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+  Turns All Year Trip Reports
|-+  2003 Backcountry Trip Reports
| |-+  June 2003 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  June 5, 2003, Lassen Peak, NE Face via North Ridge
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Author Topic: June 5, 2003, Lassen Peak, NE Face via North Ridge  (Read 6428 times)
Amar Andalkar

Posts: 1231

June 5, 2003, Lassen Peak, NE Face via North Ridge
« on: 06/09/03, 09:51 PM »

The NE Face of Lassen Peak is one of the premier steep ski descents in the southern Cascades, dropping directly from the summit (10457 ft) at a solid pitch of 50 degrees, moderating steadily as it drops onto the flats of the Devastated Area over 3000 feet below.  The North Ridge provides a skinnable alternative ascent route (to avoid postholing up the steep face), reaching a pitch of only 30-35 degrees.  

Corey, Cyril, and I got a late start and left our car camp at the road closure at Emigrant Pass (Devastated Area Trailhead, 6450 ft) around 8:45 am.  We hiked through the trees for less than 10 minutes to reach continuous snow, and then skinned up and across the Devastated Area to the highest snow on the North Ridge (near 10000 ft) by noon.  We followed a climbers' trail up scree and ash to the top of the ridge at 10250 ft, which is on the edge of the most northwesterly of Lassen's craters.  A quick and pleasant traverse along the rim of the craters and across the snow-covered summit plateau brought us to the easy scramble up the summit pinnacle.  After a few photos at the base of the radio tower atop the summit, we clicked into the skis and dropped onto the NE Face just after 2 pm.  A clinometer reading about 100 feet below the top gave 48 degrees in the middle of the slope.  With the recent extreme heat, we expected some instability and got it in spades.  Any ski cut sent huge wet sluffs down the face, some entraining as much as 6-8 inches of loose wet snow.  These massive (but slow) slides rolled for over 2000 vft down the face, coming to a stop only as the pitch flattened somewhat near 8000 ft.  We skied carefully down the face in shifts and in parallel, to avoid hitting each other with the sluffs, eventually reaching the more moderate 30-35 degree slopes below 9500 ft.  

However, despite having extensive experience skiing in such spring sluff conditions, I then managed to hit myself with one of my own sluffs, turning right into a unexpected sluff where I expected to find an island of stability.  The heavy concrete swept me down as I tried to ski across it, rapidly accelerating me downhill and then over a rock protruding a foot above the slope.  It hit my thigh, luckily without causing injury, and within seconds I regained enough composure to throw my skis perpendicular to the slope, which brought me shooting out of the sluff.  Fortunately I stopped on a peninsula of safety, surrounded on both sides by sluffing snow which took several minutes to finally grind to a halt.  A very scary experience, including for my partners watching it happen from a distance.  However, even as I was sliding, I knew the sluff could not bury me despite its size and power, so the most important things going through my mind were to avoid hitting obstacles (which I could not do) and to try to ski out of it to the side (which I did manage to do).  I was carried downhill for roughly 300 vft (about 500-600 ft slope distance) and taught an important lesson: not to turn back into a slope I had just ski-cut even if it looked like the slope wasn't sliding, because the slide could take several seconds to actually start moving.

After the excitement was over, we skied the rest of the slope without further incident, finding both good turns and some heavy wet muck.  We skied out along our skin track, down a small stream gully in the more snow-covered southern part of the Devastated Area, reaching the car by 4 pm.  We were soon headed back north towards our next objective, Mount Scott near Crater Lake.

Amar Andalkar

Posts: 1231

Re: June 5, 2003, Lassen Peak, NE Face via North R
« Reply #1 on: 06/13/03, 10:10 AM »

The Northeast Face of Lassen Peak from the Devastated Area Trailhead, taken after our ski descent.  Our ski route up to the North Ridge is shown in blue (the upper part is hidden behind the right skyline), with the ski descent shown in red.  The debris from the massive sluffs we set off is easily visible to the right of our descent route (skier's left).

Click here for a double-size version of this photo.

« Last Edit: 07/08/03, 11:25 AM by andalkar » Logged

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