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Bear Trap 2023

January 26, 2023
by Keith Gale,

Jim Quinley and I have returned-wind battered but not bruised-from our Bear Trap 2023 adventure. As always, the cabin never disappoints. Pictures are here:

We departed on Sunday from the Manteca Hampton Inn & Suites about 8AM. The drive to Bear Valley was unencumbered from snow, though the snow berm had to be 10-12'. The snow blower created quite a luge run.

We parked below the resort Maintenance Station and hiked up to the equipment ramp. It was here we ran into two BV Ski Patrollers. Though they, too, were backcountry skiers and were sympathetic to our cause, they were quite adamant about our approach to the top of Bear Valley Ski Resort. No uphill skiing which is understandable. But... Even at the top, they warned we were not to ski DOWN the groomed slopes. We were to remain out-of-bounds the entire way. Which we tried our best to comply. We did drop into Bear Boogie briefly.

Once out-of-bounds again, we skinned up and headed to the top of Corral Hollow Hill. We passed the rib Gery and I have taken in the past, passed a landmark tree, then onto the large bowl just to the ENE of the cabin. We dropped in and crossed the meadow. From a distance, it was clear we were in for some deep shoveling. Arriving, the snow was at the top window-or about 13' of shoveling! Gery and I have shoveled when the snow was at the roof ridge.

It was at this point my detailed memory of the cabin failed us. If we could access the second story window egress, we would not have to dig. I was able to get one nail which retains the window frame open, but thought the second nail was on the opposite side. In fact, there are on the same side. I could have gained access to the cabin through the second story. A tough lesson.

After a bit over an hour, we have a shoulder-width ramp to the door. It was recalcitrant. Likely frozen from the intense storms and snows. It finally yielded. To find, to our expected dismay, no wood for fire. Typically, Gery and I head into Bear Trap early November to re-stock the cabin with supplies and we cut, split and stack about a cord and half of wood. We then have a toasty cabin as the temperatures drop or the weather is not pleasant. We can sit comfortably by the fire and have a true fireside chat. That was not going to happen this time as Gery and my schedules did not align with the stars. It was 23 deg F when we departed the Maintenance Station and the cabin was considerably cooler. And dark.

The cabin looked in decent repair. Yes, there was the typical residue from human stupidity (really, you can bring in a mattress, a generator, and other debris and leave it??). There even was a brand-new FRS radio. Always a weird assortment meets us.

We found some candles and used the Luci light to provide some form of ambiance. We would not even think about digging out the windows. And it was not just the depth. There was a huge chance of an enormous roof avalanche collapsing on us. Think dark-cave dark without the windows or other light.

Even if there was wood, it would have been meaningless. Look again at the cabin pictures. What do you NOT see? Hint: Smoke from a fire has to go somewhere. We could not have cleared the chimney if we had wanted to. It was too steep and too deep to approach.

We made dinner and settled in. Not much to do in an environment like this-but it was far superior to snow camping. The winds were beginning to make their presence known. As Jim slept downstairs, he was well insulated from the tumult hailing outside. I, sleeping upstairs, was not so protected. The winds increased their intensity throughout the night.

Waking in the cold morning, the sun provided a hint of warmth. Breakfast was upstairs to capture the light. The winds were whipping snow throughout the entire meadows-which sits below two protective ridges. As we ate and discussed the day's adventure, it was finally decided to stay off the ridges and just do a simple tour. This turned out to be prescient, as Bear Valley had an active wind closure all Monday.

We skinned up and headed to the area just East of the cabin. We found a nice low angle bowl and some tree-protected zones of powder. Jim, as always, was so graceful in his telemark turns. He will be put to the test, though, next month as he heads to the Selkirks!! Think 3,000' elevation gain (and for some, that is just the morning).

Arriving somewhat in the mid-afternoon, we basically hung out and relaxed. It is amazing how well the body can adjust to the cool temperatures-especially with good gear. We were comfortable if not cozy.

More winds followed that night-though it was hoped the sun would provide sufficient solar radiation to cool the localized wind patterns. Morning came with the increasing temperatures-but only slight decrease in winds. After an easy, relaxing breakfast, we skinned up and headed to the large bowl. Ascending was not too bad. We had a quick snack break near Corral Hollow Hill and then headed down to the out-of-bounds BV gate. Jim decided to de-skin, and i decided to keep my skins on. Even though it is. personal choice, I find keeping the skins on easier to deal with all the roly-poly terrain.

