June 2, 2018
It just wasn’t time to hang up the skis for the summer yet. The peak, located in Lassen Volcanic National Park, rises 10,473 feet above sea level and is just two and a half hours north of Reno, NV. While it’s not a huge climb to the top, it isn’t the easiest. The terrain is very steep and the snow conditions weren’t ideal for skinning. Regardless, our team of five were determined to bag this summit.
There will be five of us skiing. From left to right: Brian Sharpes, Allison Sharpes, Ian Meintjes, Keoki Flagg, and Matt Reardon
History of the volcano
Mount Lassen is the southern most volcano of the Cascade Mountain Range which reaches from British Columbia all the way down to Northern California. It’s largest eruption was on May 22, 1915 where the surrounding areas were devastated and ash was spread about 280 miles east. This eruption was part of a series of eruptions between 1914 and 1917. Lassen hasn’t erupted since the final time in this 3 year span.
Allison’s father, Brian Sharpes, and Photographer Keoki Flagg flew Brian’s plane over the peak the day before to scope out lines. Brian’s message about the trip:
“Keoki and I did a little tour of Lassen in the plane today. The traditional car shuttle route on the NE side requires a very long walk out. The alternate plan will be to ski the west side which is shorter and come back around thru a saddle to the parking lot. Anyway, should be fun but it will be a mini version tomorrow.”
A lot of the South/South East faces were cupped and very hard to even skin on. The temperatures were high around 70 degrees Fahrenheit so we knew the snow was going to soften quickly in the morning. The coverage was good in the the couloirs but the edges and spines were all rock.
Five of us started our skin from the Lassen Peak Trailhead and climbed the south face from there. It was a blue bird day and with the entire climb being above the tree line, there was no shade. It was extremely difficult to skin and everybody in our group took a different route to the peak. Keoki and Matt chose to skin up the southern face while Allison, Ian, and Brian caught the ridge as soon as possible. Either way, it was tough. Some of us boot packed and some of us skinned; that is until we got to the part where the dirt single track was exposed and we all had to hike. Hiking about a mile up single track switchbacks in ski boots was an interesting experience. After about 10 switchbacks, we were able to get back onto snow and make the short push to the summit of 10,473 feet.
Lunch and Some Technical Difficulties
After a little over two hours of hiking, everybody pulled out their sandwiches and enjoyed the views. It was an incredibly 360 degree view where you could see Mount Shasta, Chico California, and Lake Almanor to the south.
After lunch and a bit of a break, it was time to put our skis on. Allison being on newly mounted skis stepped into her first ski fine, but the second ski binding was not adjusted to her boot. Being summer, nobody packed their bags with everything they usually have in the middle of winter and nobody had a tool. Luckily, a fellow hiker had a multi-tool that we were able to borrow to adjust it the best we could.
The Ski Descent
We chose to ski down the North West side of the peak as it looked to have the best coverage and wasn’t sun cupped. This turned out to be the right choice. The snow was soft, but not sticky and made for excellent spring conditions. It was about a 2,000 foot descent of perfect corn that delivered exactly what we were looking for.
About half way down, Ian was doing some big, fast, GS turns and while pushing through a corner, the pins on the back side of his Dynafit Radical bindings released from one of his boots sending him super far forward. Luckily, we was able to ski it out and stomp his heel back into the ski.
The Route Back to the Car
Once our 2,000 foot descent came to an end, we were one ridge over from where we had parked at the trailhead. We stuck our skins back on, threw our boots into walk mode, and began hiking. There was a great route that was covered with a descent amount of snow that make the skin back up not bad at all. It felt more of like a 15 minute traverse but we actually gained about 300 feet of elevation in a fifth of a mile.
Once we topped the ridge, it looked like we would be able to take our skins off and traverse on the hill side all the way back to the car. This turned out to be a little more difficult than we expected. Traversing, there were a few spots that were straight ice and caught us off guard. We also ran out of snow in front of us for one section so we carefully walked through a couple rocks with our skis and then straight lined it toward the car. It was a close call, but we made it all the way back to the car with our skis on our feet.
Finish off the day with some summer activities!
When we got back to the car, everyone was ready to sit back and relax. It was quite a hard day on the mountain with some tough skinning/hiking and it being quite hot out there. On the drive back, it was just nice to be sitting down!
We arrived back at the lake house on the peninsula of Lake Almanor where we were greeted with “Hey! We’re going out on the boat, get your swim suits on!” and who would ever turns that down! So, everybody changed into their swim suits, hopped on the boat, surfed, laughed, and enjoyed the amazing company we had all weekend long.
If you want to learn more about Lassen Volcano National Park you can check out there website here.
And don’t forget to follow the skiers on Instagram!
Allison Sharpes: @allison.sharpes
Ian Meintjes: @meintjes7
There are other ways to stay in shape for skiing during the summer months. Check out some other things you can do here: https://powder-pursuit.com/fitness-for-skiing/