conditions were mostly crap. We got a little snow on Monday and
Wednesday, but I guess most of it blew away by yesterday leaving a
mostly icy surface with pockets of powder. Also, we only went 2½ miles
before Bella was completely exhausted (she slept all afternoon). She’s
not really very old but she is definitely slowing down and I can’t bring
her everywhere if I want to get a good day of physical activity in (I
was thinking about getting up early this morning and doing my first
winter ascent of Mt Rose without Ingrid or Bella, but it’s way too windy
up there right now; next weekend it’s not going to get above freezing,
and I don’t think I’m ready for that, either. I’ll have to do it some
Until Friday we’d planned to get Zuly up there for
her first time on skis, but she begged off at the last minute. It’s
just as well, because I’m sure she would have had a lot of trouble with
the crappy conditions.
Last week I downloaded an Android app called Gaia GPS.
It’s a GPS mapping app, sort of like a smartphone substitute for a
dedicated GPS unit. It has a lot of good reviews. I downloaded a
similar app soon after I bought the phone and it was crap, but that was
almost three years ago. This Gaia GPS app is really pretty good.
don’t know how well it works if you are out of cell phone coverage
area, but I have Verizon and anyway we weren’t that far from
civilization so I had good coverage all day yesterday. With Gaia GPS
you don’t need to carry a map. It has a built-in compass and you can
also use it to lay out routes. I’m not sure how useful it would be for
me in the summer, since I typically follow trails everywhere, but for
snowshoeing cross-country it’s great. We used it to route-find over a
hill into the Tahoe Meadows area and to check our relationship to the
Ophir Creek trail which we were interested in following for a while. At
the same time I was recording the hike to a GPX file I could load onto a
was only a 3.6 mile hike, but it was fun. I wouldn’t mind doing a
similar hike on skis. We’d have a little trouble getting down that hill
in the center of the map, but probably could traverse more widely and
get down that way. But the rest of the hike would be great on skis.
And easier. If we had skis (and we left the dog at home), we could have
got much further down the Ophir Creek trail.
I’ve always liked
the idea of collecting GPX tracks, partly so that I could follow in the
winter tracks I made during the summer. About ten years ago I bought a
GPS unit and it really didn’t work very well for this. The antenna
wasn’t very powerful and it had a hard time seeing the satellites
through my body when it was in a pocket, so the tracks looked like shit.
And it was difficult to use in any case.
The Gaia GPS app had
no difficulty maintaining a very accurate track of our hike. Now I
honestly don’t know whether smartphones really use the GPS satellites or
if they simulate GPS by triangulating from multiple cell towers. I had
always assumed it was the latter, since for GPS to work as well as it
does the smart phone would have to have a very sensitive GPS antenna,
because while cell phone towers are no more than a few miles away, GPS
satellites are hundreds of miles away. So I figured the GPS wouldn’t
work if you had bad cell coverage. But I don’t know. For now, hiking
around not far from the highway and not far from Lake Tahoe, the Gaia
GPS app seems to work very well indeed.
Two other things I was
worried about was battery usage and phone memory. I thought maintaining
a track would use up the battery and the track itself would take up a
lot of storage. But I had no problem with either (it was a short track,
and a GPX track is nothing more than a text file, a list of
coordinates, easily compressed). So clearly this works well for day
hikes; I’m not sure I would want to depend on it for overnights and
Ingrid got herself some snowshoes, so we went for a walk around the Mt Rose Campground, on the south side of the highway from the Mt Rose trailhead parking lot (there was new snow up there on Saturday).
Just beyond that toilet at upper left is the Mt Rose Ski Area, lots of folks skiing and snowboarding down.
We hiked what I call the Galena Creek Waterfall Loop. This is where you
start at the Mt Rose Summit trailhead and instead of taking the Tahoe
Rim Trail to the waterfall, you cut west to connect with the Relay Ridge
utility road and take it a few miles up to Frog Pond, then catch the
trail north up to the Galena Creek watershed. Then you hike down from
the top of the waterfall to connect with the Tahoe Rim Trail and take
that back to the car. It’s between five and six miles and I first did
this hike in September.
gave me shoeshows for Christmas, and we brought them up with us to try
them out. We figured if the snow got really deep Ingrid could wear them
and I’d just power through postholing. But since it hasn’t snowed in a
couple weeks, we didn’t think there would be much deep snow, we assumed
it would be pretty hard from freeze/thaw cycles. Boy, we still have a
lot to learn about this place.
We got a very late start because
we had to deal with my mother first. I forgot to bring a map (again),
so once we left the road we were sort of on our own. I had assumed that
by this time there would be lots of boot and ski tracks guiding us from
the road to the waterfall, but I was sure wrong about that.
Fortunately, by now I have a pretty good idea of how the land lies, so
we were able to make it down to the waterfall. The snow was deep and we
traded the showshoes. Poor Bella had a rough time in the deep snow.
the time we got to the waterfall, the entire east facing ridge was in
shadow and I was starting to get worried, not so much about me and
Ingrid as about Bella, who seemed to be getting exhausted and maybe
cold. We experienced another miscalculation that slowed us down: since
the waterfall trail is so popular in the summer (it’s really a mob scene
on weekends), I assumed there would be an easy to follow trail back to
the car through the snow, but we found only a few sets of boot tracks
around the waterfall. So routefinding back to the main trail was tricky
and it was very slow and miserable going (since we had only
one set of snowshoes between us). Of course, we did find our way before
too long and Bella, bless her, seemed to get a second wind.
We got back to the car 30 minutes before it got dark. Fumbling through the snow in the dark really would have sucked.
