March 1999
Carson Pass Backcountry Skiing / Camping
Tim Kutscha

Snow Camping the North side of Carson Pass

On March 12, 1999, Douglas Bock, Joy Hollenback, Armin Karcher, and Tim Kutscha hopped into Douglas' Subaru, left Berkeley and travelled towards Carson Pass. After a quick dinner and some navigation glitches, we reached the snow line and turned down a plowed road to bivy for the night. Weather was cold and clear.

The next morning, we piled back into the car and drove up to the Meiss Meadow sno-park on the left near Carson Pass (about 3 miles past Kirkwood ski resort) and headed into the snow. (9:30am) Douglas, Joy and Armin brought backcountry skis while Tim opted for snow-shoes. The road to Carson Pass was clear and weather was sunny. We followed the tracks of some other skiiers and climbed northwest about a mile to a saddle. After gradually decending a mile beyond the saddle, we came to the warming hut at Meiss Meadow. Following the left edge for another half mile, we found a flat camping area near some trees to get out of the wind and set up camp. (12:30pm)

While Douglas and Joy relaxed with a bottle of beer, Armin and Tim started building an igloo. The igloo was a bit big for two people to work on and we ran out of motivation before it was done. Fortunately for us, the topless igloo was a great wind break which proved most helpful later on. By 3:15 Douglas was ready to go telemarking, so three of us climbed a nearby ridge off Little Round Top and glided down before starting dinner. The snow was rather crusty this weekend, so the hills proved difficult to turn on with the skis. Joy stayed back at camp and built a snow penguin with a rather large snout. After we returned from skiing, Armin had to perform major surgery on his old Peak I stove to get it working for dinner. Douglas and Joy went gourmet and enjoyed a bottle of wine. We were fairly tired from the day and went to sleep around 8:00.

The wind picked up rather heartily during the night and constantly woke us up with large wind gusts. By 8:00am we got up and started breakfast. The wind was blowing at 20-40mph. Fortunately, we had our windless convertible igloo to sit in for breakfast. Other than the occasional wisp of powder that blew over the top onto our heads, we enjoyed breakfast. By the time we were packed and ready to go, the wind had picked up and we trudged our way across Meiss Meadow and back up to the saddle.

The last half mile before we reached the saddle went very slowly as high winds blew ice crystals against us. Douglas enjoyed some telemarking on the crusty snow as we trudged on. Although the winds were rough, the sky was fairly clear. We had heard reports of an incoming storm later that day and were concerned that clouds might be rolling in shortly. On the other side of the saddle, we made our way down and divertd from the trail to get confused in the forest. Despite the detour we eventually got back to the car and enjoyed coffee and ice cream on the rainy trip home.

Overall, a splendid trip with a variety of terrain. The weather and crusty snow prevented more telemarking runs but we had fun anyway.

Lessons learned: bring a good sleeping bag, don't wear any cotton, melting snow requires lots of fuel, and building an igloo is trickier than you think.

Sidenote: viscous wankers have nothing to do with 4WD differentials. :)


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