On Friday we skied the North Side of Lassen Peak from the Devastated Area. The trip began with a bang, or rather a series of them… As we arrived to Lassen Volcanic National Park, the skies became dark and before long continuous lightning and thunder had ushered in a storm that dropped about half an inch of hail at the trailhead!
Unsure what this unpredicted storm had done to the mountain, we set out with low expectations. Setting off through the woods of the Devastated Area toward our goal of the Northeast Face of Lassen Peak, we were pleasantly surprised by the hardness of the snow. Rather than the mushy, isothermal snow that might have resulted from an intense overnight rain and hail storm, the snowpack was remarkably frozen, even in the woods.
The downside was that the snow getting through the tree line was very rough - but snow is better than dirt! Waves of snow still blanketed the terrain all the way to the parking lot, but it was like trying to skin through a frozen mogul field. Don’t get me wrong - this is still a much better alternative than walking in through the dirt with skis on your back and actually skied quite well after it softened on the way back to the cars.
Above tree line, we skinned across moderately sun cupped and supportable (to both skis and boots) snow. Skinning conditions were excellent, and we were able to skin nearly to the top of the peak using ski crampons. There was also an excellent established boot pack that made getting to the summit from around 9,000’ like taking an elevator.
The snow surfaces varied, but are trending towards sun cups. We found smooth snow with no tracks on the west side of the northeast bowl and more tracks, but still fairly smooth skiing on the eastern side of the bowl. Below 8,500’ or so the snow became significantly more sun cupped, but with the right timing (around 11:30am) was soft enough to ski well and still provide enough glide to get back to the cars easily.
Getting back to the parking lot is a bit of a maze and there are burned out patches here and there, but mostly continuous snow cover all the way to the lot. As of Friday, the snow was frozen firmly in the morning and seemed like it would hold for at least another week.