Just walking around town, there are several peaks you can see right from South Lake Tahoe. Since last summer though, one peak in particular always catches my eye. Mt. Tallac might be the most iconic and Monument Peak at Heavenly is an easy summit to ride, but Trimmer Peak’s two long avalanche scars, branded into the landscape, is what my backcountry dreams are made of. With a low starting elevation, we needed to hit this mountain on just the right day.
The weather aligns creating the perfect window
First thing to note is the approach to Trimmer Peak is long, very long! Nearly a mile before you even reach anything rideable, you will still have another 2.5 mile slog up to the top. It is a great workout but be prepared to log quite a few miles for the day. With a starting snow level of 6600’, timing is crucial to ensure your ENTIRE ride is enjoyable. This year’s winter has been filled with amazing days, but we’ve also seen horrendous rain storms pound the Lake Tahoe snow pack for days at a time. Timing is everything for a mission like this.
With Heavenly reporting 42″ of blower pow and nearly a week of cold weather predicted, the window was perfect for us to finally hit this peak. With the day picked, we triple check the avy situation and the only thing noted was wind slabs and dry slough possible. Considering all the conditions and our route plan, everything was a go!
Looks like the secret is out
Arriving at the base of Trimmer Peak, we see nearly 30+ cars parked at the start of the trail! Looks like a few people had the same idea as us. With so many visitors in town and at the resorts for ski week, it seemed even the backcountry was busting at the seams. But like we’ve said many times before – backcountry isn’t about the ride down but rather the entire adventure.
A deep blue sapphire named Lake Tahoe
Strapping on our splitboards, we begin our trek. With only the sound of our skins, we weave our way through the valley filled with large evergreen trees. Peering through the canopy, the sky is covered with thin clouds, squeezing out a few snowflakes. Making it to the base of the mountain, we begin ascending. A few hundred feet above the valley floor, the clouds quickly dissipate. Sparkling like a deep blue sapphire cupped by the snow covered mountains, Lake Tahoe takes over the landscape with her presence. Just past the Lake on the horizon sits the majestic Mt. Tallac. What a view! Warmed up from the approach, we peel off a few layers and continue on our way.
A train of people
Getting into our groove and gaining momentum, we schuss our way up the mountain, passing several other groups. In friendly backcountry camaraderie, we exchange pleasantries with the other travelers and find out nearly all of them are from the North Shore of Tahoe with us being the only crew from the South Shore. South Lake is the hot spot it seems for today. The group descending warns us there is a train of people attempting to summit Trimmer Peak so prepare for some traffic. Those are never words you want to hear in the backcountry!
Summit or bust?
The backcountry is about getting away from people not following them like lemmings. Trimmer Peak is a bit different than other mountains in Lake Tahoe because it has a false summit ¾ of the way up followed by a flat section and then another 800’+ vertical to the top. In our route plan, we had already decided we would stop at the false summit and determine if we wanted to go all the way to the top.
Based on our observations and the crowd of riders out today, we decide not to hit the summit. Why? Most of the terrain accessible from the false summit can’t be reached from the top of the mountain. Sitting on the ridge line with no one around as we eat our PB&J’s, we feel we made the right decision for our soon-to-be carving extravaganza.
Blower Pow … and not a single track around
Switching from skinning to snowboarding, we stand on top of our drop in point. With a big holler, Shane drops first. Taking big ‘ole turns, he carves the virgin snow, shooting massive plumes of snow behind him. I drop in second and immediately know we made the right the decision. Besides us, there’s not a single track or person to be found. We take huge swooping carves, squeezing every bit of fun possible out of this slope. The terrain is sparsely covered in trees, giving us enough space to take nice easy turns. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also filled with bumps, rollers, and pillows on a pitch barely 25°, making it avy-safer for us to actually enjoy instead of avoiding.
Dude, where’s my car?
Ending up in a thick ravine filled with manzanitas and aspens, we look around at the unfamiliar surroundings. Uh oh! This is the end of the line for snowboarding but even worse, we aren’t close to the skin track we took at all. Where are we? Shane pulls out his trusty compass and confidently points “that way.” Switching back to skinning, we make our way through the thicket and within 15 minutes, we’re back to our car. Whew!
Confirming we made the right decision
Walking through the parking lot, we overhear other people talking about their day’s adventure. “Aw man, it was good but so tracked out. Not a single fresh line to be found.” We quietly grin to ourselves and know we made the right decision today. At the car, we pack up our gear and slap some high fives. What a day! Will we summit Trimmer Peak this season? The way things have gone so far this winter, there’s a good chance we might be back to ride it. Until then, we enjoyed the blower pow and no people. A job well done and mission accomplished for sure.