I had the joy to join my friend Ayelet on her quest to winter ascend the 65 Ogoul Peaks in Tahoe. I’m not a list person myself, but its super fun to join people on their objectives. PLUS, if you climb an Ogoul with Ayelet you are invited to her Ogoul party when she finishes the list. Wow. Insentives.
Our first objective was up Anderson Peak (12.5 miles, 4000+ ft) which most people might do on the hut-hut traverse from Sugar Bowl to Squaw. However, you can do it in a day if you have one car by either taking a backcountry lift up to the top of Sugar Bowl or start at the ASI lodge area and skin up to Mt. Judah (what we did). From the top of Judah we were greeted with our 5mph forecasted winds which in reality was 35 mph winds + gusts. Here is where we lost Ayelet’s hat, an hour into our tour at 9:30am. 🙁
The route then went along a heavily corniced ridge to S. Judah before ski-skinning down a little ways to the base of Mt. Lincoln, the high point of Sugarbowl. We skirted left just outside the ski park boundary until we gained the next ridge which that we would take for the rest of the long tour to Anderson Peak. At least the wind on this side died down to more like 5mph.
Also on this ridge we observed long, deep cracks in the snow 10-15 feet from the cornaces blanketing the opposite side. Luckily the day showed no special avalanche problems and an overall score of Low for all elevations so we were not that worried. The ridge could get wind blown in places and quite icy in others, but only was challenging in one more exposed section right before the hut.
It went up and down a bit more than we expected, so we did a lot of ski skinning on our 5.5 miles out to the Benson Hut at the base of Anderson Peak.
When we arrived to the Benson Hut at 12:15am we were at our low. Very tired and nervous about the Anderson Peak conditions. Also probably low on energy since we had just had a single bar since breakfast.
After lunch we were rejuvenated and found it safer for us to boot-pack our way up the last few hundred feet to the summit since skiing down was outside our abilities with the slope ice crusted and steep.
A perfect summit selfie later and I had bagged my first Ogoul! I was going to THAT party! The way back was a long ski traverse with one short downshill tour diversion. The snow half 4 inches of powder and crusty snow. It was pretty fun and way better than the ridge. I wanted to do the whole tour as a backcountry experience (to find Ayelet’s hat) so we reveresed our route instead of ending in a ski down Sugarbowl from Lincoln.
The last slog up towards Mt. Lincoln and across to Mt. Judah was a like walking on worn out stumps. We were exhausted reaching Judah after 11 miles and 4000+ ft of gain for the day at 4:30pm as it was getting dark.
BUT THEN, WE FOUND THE HAT. Which was on a ski area boundary pole. Ayelet used her last energy to boot pack up powder 100 ft feet to retrieve it before we finished in one tree run back to the car around 6pm. No headlamps!
The next day we were going to attempt Ellis Peak (9 mi, 3k feet) from the Blackwood SNO-park. We skinned the road for a while and then crossed left to find no real snow bridges over the river. BUT we did find a log about the width of my skis where I gave myself a 20% chance of falling in.
However, luck was on my side as I skinned up it no problem and then we skinned the rest of the way to Blackwood ridge for a great view of the Lake.
Going along the ridge for a couple miles we reached Blackwood Peak and had a look at Ellis. We were pretty tired, Ellis was pretty far and the snow was pretty good down ridge so we bailed on Ellis to backtrack and ski down through the best Sierra snow I’ve experienced.
The skiing down the tree runs of powder was good enough we did a second lap up to the ridge before crossing the snow-cat track back to the river at a different, log-less point. So, we had to cross the river in our boots, but we didn’t get too wet. After that it was a tired, level skin out along the road to the car. In all, a 9.3 mile, 3k ft day in under seven hours
Great days. Great company. Fantastic workout. The best snow I’ve ever seem in the crusty Sierra.