Friday, November 14, 2008

Winter in the Marble Mountains

There's nothing quite like a good stomp around in pristine knee deep powder to get yourself excited about the upcoming ski season. My friend Drew and I lead a group of completely random folks on a 14 mile trail in the Marble Mountain Wilderness, a sub-range of the Klamath Mountains. A six hour drive north of Berkeley the Marble Mountain Wilderness lies beyond Mount Shasta, the second most southern of the Cascades, close to the Oregon border. We drove up on Friday night arriving at the trailhead parking and campsite just after midnight, just in time to pitch our tents before the heavens opened. At 4200 feet, all this precipitation was rain which soaked pretty much everything before we had even started hiking. The hike headed along the side of a colorful canyon before emerging into what would have been a green meadown had it not been for the thick snow cover. At this altitude the snow was only a few inches deep and gave the whole scenery an fabulous wintery feel. As we passed through another meadow and a series of frozen lakes, the snow starting falling. Soon it was more like a blizzard with periods of full white out conditions. At this point we began to ascend on to the ridge line where the trail meets the Pacific Crest Trail. Here the snow was knee deep and occasionally waist deep in the drifts. Drew did a sterling job kicking a trail up to the ridge line. At this point darkness had begun to descend and all hopes of reaching the summit lake camp had been thrown out of the window and we were just happy to find a good sheltered spot in the trees at the start of the 2 mile ridge traverse. Here we made camp and attempted to stay warm until first light.

Early the following morning we woke up to freezing cold boots and in some cases frozen trousers and socks - nice! We continued along the ridge, joining up with the Pacific Crest Trail. The snow along the ridge line was mostly knee deep and after half an hour or so everyone's feet had pretty much defrosted their frozen boots. The views done into the Valleys either side of the ridge were spectacular although the freezing fog and low level cloud prevented us from more far reaching vistas of Mount Shasta and beyond. The trail itself was almost completely lost in the snow forcing us to resort to the map and compass at times or to Erica's amazing ability to spot the slightest hint of the trail under all that snow. The chutes and routes through the trees looked so perfect for some backcountry skiing and myself and Drew were cursing that our gear was in the shop getting waxed ready for next season - these untouched slopes and pristine fluffy powder would have been awesome to ride down - we'll just have to wait until xmas at Lake Tahoe and new years at Whistler/Blackcomb.

Welcome to Winter!


No comments: