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Round Top via Crescent Moon Couloir

Published by 360 Pro , 22 May 2017, 16h56.

Region: World » United States » California
Date of the hike:19 May 2017
Hiking grading: T4+ - High-level Alpine hike
Ski grading: TD+
Geo-Tags: USA   US-CA   Mokelumne Wilderness 
Height gain: 600 m 1968 ft.
Height loss: 600 m 1968 ft.
Access to start point:Highway 88 to Carson Pass
SNO-PARK Pass Parking Permit required (5$ per day or 25$ for a season pass)
Check this link for details and how to purchase the permit online

If I had to name "my favorite peak" in my new home, it would have to be Round Top. Not only because I have been on top of it 3 times already, but also because it offers quite a few interesting routes, in summer and winter and with it's >10000ft altitude a very nice view as well. One of the little more adventurous routes to the summit is the "Crescent Moon Couloir" on the north face of the mountain. During the winter months this steep couloir which is shaped like a waning moon sickle - hence it's name - offers a very direct route to the top from the northern base of the mountain. The steepness is quite considerable, at the lower part it's close to 50° and shortly before reaching the top it climaxes to almost 55°.

Two weeks ago I was at Carson Pass to attempt this couloir once already, but miserably failed. The problem then were not the technical difficulties of the tour, but the fact that I forgot my ski poles at home. For a few seconds I considered doing the tour without poles, but had to admit that it wouldn't really be fun. Then I quickly drove to the Kirkwood ski resort which is about 10-15 minutes away and hoped to find me some ski poles there. However, the ski resort was already in it's "summer hibernation" and everything was closed 3 weeks ago already (despite the fact that there were about 10 feet of snow to the left and right of the streets). Then I asked a few other backcountry skiers at Carson Pass if they have some extra ski poles, but of course nobody usually carries extra poles with them. A last thought was to quickly make myself some poles out of tree branches, but I gave up that idea pretty quickly as well and returned home to "just" do a long walk in my "*extended back yard" instead.

Today I make "sure sure sure" that I have all the necessary equipment and start at Carson Pass shortly after 8:30 AM. The relatively flat part to Winnemucca Lake is an easy warm up. However, from here it starts to get interesting and progressively steeper. The first 200m climb to the beginning of the couloir is around 30° steep or a little more. At the entrance of the couloir where I take off my skis, attach them to my backpack and put on my crampons, another skier catches up with me. Since he is much fitter than me I let him go first :-) To our surprise we still find a layer of 3-5 inches of powder here. However, the icy crust below it makes the crampons and ice axe a very welcome aide, mandatory for me. The steepness soon gets to almost 50° and hovers around that until after the couloir makes the right turn. Shortly before reaching the ridge it then gets to almost 55° and makes it a rather serious business for someone like me.

At the top I then thank the guy in front of me for taking the lead & doing the hard work. We have a nice long talk during our break and enjoy the view and warm and sunny weather. He has been up the Crescent Moon Couloir many times before but never skied it down yet. However, today he feels comfortable to do it. Me for my part, I have to chicken out, because that kind of steepness is a tad too much for my taste and skiing abilities, especially those almost 55° at the beginning make my knees shiver too much. Instead I pay a short visit to the actual summit and then walk down the west ridge towards The Sisters. From there I joyfully ski back down to Winnemucca Lake and go back to Carson pass along the route I came up.

Hike partners: 360

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