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Snow backpacking Tahoe area

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Snow backpacking Tahoe area

Postby Willythedog » Sun Apr 23, 2017 6:26 pm

Hoping to do a backpacking trip in the snow. Mid May.

Been up to Ralston peak, another trip out of bayview trailhead in the winter time.

Suggestions? Trying to keep it +-5-7 miles.

Was thinking Lake Aloha. Is it a popular route? Would the snow be pretty consolidated?

Carson pass area maybe? Been meaning to hit up Roundtop.

Won't be skiing, id imagine I would need snowshoes



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Re: Snow backpacking Tahoe area

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Apr 23, 2017 7:35 pm

I was up on Hwy 4 near Bear Valley a few days ago and could walk on the snow that was out in the open sunlight with just my tennis shoes. But I do not weigh a lot. It depends on how willing you are to occasionally post-hole and how heavy you are (including your pack) and if you are willing to do most travel early in the day. Sometimes just having wide sole boots works. The snow in the shadows of the trees does not consolidate as quickly, and there are the soft spots around tree and under covered logs.

I have the light weight narrow MSR snowshoes and they worked fine a month ago when I walked across a snow covered frozen lake up by Donner Pass. I like the MSR's because they are a climbing snowshoe and have spikes on the bottom in the foot area. You can actually climb some pretty steep slopes. Someday I want to try kids snowshoes for semi-consolidated snow. They certaily would be lighter to carry when not in use.

The trouble with Lake Aloha is that you have to start a distance from where you would start in the summer making it a long slog in on snowshoes. But with all the slabs of rock there you may be able to find a flat rock to camp on. I doubt you would have crowds at Lake Aloha. What about Suzi Lake? It may be shorter but do not know if that trailhead is accessible. Roundtop from Carson is a lot shorter than going into Aloha. Is Carson Pass open?
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Re: Snow backpacking Tahoe area

Postby SNOOOOW » Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:40 am

Carson Pass area is a great place to snow camp since you can camp as close to the car as you feel comfortable. There is plenty of parking available around that area (some spots require a SnoPark pass) and you can go south to Round Top, Winnemucca lake or north towards Meiss or Showers lakes. The only problem with that area, especially on the weekend, is that there will definitely be people out there doing all sorts of activities....campers, snowshoers, skiers etc...Like Daisy said, Aloha is a slog but you should be fairly alone out there.
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Re: Snow backpacking Tahoe area

Postby SSSdave » Mon Apr 24, 2017 6:00 pm

Why would anyone want to go to a frozen snow covered lake? Especially while lugging a considerable weight required for snow backpacking? The real question should be what kind of snow covered Backcountry places are worthwhile per whatever a person's interests?
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Re: Snow backpacking Tahoe area

Postby Tom_H » Mon Apr 24, 2017 7:08 pm

Why and who would want to haul heavy gear and backpack at a frozen lake? Well....me...when I was young and strong enough that I could do it. Why? For the serenity, beauty, and the love of a demanding challenge. But that was long ago in a different life...before the ravages of age set in.

To the OP: I used to live at Tahoe and hiked, snowshoed, or nordic skied every month of the year in Desolation. In my own experience, I would expect the snowpack to be consolidated well enough to hike with microspikes. On steeper slopes you could use crampons or toe kick like hell if you have steel toed boots.

Aloha and the Crystal Range will be very pretty. The lake will still be frozen solid. The snowpack may actually be easier to hike in May than in late June/early July in that it will remain harder. In June/July afternoons, the surface will be wet and slippery. Heat will have been transferred through boulders and cavities in shrub trees and manzanita may have weakened due to internal melting. Because of this, post-holing could be less of a problem in May as opposed to the next two months.

