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Trail Reports: 2003-2004 Season

10/25 - 10/26/2003 Trail Maintenance Weekend

We had a fun filled weekend up at Pinecrest! Not only did we assist many Prospector patrollers through the knot's station, but also Penny, David, Irene, & Bart were able to partake in the chair evac station. While we were busy instructing, Bill Lowel showed up for the day and plodded off into the trail system to clear a few trails and give us a head start for Sunday. Fun for all - let me tell you!

After lunch, we proceeded to perform a little trail clearing in and about Stan's bowl. We had a few hours of daylight and a few clippers, not to mention a ready and willing team - it seemed more appropriate than taking a hike as in previous years. After a few hours of quality work, we proceeded to Jim's house for the pot-luck dinner.

We surrounded the outdoor fire pit, being wooed by the gentle sounds of the ice cream maker humming in the background as we were telling stories of our Summer escapades. John Kretschmann, Larry Crawford, Mariano Caunday, Dana Kirsch (not to mention Geiger), Joanne Zeek, and Steve Barr joined in on the fun as we roasted hot dogs, ate vege-bergers and Pavlova that Penny had 'built'. Two potential candidates Imma & Magda from Spain also joined us thanks to Mariano. It was fun to chat about their adventures in the Pyranies. A few ski films and another viewing of Kieth Gale's tumble off the hill at last year's OTT and we were off to bed.

Sunday - we were joined by Steve Bailey, Tod Fitch & wife (sorry I don't remember her name), plus Meredith. We judiciously headed into the back country under Steve's directions to put more signage on the Crabtree loops. Stan's bowl also received additional trimming to accept the future MTR traffic in February.

Before (Photo: David Kelly) After (Photo: David Kelly)

Returning to the Ranger Station at about 4pm, a bunch of tired, bitten, scratched and bruised - but happy patrollers chatted about our day. Another exemplary showing from Pinecrest - Thanks again for your assistance!!

Looking forward to seeing you at the Tri-Advisory in Yosemite on November 8/9 & Candidate Training on December 13/14 2003!!

--Submitted by Jeff Gurrola

12/13 - 12/14/2003 Candidate Training Weekend

What a weekend!!!!

We had a great day skiing on Sunday with plenty of 10" powder snow to carve our tele-turns on the trails and amidst the trees. We also evaluated and signed up 4 new candidates. They all bring different backgrounds that could only enhance our patrol. Please welcome Brian Welsch, David Sands, Imma Ratera, and Wade Melcher (left to right).

Snow at the cabin (Photo: Mariano Caunday) New Candidates (Photo: Mariano Caunday)

Saturday the snow was crusty on top with a 8" fluffy base, Pat Callery and I broke trail from Gooseberry cut off to the trail head but Sunday we had great powder down Gooseberry and Crabtree above Aspen meadow.

We now have three brand new radios with more transmitting power. We will go over the use of the radios at the On-The-Hill training.

Many thanks for the instructors and patrollers who help made a notable weekend: Tim Helwig, Jeff Gurrola, Larry Crawford, Pat Callery, David Kelly and JK

Remember to sign up for your patrol days and On-The-Hill Training Jan. 17&18.

--Submitted by Mariano Caunday

12/27 - 12/28/2003 Patrol Weekend

Just another pleasant day in Apple Valley. Huh! Not after this past weekend of skiing on the Pinecrest trails. I need to go to confession now because it was definitely sinful to be having so much fun leaving all those awesome first tracks in 10"-14" of new "squeaky, dry, cold, powder snow". Wade and I just couldn't seem to get enough of it.

Saturday, (after the usual resort visitations, how-do-you-do's, have a good Christmas, etc? with our Prospector friends at Dodge), was spent (intended, really) as a candidate orientation of trails, with of course a smattering of cutoffs and lesser known tele-runs thrown in, on the Knob/Aspen/Crabtree trials system. Try as I might, I just couldn't find anything either steep or knarly enough to knock Wade out of those leather boots he insists on wearing. Looking back, (oh so often ... we viewed, with new found respect), so many perfect carved turns that we simply stopped counting. Indeed it was skiing where the debate between technique and equipment was seriously blurred.

Saturday day exhaustedly finished in the dark, escorting a champion 5 year old cross-country skier and his dad to trailhead ... let me tell you, this tiny tike was setting the pace for this old timer, and all the time telling me about his fun aerobatic day on the skis. After such an incredible day of skiing even the 45 minute drive back down the hill wasn't half bad. As I understand it, Dodge had well over 4500 people on the hill Sat. night for fireworks and a torch light ski down the hill, parking was horrendous with folks even parking at the lake and being shuttled-up - we didn't stay for the fun. What a day Saturday was ... It couldn't possibly have been better;

Comes Sunday - Yes it could be better, and it was.

