Lassen Peak Ski Mountaineering

Lassen Peak (10,457 ft)

Eric on the summit

March 18-19, 2017

Eric and Matthew

I flew down to CA for the weekend on Friday night, and Saturday morning Matthew and I drove north from Palo Alto to Lassen Volcano National Park. We checked in with the rangers and started skinning up the road towards the peak.

The weather was pretty miserable, with cold 34F rain occasionally transitioning to snow, then back to rain. The rangers advised us to take the “ranger cutoff” over

Carrying the skis up Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak to avoid some avy slopes, but this turned out to not be worth the effort. We ascended Diamond Peak, then descended the incorrect ridge and met back up with the road shortly above where we’d left it.

There were a few snowshoers here turning around for the day, and we continued skinning  up the road. We eventually reached Lake Helen, and saw another group who had just set up camp for the night. It was getting a bit hard to navigating with low visibility, but the rain had ended and there were several hours of daylight left so we pushed on.

By 4pm we reached the last of the trees at a flat shoulder around 8,800ft and decided to set up camp. We spent a few hours constructing a huge snow wall to defend against the strong SW

Approaching camp

wind, then cooked some cous cous and went to bed. Unfortunately our gear was pretty wet from the rain and had trouble drying out.

There was supposed to be a local minimum in the chance for precipitation the next morning, but when we got up at sunrise it was still a whiteout and very windy. We still suited up and wandered over toward the SE ridge, and actually saw some other footprints in the snow. It must have been the group camping near Lake Helen.

Near the summit in a whiteout

We started up, following the tracks until they disappeared in the rime ice, then navigating by GPS along the ridge. Eventually we encountered the group of three descending. They said they’d summitted and we were very close. It looked like a guided team, since one experienced guy in the back was short-roping two other people in front of him.

Matthew led the way, navigating by GPS in the whiteout, until we reached the summit around 9am. By then the wind and freezing fog had accumulated a 0.25″ layer of ice on my trekking pole and ice ax!

Matthew on the summit

We took a few pictures and movies, then returned back down to camp. The wind and whiteout persisted as we packed up and started skiing down, but once we descended to Lake Helen the weather started clearing and we got an awesome view of the surrounding mountains.

We skied past the guided group as they packed up, then skied all the way back down the road to the visitor’s center. It appears we were the last team to summit this winter.

The original plan had been to stay in the park until Monday, but with our gear soaked and the weather predicted to stay wet we decided to drive somewhere else. Matthew had never been to Yosemite, so we drove down there, arriving that night.

We camped out in Camp 4, then hiked up to the top of Yosemite Falls the next morning. We drove back to San Jose in the evening and I caught my flight back to Seattle.



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