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Thompson Peak - an unplanned but wonderful ski tour

Published by 360 Pro , 2 May 2017, 18h12.

Region: World » United States » California
Date of the hike:28 April 2017
Ski grading: AD
Geo-Tags: USA   US-CA 
Height gain: 500 m 1640 ft.
Height loss: 500 m 1640 ft.
Access to start point:Luther Pass, several turnouts on Highway 89

On this day I had a clear goal: to get a good workout with as much altimeter gain as possible. In the Tahoe area  Freel Peak with is 10883 ft is one of the highest peaks and if you start somewhere around lake level (for example at the end of High Meadows Tail in Meyers (same as *here), you get a good 4000 ft climb. So much for the plan. I had no plan B, not even a different map with me...

At my starting point early in the morning there's "a big shock": no snow on the ground and none in sight. This is not exactly ideal for a ski tour and since the planned route hardly gains altitude for more than 2 miles, not very attractive either. For *last week's tour I started at a very similar altitude and I encountered about 6 feet of snow on the ground, so I didn't expect any lack of snow here...
-> Note to self: the west shore of Lake Tahoe gets considerably more snow than the rest of the places around the Lake, don't assume the same amount of snow in South Lake Tahoe as on the west shore!

I don't really feel like walking in my ski boots for more than 2 miles & carrying my skis to the snow (and the same for the way back) and definitely don't feel like going home without any mountain activity either. With no Plan B and no other map on me, it kind of gets a little complicated though. So the idea is to just repeat an easy tour I've done before, somewhere close by. *Water- and Powderhouse Peak come to my mind. With a starting point at Luther Pass (which is at 7735 ft) and both peaks having north facing slopes, the lack of snow should definitely not be an issue there and since I've done the tour before and didn't find the orientation difficult, I should be OK without a map too.

So here I go, off to Luther Pass and when I arrive there, I happily see plenty of snow on the ground. I quickly send a text message with the change of my plans and am ready to start. But wait, on the north side of Luther Pass is another peak which looks way more interesting. I vaguely remember reading Bob Burd's summer report about it, but don't recall any details. However, looking at the peak from here seems straight forward and not too difficult. In addition the trees are relatively sparse on this side of the pass, so skiing down these slopes should even be more fun than Water- and Powderhouse. I send another "change of plans" home (turns out that I didn't correctly remember the name of the peak ...) and get going.

The south facing slope is still very hard and somewhat icy at this time of the day. It makes sense to mount the crampons on my skis, especially since it seems to get rather steep further up. From here it actually looks like the last stretch of the direct southern access to the very top is a little too steep for my taste and therefore I head towards the bump (P. 8625) on the southeast side to check out the east slope for it's steepness to the top. Getting there I "look around the corner" and see that it should be doable for me. It helps that the almost east facing slope here already got plenty of sunshine this morning and is not too hard any more but somewhat soft by now. I estimate the steepest parts here somewhere around 35° or slightly more, which I was able to confirm after checking the map at home.

The very top of Thompson Peak offers a nice view down to the Hope Valley and the meandering west fork of the Carson River. Since the east facing slope was already soft enough for skiing down, I only take a short break at the top and I ski back to the saddle near P. 8625, somewhat directer than during my ascent in wonderful spring snow. There I take a nap in the sun to give the southwest facing slope some time to soften up too and then joyfully ski back to Luther Pass.

Even though I didn't get my planned "good workout", but only about 1600 ft of elevation gain, the tour was wonderful in many other ways!

Hike partners: 360

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