Sunday; a continuance of candidate orientation of trails, etc, etc. This time doing snow quality assessments on the North facing slopes of the Stanislaus drainage ... namely the Gosseberry Trail system. Of course, each day was to be preceded by a requisite ski check-off of the candidate down one of the alpine runs off of chair #8. Half way down Graceland on the second run we detoured onto the Goosseberry trails, breaking trail for at least, well maybe 100-200 feet; no ski tracks other than for some nomadic snowboarders ... (we'll see their tracks again hopefully heading back to the resort ...? ). Then, as by some magical magnetic unknown force we immediately experienced this strange sensation of being pulled into the freshies of the trees, pulling at the steel edges of our skis we found ourselves now descending deeper and deeper into the forest, (hey Wade, where's your radio?).

Like I said earlier, this was clearly sinful. We definitely were not practicing slope conservation as we left trademark "S" turns in the snow behind us, only to be removed in time by new oncoming storms. Larry; Tele Bowl was incredible - wish you were there - top to bottom, non-stop, turn after turn, looking down and back, not surprisingly nary a tree to impede the continuous sinuous descent. From the bottom of Tele we skinned (I skinned, Wade patterned) back up to traverse the ridge along Rock-N'-Roll, culminating on the steeps above Stans Bowl. Picking our way along the rock ledges we sought a "fun" way down, preferably around the trees and not into them. I was looking for the run that we worked at clearing during the October trail work day ... I'm not too sure we actually found the precise route, however what we found was indeed steep and deep, and once more a picture of sheer ecstasy as can only be found in these perfect idyllic winter surroundings. Wade got the big tour of Stans Bowl, site of the February MTR class. Jeff G. and Irene may remember our work in Stans Bowl a couple months back, and my environmental pruning on a steep bordering the bowl, (hey, who's going to miss a few small crappy ol trees anyway). Skins on, patterns plopping, we make the laborious trudge up to the highest point on the bowl. To describe the run down; let me just say there were definite some "butt-Pucker moments" when cascading over a couple really cooool drooops. Ask Wade what he thinks about it the next time you ski with him ... he was pretty mellow most of the weekend while skiing this weekend, but on that run down he yelped and hollered like a little kid with a brand new sled heading down the big hill, and so did I.

A lustful day waning and an ominous sky threatening overcast, cold, and snow we cleared radio contact, (both radios), with Stanislaus and headed for home. It was a weekend of remembrance of glad tidings and joys that are available to all of us who yearn to reach out and enjoy all what life has to offer. On a sadder note: I would be remiss not to mention, especially for those who knew Marla Ward, a friend of the patrol, a Prospector Patroller, who skied with us some seasons back, has passed away ... a senseless victim to cancer - her fight is over. She will be missed.

See you on the trails ... it's laying more powder down as we speak.

--Submtted by John Kretschmann and Wade Melcher

1/3 - 1/4/2004 Patrol Weekend

Article on lost snowboarders

Here's what the local paper had to say about the lost snowboarders.

--Submitted by Robert Parkhurt

Followup on the rescue:

After I accompanied our patient on the helicopter from Pinecrest to Columbia Airport, he was transferred to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto by the AirMed helicopter. Ben Schiffrin(from Tri-Advisory) was the emergency room doc on duty. I saw the patient Sunday and Monday. He has some frostbite on the tips of the fingers, but it will take more time to determine how much tissue damage happened. His hands were much less swollen today. His feet are OK. His parents and he appreciate our efforts.

--Submitted by Steve Barr

Patrol Report

After reading JK's "sinful" trail report of last week , I was thinking on Friday night how we could make this weekend an equal extravaganza of great snow, skiing and pleasure. After battling through storms for most of Thursday and Friday, we knew there would be no shortage of the white stuff and cold over night temperatures in the teens assured it would stay light and fluffy for the weekend ahead. Everything was in place until a phone call late Friday night. We were advised by Dodge Ridge patrol that a search was active for two missing snow boarders who had not returned after riding backcountry off chair 8 and to standby for a call from the Sheriff.

Morning came and there was no call. After assembling a crew to go about our plans of doing a Nordic toboggan instructors clinic we headed up to Dodge Ridge to begin our day. Not long after we were back in the cars heading for Pinecrest Lake to begin an extrication operation with the local Sheriff. The boarders had been found alive and well but were not assessable by the search helicopter to be picked up. Keith Gale is writing a much more concise treatise of the events surrounding the rescue which will follow, but to put it succinctly, with a quick helicopter trip, half mile ski in, a sondy sled, and a lots of grunting and heaving we got them out!

We retired back to the patrol house Saturday night relieved and proud of what we had done. The team worked well together though some very difficult terrain and challenging problems. We were fortunate to have a large number of patrollers up for the weekend who were able to bring their skills and training into practice. The event also highlighted some issues that we have to address in order for the Patrol to be better prepared and a better resource for these types of situations. Thanks to Steve, Tod, Jeff G, Bart, Penny on the rescue team and Larry, Joanne and Keith supporting.

Sunday. With all the excitement of the previous day behind us, the idea of a patrolling our own trails was welcoming. However we decided to attend the short avalanche clinic put on by the Dodge Ridge patrollers. After a short lecture we got to practice our beacon searches then take part in a multi-victim avalanche scenario. Many thanks to Dodge for this opportunity.

