions) in a heavy snow year to make it an adventure.

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