The long pole in getting to Aloha at that time will be the condition of the snowpack on the steep rocky climb out of Echo. Once at Haypress Meadows, you can get to Aloha regardless of conditions. If the snowpack is still solid coming out of Echo, you will have a laborious, but doable climb. If it's melted there,, great. If you have patchy snow where edges of ice shelf collapse and you hit the granite below.....it could be a rough climb. It is doubtful, though possible, that you would encounter anyone at Aloha at that time. As WD says, the water taxi may not be running yet, regardless of whether the Echo Lakes are melted. You should call the resort for updates on when they expect to start running the boats.

Other places to consider are Hope Valley, the trail from Spooner past Snow Valley Peak to Marlette Lake (NV state Park permit required), Mt. Rose summit area, possibly back side of Freel Peak. I think Tahoe Jeff and Vaca Russ have done a lot of trips into the west side of Deso in May and you can find quite a few trip reports they have posted in the archives.

Have fun, stay safe.
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Re: Snow backpacking Tahoe area

Postby SSSdave » Mon Apr 24, 2017 7:48 pm

Tom, no argument that snow landscapes can be beautiful. My point as a photographer and decades old skier, is a snow covered lake, especially a large lake is IMO about the least aesthetic or interesting type of landscape little different than a large featureless flat. Very bright eye squinting and featureless except early or late.
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Re: Snow backpacking Tahoe area

Postby Willythedog » Mon Apr 24, 2017 10:16 pm

That's a lot of good info guys, thanks! Leaning towards Desolation.

Cant seem to remember the steep climb before haypress, its been several years since ive been around there. Im sure itll come back to me... Best guess on if itll be tracked out or would i be be making new steps? From the looks of Recreation.gov there seems to be some booked permits.

Dave- I was thinking the snow covered Crystal range from Lake Aloha would be a nice view... I also tend to do stuff that are fun only in retrospect so another snow slog seems to be up my alley.

The days are long and the weathers gettin better- cant waste it
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Re: Snow backpacking Tahoe area

Postby Tom_H » Tue Apr 25, 2017 1:33 pm

Willythedog wrote:Cant seem to remember the steep climb before haypress


Switchbacks just before Haypress make it easier. On snow, with no trail to follow, it will be steep. You can sidehill your own switchbacks, but that exposes you to slipping. Otherwise, you toe kick straight up. You will be atop manzanita covered snow, so post-holing is likely at that point.

Coming out of Echo there are lots of steep step-ups blasted into the granite, You gain elevation faster than you realize.

Of course, if you have climbed from Eagle Lake to the Velma area in snow, this will be no more difficult. I did an April day hike once from Emerald Bay up to the Velma plateau and back down Bayview when it all was under consolidated snow, no microspikes or crampons.
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Re: Snow backpacking Tahoe area

Postby Tom_H » Tue Apr 25, 2017 1:39 pm

SSSdave wrote:Tom, no argument that snow landscapes can be beautiful. My point as a photographer and decades old skier, is a snow covered lake, especially a large lake is IMO about the least aesthetic or interesting type of landscape little different than a large featureless flat. Very bright eye squinting and featureless except early or late.


I guess just a difference in taste. I like snow covered flats juxtaposed against rugged peaks in the background (like the Crystal Range). Silver Lake used to be my favorite place to cross country ski because I could glide so easily on the frozen lake, but had the big peak behind it.
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Re: Snow backpacking Tahoe area

Postby Harlen » Tue Apr 25, 2017 6:13 pm

"Willy,"

I've just returned from a four day trip into the Desolation Wilderness area of your interest. Three days were spent camped on the frozen shore of Lake Aloha, and I thought it was stunningly beautiful. I would recommend that you ski or snow shoe in, as the snow on the slopes is quite soft, and about 2-3 " of new snow poured, or rather, blew forcefully in, on Sunday night and Monday morning. There were sizable drifts that you will likely contend with, but on the plus side, it was beautiful with all the new snow in the forest. I'll create a brief trip report, sans photos unfortunately, so check that out for more detail. In short, the Crystal Range is at its finest, though Tom_H would be the last word on that. Good Luck Ian.
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