We headed up to the top of Bear Valley Ski Resort. Initially, it was not too bad. Until we got to the section next to mid-Bear Boogie. There, the snow changed conditions. Up till now, we had either reasonable powder, wind crust or maybe even a wind slab. But here?? Oh my!! Here, we ran into the dreaded Sierra Cement. Each step seemed to have an additional ten pounds. Snow sometimes stuck to the skins-making the problem even more pronounced. The snow was painfully wet. This slowed us and exhausted us. We arrived at about 8400' grateful to be almost done.

A quick traverse to the groomed run and we were finally able to have the wind to our backs. Another patroller, Camille, was pleasant and we had a fine chat. I asked about Matlty (the pro mountain manager-whom I had asked to support my avalanche class),but this was his day off.

A few more turns and we skidded across the icy Maintenace ramp. The local dogs kinda greeted us, threatened us and were wary of us. All this to say: Another grand adventure completed.



Trail Report December 2022

January 11, 2023
by Keith Gale,

Wade and I headed up Saturday to our trails. The drive up during the moderate storm was not too bad. Chain control in place just above Twain Harte put traffic in slow mode-for most. It always surprises me when people pass when chain controls are in effect.

We initially started at Summit Ranger District. Dave and staff were just about to depart for the day. They had a power outage as well as lack of snow plows. Their job was fruitless. We did learn the Mi-Wuk building (surprisingly the Region's most expense leasehold!) was being evaluated for demolition and the staff there were being re-located to Summit. Odom is now Recreational Supervisor (term is my impression). Dave did not encourage us to open the cabin. This was due to lack of plows, lack of staff to plow even if they had the plows and the road conditions were not ideal. Getting stuck on the slick road would not be an easy recovery.

We parked at Gooseberry and walked to the Dodge Ridge Patrol room. As we approached the cafeteria, we heard a hail: "Hey Ski Patrol!". And who should it be?? Lo-and-behold, it was Anna with the family. Thijs, Tess and Curtis arrived to join in the re-union. As the storm was warm-ish, Wade and I used this an a right proper excuse to delay our patrol. We spent time sharing some stories and experiences. Curtis became a junior patroller as he wanted to wear my vest.

Continuing on our patrol duties, we headed over to the patrol room. No one was there-save for the Dodge Ridge Dispatcher (Mary Ross' former job). Initially, Chair 3 was closed-as was some of the resort. There was a power outage-and it seemed some lifts were operating on generators. There was an early wind-close at the Nob. Chair 8 did not open either Saturday or Sunday (not due to winds).

Wade and I headed to the Nob at the crack of noon (as Bill Keegan used to point out regularly). I figured if we were going to be accused, we might as well as play our part and actually start at noon.. Upon arrival, we found a Sno Cat at the top of the Nob-never have I seen active grooming during the day!

We took Quicksilver as the runs down to Chair 8 were closed. Cutting off mid-mountain from Quicksilver, we picked up Zig-Zag. The run had a few tracks from Dodge skiers heading to Lower Stagecoach. We took the newer shortcut from Zig Zag toward Gooseberry trail based upon the extensive tree removal. Wade pointed out where a jeep was previously stranded due to an overnight storm from which the owner did not properly prepare. We continued onto Rock-n-Roll and choose not to take the ridge portion of the route, staying on the trail proper. The ridge run is becoming a bit problematic due to tree fall.

The run went well enough-save for the fact as we lost elevation, we gained temperature. The storm was a warm one-and the snow turned into rain. The temperature at the trailhead upon arrival was 37 deg F and we were soaked.

On Sunday, the storm strength had passed, but it had some residual snow to deposit. The chain control was dropped to just above the Soulsbyville hill. I parked at Gooseberry with the intent of conducting two runs that day. That was my first mistake.

At the base, I met the Pro Patrol Supervisor, Mike and his girlfriend, Crystal. I did not inquire how the pro patroller supervisor relates to Carl, our pro patroller contact. I took Chair 3 up to find a guest with a broken snowboard binding. As there was only four volunteers on duty that day, there was no one at the bench (which was missing). I tried calling any Dodge patroller on Channels 3 & 4 without success. I told the guest I would contact a patroller and send a snowmobile up to recover her.