Get an early start.
Carry a map.
Always carry snowshoes, no matter how good the trail is near the trailhead.
While the showshoes were about right for me, they were too big for Ingrid, so she needs to get smaller ones.
feet got a little damp and were numb by the time we got to the
waterfall, but other than that I felt fine in a thin polypropylene
undershirt, wool shirt, polypropylene long underwear and jeans, plus two
pairs of wool socks. I wore glove liners for most of the hike. Ingrid
was comfortable too. I carry warm clothing and accessories, and would
have been fine (though not happy) if I had to spend the night out there.
was probably okay as long as she kept moving, but we could tell her
feet hurt by the middle of the hike. We carry dog booties, but deploy
them only in emergencies, especially in the snow, since I think they
would keep her feet damp and cold. We also carry a sweater and a sort
of insulated windbreaker for her, but again she probably doesn’t need
anything in these kinds of temperatures as long as she’s moving and
there’s no significant wind. I’m not sure she would have survived a
night on the mountain without shelter.
Once we were home and snug we forgot about how miserable much of the hike was and we agreed it was a fine winter adventure.
At the end of our Mt Whitney Mountaineers Route climb I gave him a Mesa Tactical cap:
I would never take the Devil’s Backbone Trail in winter. I just avoided it. Almost all the fatalities (maybe all of them) in the last few years on Baldy have been people using that trail in the winter.
There’s been snow on the high mountains around here for a week, so I decided to take Bella on her first hike up the Mt Rose Trail to Galena Creek Falls (she’s only been living with me since Labor Day):
to the trailhead at about 7:30, just as it was getting light. There
are sure a lot fewer people on the trail this time of year. That view
of Mt Rose is from the south; from Reno and Sparks (that is, from the northeast), you can see there is still a lot of snow up there.
Walked to the top of Mt Rose again this morning. Maybe it looks like I’m stuck in a rut, but mostly I’m doing this for conditioning anyway. Edgar refused to go because he’s already been there, wants to do something new. I intend to walk to the top of Mt Rose many times, in all seasons.
I got a couple books on the local mountains, I’ll be checking other stuff out eventually.
started about 6:50am, got to the top (five miles) at 9:00am. That’s
probably as fast as I ever want to do it. When I go with other people
it takes longer because they generally have a better pace. My pace is
always too fast, beats me up. Back to the car by 11:30am, and home at
five after noon.
Horrendous smog layer on the California side of the mountains. Lake Tahoe is down there somewhere:
These three people left after five minutes, and I had the summit all to myself while I munched on breakfast for fifteen minutes:
usual, ran into a bazillion people coming up as I was going down. Lots
of dogs. A few UNR hotties, too, apparently hiking in their underwear.
Go Wolf Pack!
I hiked Baldy yesterday. This was the Conga line heading up the Bowl:
I don’t typically climb the Bowl, I take the trail up the ridge to the
west I call 9,000 Foot Ridge and then head up via the western spine of
But I was done in by the deep snow!
doesn’t look bad (it’s at the base of the Bowl), but on the ridge I was
postholing the whole way up and it wore me out. I was the first person
up there that day, but a lot of folks came after me and I’m sure it
would have been much easier going a little later once all those people
left a boot track.
Not that I didn’t have a great time out there anyway. This is Cucamonga Wilderness from my turnaround at 9,000 feet:
Lots of people at the Ski Hut, on my way up and on my way down.
the way down I met a couple coming up who spoke German. They had not
been on the trail before. When I mentioned there was a ski hut ahead,
they perked up and suggested they could get something hot or cold to
drink. I said, no, it’s not like a European ski hut.
Oh, those Europeans, they’re so cute! Sometimes I just want to pinch their cheeks.
Flat (the trailhead) was an unbelievable zoo. I’d never seen anything
like it. It’s always crowded with families on snowy weekends, but
nothing like this. I haven’t been there in the winter for a few years,
so I don’t know whether it has just got more crowded, or I was seeing
bigger crowds at 12:30 when I got back to my car than I would have in
the past, when I would have got back two or three hours later.
took me 20 minutes to get down to Mount Baldy Village (four miles), but
the traffic going up was incredible. It was completely bumper to
bumper for three miles below Manker Flats, and then for about four miles
below the village (past the tunnels). The worst of it was, all those
people inching up the mountain had nowhere to go. There was already
nowhere to park anywhere near Manker Flats or along the road by the time
I started down, so you had hundreds of carloads of families spending
maybe an hour or more in their cars before finding out all they could do
was drive back home again. There were CHP units up at the Flats, but I
really think they should have had a roadblock down near the tunnels
just to warn people there wasn’t any more room. I remember Newport
Beach PD used to do this on Balboa Peninsula in the 1980s on Saturday
Boy, I can’t wait to move to Reno!
This is the first thing I saw when I got back to the Flats:
of the people up there playing in the snow are Hispanic. I was
thinking about how this scene would look if it were in, say, Italy,
where people would invariably be mobbing the kaiboes instead of standing
patiently in line.
Hell is truly other people. The day after Christmas we took Ingrid’s
co-worker’s family up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for a winter hike.
Because we were inviting a family along, we left the house at 8:30
instead of pre-dawn like we normally do. When we arrived at the tram
around 10:30, the line to buy tickets snaked outside, down the stairs
and along the sidewalk. I’d never seen anything like it:
Once you finally got your ticket, it was for a tram two and a half hours later. So we spent three hours at the valley tram station, literally standing around because there is fuck-all to do there.
A symptom of the primary reason I am fleeing to Reno.