Snowshoeing – Lessons Learned on the California Alps

Last week was so cold and icy that I accomplished my entire weekly cycling goal of 100 miles, on Zwift. So, when Chris (Schull, one of California Alps Cycling’s Legacy Members) and his wife Shyanne (and their two pups, Kona and Java) offered to take me on a ‘shoe trip to Winnemucca Lake last Saturday I was all over it.

A map of the trail from Highway 88 at Carson Pass and Winnemucca Lake.
The trail from Highway 88 (Carson Pass) to Winnemucca Lake.

Lots to learn

Now I’ve done a lot of hiking, some backpacking, lots of camping and quite a bit of hunting in my day, including an elk hunt in the snow many years ago. Still, I was unprepared for our little adventure – this was only my 2nd snowshoe trip afterall. Click here if you’d like to read the post about my first snowshoe adventure, by the way.

My gloves were too small. They worked great on the property but add a little sweat and they were too hard to get on and off, and they didn’t have the fingertip sensor so I couldn’t snap photos without taking them off. Lesson 1. Lesson 2 – my pants. I had a great weather proof pair of Arcteryx snow pants, however, they didn’t stay put due to a drawstring that kept loosening. Suspenders would have helped greatly! Handwarmers were another item I could have used. One of my fingers went numb and into pre-frostbite because I had trouble putting on my snowshoes with my gloves and so had to take them (the gloves, not the shoes) off. It was a hard, kinda lumpy (with white patches starting to appear) digit until Chris gave me one of his handwarmers and showed me how to put it in my glove and wrap that finger around it. Lesson 3 and a big one. The biggest lesson I took away, though, was not to rush the preparations. I was a bit cocky and so figured I could just get all my gear together the morning of the hike. Big mistake. It wasn’t just a hike and more preparation and time was warranted.

On with the adventure

Once I got through (or we got through) my “greenhorn issues” (thank you Chris for having my back and thank you Shyanne, Kona and Java for waiting on my sorry ass) we were able to make some tracks. It was a beauty (albeit chilly) day on the pass. About 20 degrees or so. The day was fairly clear, though and until we reached the lake, there wasn’t much wind. It took us about an hour to get to the lake (we averaged 2 mph for the entire hike) where we found some shelter from the wind and had our lunch. Oh, and I learned another lesson here…bring something to sit on. Shyanne used a plastic garbage bag – light, easily packable and cheap.

Chris, Shyanne and Kona and Java taking a lunch break near Winnemucca Lake.
Lunch stop at Winnemucca Lake (the actual lake is to our left). Notice that Shyanne is comfortably seated?

We took a few minutes for some lunch and some spiked hot-chocolate (oh, so good!) and the goilz (Kona and Java) enjoyed nibbling kibble nuggets that Chris had thrown out on the snow. It wasn’t quite a bluebird day (there was some clouds as you can see) but it was damn close. There is something about being in the mountains with snow all around. It magnifies the beauty ten-fold, maybe more. For those of you who ski or do other winter sports I know you know what I mean.

Back to the barn, er truck

Now that we had put my wardrobe (and other malfunctions behind me) and had some much needed sustenance and cockle-warming we were able to put the pedal to the metal as it were and make good time heading back to the vehicle. Oh, I should mention that you need a Sno-Park permit to park at the trailhead. We forgot ours and so had to head back to Sorensen’s to get it or risk a $94.50 fine. Thankfully, not too much of a delay. Anyway, the trip back was uneventful and we made good time. We covered just over 4 miles with 1:47 of moving time and about 2 1/2 hours elapsed time and when we got back to CA Alps Cycling HQ we had a warm fire, cold beers and some good company with whom we could share our adventure. Here’s a few more pix from the day.

I wish you well on your next adventure. Why not head here to Markleeville for it? We’ve got some good eats and cold beer, a nice hot spring and more snow is on the way. I hope to see you soon and remember not to rush the preparations and most importantly be safe and kick some passes asses!

6 thoughts on “Snowshoeing – Lessons Learned on the California Alps”

  1. This is awesome! Wow so beautiful. Man I wish I were up there! I’m doing this next time we are up. I’ve actually wanted to do the Hot Springs to Blue Lakes Road with shoes. Norah and I have run it but it would be amazing to do in the winter.

    Hope things are good with you!

    Greg Hanson Greghanson11@gmail.com (949) 922-9128

    >

  2. Thanks Mark for the great day. Glad we could help with the learning curve. If you’re cold out there it’s not fun. Looking forward to our next adventure.

  3. Beautiful! I want to be there! No snow here 😦
    A surprise I encountered up there folks might want to know about. Blasting to reduce avalanche danger is done periodically. If your car is in the blast zone, its windows will be blown out. To prevent that, they move your car around a bend to get out of the line of the blast. I discovered that the hard way when returning from winter camping/ski touring near the pass. (Somewhere in that area; I don’t recall exactly.) After a few days in the woods we returned to a missing car. Luckily, someone noted our bewilderment and told us to walk down the road 1/4 mile and around the bend and maybe that was our car. Nothing like skiiing out of the woods in January and having no transportation! (and not a lot of food left.)

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