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North Peak 12,242′

North Peak 12,242′

Location: Saddlebag Lake  – Tioga Pass
Elevation Change: 2200′

I don’t remember when I skied North Peak, but I won’t ski it again. It was late 90’s with John, Aaron and Tony. Same excursion where we skied Morgan South. This is a short tour you could combine with the Y Couloirs on Mt. Conness afterwards, which is right where you end up. Or you’ll be so relieved that you lived, and just go home. Climbing up the south side of the couloir is easy.  There are three gullies, and you ascend the most western one. The others don’t reach the right spot to drop the North Peak North Couloir. The entrance is wide. I watched John kind of backup and just fly into it, like it was a ski race. At least that’s how I remember him doing it. I went second. I side slipped down about 1/3 of the couloir on my Tua tele skis, trying to slow down on punchy and off-camber crust. I saw the horrendous fall line as off-camber, taking you into the rock wall on the right. And there is an open bergschrund at the bottom where a local Tahoe guy fell into and was paralyzed shortly after us, possibly in the same year.  In powder snow, and with good modern AT gear, it’s going to be a little less scary. But I think it’s around 50 degrees, off camber, and has a hole at the bottom.

Aaron skied third. He was training for Mt. St. Elias. RIP my friend. He came looking for sketch. He didn’t ski it well, and kind of did what I did. Then Tony came down on his telemark skis doing parallel jump turns all the way. Every turn made me wince and almost close my eyes. The three of us had no business skiing this line. John had no problem of course on his first generation Fritchi Bindings and long heavy straight alpine skis. Probably the first Volkl Mantra’s, if I remember.

I described the timing for this trailhead in my Mt. Conness Post. I climbed North Peak’s East Ridge in the summer, that was amazing. I would do that again, but not ski down stuff this steep again. It’s more of a free-fall. You aren’t carving turns. But it was a major tick list ski descent at the time for East Side BC Skiers. We read about it in Moynier’s Backcountry Skiing California’s High Sierra guide that Falcon put out, now out of print. He spoke of climbing 3 couloirs on the north side, with the most western couloir reaching the ridge. That’s the line, I don’t know about the others being skied by anyone.  If you climb the south side like we did, you can always just turn around and ski some great corn snow. Then wrap around the mountain to check out what you were smart enough to avoid.

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