To the final sweeps we moved. On the Gooseberry side Penny and myself were surprised firstly to find the whole of Gooseberry road had been groomed (corduroy style), and also by the insane amount of tracks from the resort heading straight into the Stanislaus drainage. I hope they knew where they were going. Saw a few people on the trails and lots of traffic evidence on the lower area. Tod, Jeff and Keith swept the Crabtree side, down to Aspen Meadows from the Nob and then down Ridge Run and Sun bowl. At the Crabtree trail head they were advised of two skiers who had not returned from a tour. The search was over before it begun as they showed up while we were reassembling at the stop sign to start the search.

All-in-all a great weekend. Didn't get in as many turns as I'd have liked but it was very satisfying to know we can help out and make a difference.

--Submitted by David Kelly

1/10 - 1/11/2004 Patrol Weekend

Hi all -

I intended to send this out first thing Monday morning but I ended up on a SAR call at 6:00 AM for four more missing snowboarders at Dodge Ridge. This is getting to be an epidemic! Thirteen people have been rescued from the snow in the Dodge Ridge/Pinecrest area in the last two weeks! These four boys went out-of-bounds and made it all the way to the lake late Sunday night and broke into a cabin to spend the night. So, they were in good condition and easy for the helicopter to pick up Monday morning. Mark Hahn was again involved in the search, along with Doug Parker and some of the Dodge Ridge Patrol. Several of the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Deputies searched on snowmobiles and rode in the helicopter. I had very little to do, but was ready to assist with evacuation had it become necessary. We were finished by 10 AM Monday morning. Anyhow, here is the Patrol Report:

January 5 - Special Assignment - Boy Scout talk on Winter Survival This request came in via Brent Pettey (USFS volunteer) and also directly from a Boy Scout parent who got my name from Phyllis Ashmead (Mi-Wuk USFS). It was Troop #500 from Sugar Pine. They will be doing some winter camping and wanted a speaker for one of their Monday night meetings in early January. I covered this by myself and spoke mostly from our NSP brochure on Winter Awareness. I brought along some recommended items that were mentioned in the brochure for show-and-tell. There were about 14 boys and 8 adults. I spoke for about an hour including some questions and answers. It was a fun evening.

January 10 - Saturday - Patrol Day

Road conditions were excellent and temperatures were much warmer than the previous weekend. No new snow during the week. Patrollers present in addition to me were: Mariano Caunday, Tim Helwig, Steve Barr and Jim Krussow. Today was our first session of the new "Winter Experts" program (aka Ski With a Ranger). We met Joy Barney at Crabtree Trailhead at 9:30 AM and set up the green pop-up canopy with our PNSP banner near the Nordic Trailhead information board. Tim manned this station and greeted and guided latecomers while he heated hot water for hot chocolate. I did the first station, "Clothing", fairly close to the trailhead. Steve did the second station on "Ten Essentials" and the third and fourth stations on "Winter Survival" and "Emergency Shelters" were combined in one location before the STOP sign. Mariano built some awesome shelters with assistance from Jim Krussow. I did the presentation on Winter Survival followed by Mariano's shelter demo. By this time we had 22 attendees. Some went on, but most came back to the trailhead for hot chocolate and cookies. Jim took wonderful pictures of the event and they will be featured in an upcoming edition of the Twain Harte Times. We had lots of positive feedback on the program.

Snow Shelter 101 (Jim Krussow) Maps and Navigation (Jim Krussow)

In the afternoon, Steve and I swept Gooseberry and ZigZag while Jim and Mariano swept from the top of Chair 7 down Nordic Run, Aspen and Crabtree Road. We saw lots of people out on the trails, most on the Crabtree side, probably due to the sunshine and good weather.

Mark Miller and Keith Gale conducted an Avalanche 1 class for the entire weekend. There were six students, but none from our patrol.

January 11 - Sunday - Patrol Day

Patrollers present besides me were Mariano Caunday, Tim Helwig and Jim Krussow. Another beautiful day with a smaller crowd. There was still lots of snow with no tracks on some of the higher trails, but Crabtree Road was well-traveled with lots of ruts and icy by the end of the day. Tim Helwig conducted a seminar in the morning at the Dodge old lodge on Winter Backcountry Awareness. Mariano and I assisted. There were 3 attendees. In the afternoon, Mariano and I skied down from chair 7 via Nordic Run, Augie, Aspen and Crabtree Road. Jim covered the lower Crabtree area. The Avalanche 1 class continued for the entire day near the area of Gooseberry and the trail leading to Stans Bowl.

All in all a very good weekend! We didn't have the excitement of the previous weekend, but made some strides towards educating the public on Winter Awareness topics.

Note: I returned the snowshoes from last weekend's rescue to the TSAR cache in Columbia. The snowboard (belonging to one of men rescued, I assume) is still at the cabin. I made some of the Sheriff's Deputies aware of this in case anyone called about it.

See you all next week at ON THE HILL TRAINING!

--Submitted by Irene Patton

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