The ride up Chair 7 permitted me to meet a Dodge Ski shop employee, Tyler. Turns out Tyler lived in Bozeman last season, the home of Montana State University, the location of the finest snow science research in our country. Further, his friend is studying Snow Science. You can guess where I went with that information.

I spoke with a pro-patroller at the shack at the Nob about the stranded guest. I then began my run-turns out to be a long-term run-down Crabtree in near whiteout conditions. Visibility was low not so much due to snowfall, but air conditions. The clouds may have been that low. Or high humidity fog conditions. It made progress questionable. The flat light hid subtle terrain features. I could not make fast progress anyway-the snowpack was covered with an incredible layer of low-density, high-quality powder. Just going downhill was troublesome. I followed the trail to the meadows and then cut-off toward the Crabtree Road through one of the slots which used to be more open. These slots are becoming overgrown with aspiring trees. Back on the road, the slog really began. I made slow, slow progress to Aspen. Snow levels were such I was breaking trail with snow up to my knees if not mid-thigh! I note that the trail back to Chair 3 does not yet exist.

Arriving at Aspen after almost two hours of effort, I took a quick break and ate a snack. My strategy was to take the steepest trail back to the trailhead in an effort to have a gravity assist. This suggested Ridge Run. Alas...there was no assistance from Newton's own. I slogged, and slogged and slogged-seemingly lucky to find our lovely blue markers. Sure that I had arrived to the spot which is the steepest on Ridge Run, i cut to my right. Turns out I cut too soon and ended up slightly confused till I noted the terrain. I pushed to the Crabtree Road about 1000 feet from the Stop Sign. Upon arriving the Stop Sign, the trail had been broken by earlier snow players. Still, it took me awhile to arrive at the road.

The hike to Gooseberry was treacherous. The road was like ice-several times I nearly fell and had one actual hard fall. At the top of the parking lot, I noted a vehicle going in the wrong direction. Once I got him turned around, I continued to Gooseberry. Never have I been soooo happy to find a vehicle. Only to make my second mistake. I dropped my keys in the snow and fruitlessly searched. Hopefully Wade can find them this week as he skis with Irene.

Sunday's achievement: Five turns in just over five hours of touring (read that as slogging).

Pictures are here:

This is snow report from Dodge:
The snowfall began around 6am on Saturday and proceeded to drop 12in at the summit and 7 in. at the base up until about 4pm on Saturday. The Saturday daytime snowfall was on the heavier side with temperatures in the low 30’s and the snowline right around the 5,500 ft elevation.
Saturday evening into Sunday morning was when the brunt of the weather arrived as temperature decreased to the low 20’s overnight with the snowline down around the 4,500 ft elevation, dropping 26 in. at the summit and 21in. at the base by 5am Sunday morning.
Snowfall continued throughout the day on Sunday as the temperatures continued to drop, bringing the snowline down around the 3,500 ft elevation and blanketing the mountain with another 13 in. at the base and 14 in. at the summit by 4pm.
As we closed out the storm on Sunday evening into the early Monday morning hours, the snow continued to deliver another 8” at the summit and 7” at the base, with temperatures decreasing even more, bringing the snowline down below the 3,000 ft elevation.
Bringing us to a total of 60 in. at the summit and 48 in. at the base since the winter storms began Saturday morning.

As an aside, this article outlines an incident wherein a patrolller was caught in an avalanche this weekend. Buried, not killed.


MTR 2019

April 2, 2019
by David Kelly,

PNSP’s Mountain Travel and Rescue course this year was deemed highly successful! Despite the loss of the Pinecrest Community Center as our staging point (partial roof collapse due to snow), we rallied our resources and the students showed great flexibility in making the weekend work. Twenty one students from two Search and Rescue groups (TSAR and CALSAR), NSP patrollers, PNSP candidates and backcountry enthusiasts all pitched in together to make it a fun, educational time. Some of the most creative and interesting structures were constructed in Stan’s Bowl, including a full igloo. Mixed rain and snow Saturday morning turned to light snow showers Saturday afternoon and stopped just in time for the night search. Saturday night low was probably about 150 and the sun was out Sunday for the skills stations and it warmed up quite nicely. Everyone seemed quite positive about the event: learning new skills and enjoying the comradery of the group. Eleven PNSP patrollers took part under the great leadership of Jeff Gurrola. Thank you to all! 

An archive of older news articles can be found on the news page

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