Taking it slow in February

February was a pretty relaxing month. It also hadn’t snowed in ages, so skiing wasn’t that high a priority. I had a friend visiting, and an upcoming trip to India, so I couldn’t do anything too technical. I did still manage to get out a bit, but nothing that needs a full trip report.

Recent rains have made the Bay Area hills a treat, so we went for a quick Saturday morning hike from Stinson Beach to Pantoll Ranger station. It is a 7 mile trip that starts and ends in redwoods, but opens up to gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco beyond the rolling Marin hills.

(All pictures in this post are courtesy of Shreya Agrawal and her Sony α-6000.)

Fog on CA-1
Fog on CA-1: Fog creeps over CA-1 in Marin County, California.
Green hills above fog
Green hills above fog: Just another beautiful day in California.

The next weekend I returned to Red Lake Peak. It was a snowshoeing trip, but I was on skis. A recent system had dropped some snow, but with high winds I was expecting, and received, crappy conditions. The standard approach was in much better shape than last year, but as soon as we moved on to the northward aspects, it was all breakable crust, with major helpings of ice.

The sastrugi were a real delight. I also got in a lot of intentional kick-turn practice.

Kick turns on sastrugi
Kick turns on sastrugi: Remarkable sastrugi bands on the approach to Red Lake Peak. Carson Pass, California.

Going up Red Lake Peak was uneventful, coming down did need bootpacking.

I got in some turns on the descent towards Little Round Top, where the snow was much better. Avalanche conditions were considerable across much of the range, but Red Lake is a pretty safe choice due to low slope angle and a route that sticks to ridges and bare faces for the most part. In fact, the lack of snow on the windward faces suggested some impressively strong winds.

Mountains near Carson Pass
Mountains near Carson Pass: Looking west from Red Lake Peak to Kirkwood and other mountains. Carson Pass, California.

South Lake Tahoe was crowded to the point of repulsion on that weekend, I was glad I wasn’t skiing at a resort.

On Sunday we had only half a day, so we ventured cross-country up to the Angora Fire Lookout and a little beyond. This is my new favourite, newbie-friendly winter hike. The trail is easy (you follow a road),

Views from Angora Ridge Road
Views from Angora Ridge Road: Mt. Tallac rises over Fallen Leaf Lake. Jakes Peak and Lake Tahoe round off the great view. Desolation Wilderness, California.

the views are spectacular,

Angora Ridge Road
Angora Ridge Road: Skin track up Angora Ridge Road, Desolation Wilderness, California.

and based on the time and energy available you can either head all the way up Angora Peak, go just till the lakes, or turn back even earlier.

Now I’m in India for a few weeks, where I am eating a lot of good food and not doing any exercise so I can reset myself for what seems to be shaping up as a great year for adventure.