May 16, 2008, Lassen Peak, NE Face via SE Face

5/16/08
US elsewhere
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Posted by Amar Andalkar on 5/16/08 8:44am
Following a ski descent of the West Face of Mount Shasta on Wednesday (
View of south side of Lassen Peak from the summit parking lot in the morning.

Headed back up to the summit parking lot at 6:15am, just in time to see three skiers skinning up the summit trail. They planned to ski the NE Face and ski out to a second car at Devastated Area, so I asked if I could get a ride back too, expecting an easy "yes". But "no", they refused, stating that their car would already be way too full with just the 3 of them. Whatever, there's usually a way to squeeze in another skier if there's enough desire, especially for a short 12 mile ride, but no problem. So I decided to stick with my original plan, which was to ski the NE Face down to about 8000 ft, then traverse east around the mountain to reach the upper Hat Creek drainage, and then skin back to 9000 ft on the south side, followed by a short run back to the car. Snow depth at the summit lot appeared to be about 8-10 ft, far less than the 15+ ft it would normally have in mid-May. In 2006, the last time I had skied this route, the snow depth there was still over 12 ft on July 10 !!!.


View of Shasta across the summit crater of Lassen.

I left the parking lot just after 7am and reached the summit at 8:45am. I skinned up with ski crampons, following the faint skin track of the other three skiers on the mostly still-frozen slopes. Reached about 9700 ft on the SE Face, before the runneled snow made skinning hard enough that booting seemed more efficient, and so I hiked the rest of the way. The SE Face does have continuous skiable snow up to the summit plateau at 10300, but the summit pinnacle above that is already bare rock. The last of the other three skiers lost a ski while skinning up the steepest bit right at the edge of the summit plateau, and it slid 200-300 vertical ft downslope before stopping (he downclimbed on foot to retrieve it).

The summit was quite warm, over 45 F, with winds variable 10-20 mph. The NE Face has skiable snow up to about 10420 ft right now, which required just a bit of a steep downclimb to reach from the base of the summit radio tower. I skied down just after 9am, and was surprised to find the snow already over-softened. This was not quite the totally-bomber, avalanche-proof snowpack of 2 days earlier on Shasta. The surface was sluffing badly in spots on the steepest 40-48 degree upper slope, sending slow-motion slides down over 2000 vertical ft. Caution was certainly in order, and the most interesting moment was when I set off a roller that quickly grew to 6 ft in diameter as it careened down the 40+ degree slope, before collapsing into pieces. I grabbed my camera and shot some video of it, but it was already too far downslope to see well (although it did leave a 2 ft deep trench in its wake).


   
Looking up the NE Face,
with the radio tower looming.
   
Looking down the NE Face, with the twin shield volcanoes
of West Prospect Peak and Prospect Peak below.


No more such excitement the rest of the way down, just nice turns on mostly-smooth corn with only minimal surface sluffs at times. As planned, I traversed around near 8000 ft, and skinned continuously up the lovely Hat Creek drainage, all on snow except a 20 ft bare-gravel crossing of the moraine of the SE glacial remnant. Back to the car just after 11am, a short but lovely day with 3100 vert of skiing. Only the NE and SE Faces of Lassen still hold skiable snow, and the mountain certainly looks more like late June or early July than mid-May. Now where next? Back to Shasta, I guess...


The NE Face of Lassen Peak reflected in Hat Lake.


View of the SE Face from Kings Creek Meadows.


Other reports from this trip:

Sounds like a pretty chill trip, at least it's nice weather... if uneventful.

Amar, thanks for the photos and report.  I'm going there next week.  Looks like the snow is melting fast.  I'm only hoping for a small patch just big enough to test some new skis that have come out of the oven.  Because I know you like to drive, how about you come down again for a quick ski ;).

Reply to this TR

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may-16-2008-lassen-peak-ne-face-via-se-face
Amar Andalkar
2008-05-16 15:44:30