This post is going to cover a location that you should be familiar with if you have been following this blog for a while. I was back at Castle lake last month with a buddy of mine. It was his first snowshoe trip and overall things went pretty well. For those of you not from the area we are having an unusual warm spell. This made the first 1/2 mile a little tough. The snow was mostly a sheet of ice and it was more crampon work than snowshoeing.
|Castle Lake from the North sore early morning|
|Nice icy steep slope to try out some new snowshoes on. I had to apologize a lot for my choice in locations.|
Once we topped out on the ridge the snow conditions improved and we were really snowshoeing. The cloud cover kept the temperature down just above freezing for the first part of the trip.
|Topping out on the saddle before heading down to Little Castle Lake|
Soon after crossing the saddle the sun broke through and the snow started to soften. Plus the temperature started to climb. It was T-shirt weather not long after.
|Sun just starting to peak through. The flat area straight ahead is a small pond during the summer|
With the weather being unseasonably warm there was a lot more melting and runoff than you would normally see in January. We ran into quite a few large holes and some small ones on the east side if the ridge. We made our way down the east side and headed for little castle lake. The route down was pretty steep. Allan and I took more than you tumble. Just before reaching the lake there is a flat area where got our first good view of Mt Shasta.
Melt hole. There was a steady stream of water flowing under the snow here.
|Small melt hole|
|First clear view of Shasta. This is when we started slapping on the sun screen.|
We took a break at the lake had a snack and made plans for the rest of the day. With the clouds cleared out we had a great view of the surrounding peaks and decided to climb the peak to the east of Castle Lake. In our enthusiasm we headed pretty much straight up the right side of the ridge we just came down (green). We then turned right and headed to the top of the peak (yellow). The view from the top was well worth the work.
|Destination: Rock out cropping to the right.|
|Taking a moment to catch our breath and enjoy the view.|
|Looking South at the Castle Crags wilderness.|
|More of the Crags. This was such an awesome view. The contrast of the snow and rocks was striking.|
|This was one heck of a climb. Little Castle Lake is at the base of the mountain face at the top of the picture.|
When we reached the base of the ridge and headed up we left our snowshoes and poles behind ( this we would later realize was a bad idea). The sun and wind had cleaned the center portion of the ridge completely free of snow for most of the hike to the top. Once we reached the top it was a gorgeous 360 degree view of far Northern California. The trip was tougher than it looks. When we could not stay on the rocks the snow and manzanita was deceptive and Allan and I post holed up to our knees more than once.
|Heading to the top|
|View to the west|
|Looking down on Castle Lake from the top.|
|Black Butte to the North|
|Mt Shasta With Allan blocking part of the picture|
|Me Supporting the great Cliff Bar company|
|Total wilderness guy in his element.|
|Lassen Peak is about center of the picture. The peak is about 70 miles away as the crow flies.|
Now that I have a GPS unit I have started Geocaching. There was a Cache near the top of the peak we just climbed and I thought it would be a waste to climb all the way to the top and not at least make an attempt at it. This is where not bringing the snowshoes becomes a bad idea. The cache was about 150' to the east from the top of the peak. The route to that area of the peak was mostly rock piles covered by a layer of snow of varying thickness and densities. I struggled to within 87' of the cache when I post holed up to my waist in the snow and wedged my lower leg between two rocks. My forward momentum almost hyperextended my knee. That ended my search. I don't like to quit but this was getting dangerous. A mans got to know his limits. If I had brought my snowshoes with me to the top there would have been a different end to this story. Lesson learned. After breaking for lunch we headed back down the ridge and strapped the snowshoes on again. We were hoping to hit all three lakes ( Castle, Little Castle, Heart ) before calling it a day. As you can see from the map above we were very close to Heart lake. But not close enough we wanted to get back to the parking lot before the sun dropped behind the ridge. Maybe next time.
|To the left of Black Butte there is a small white bump on the horizon. That is Mt McLoughlin in Oregon. That's about 85 miles away.|
|We survived. It was a good trip|
Well that wraps up this excursion. It was a good day. The views were spectacular. The snow was great except for that little section I mentioned at the beginning. It was not any better on the way back down by the way. Allan had a good time and did not hold on to any hard feelings about the tougher sections of the trail I drug him over. He even shared his beef jerky on the drive back (that's always a good sign). For a first snowshoe trip I probably could have chosen something flatter. But where is the adventure in that?
I have two new Blogs in the works and should be posting them in the next couple of weeks. The first will cover a trip I took last summer to Big Bear Lake in the Trinity Alps. The second will be my first attempt at a gear review. There are a few pieces of gear that I think are great and would like to share with you.
Remember the best way to experience the outdoors is with your own senses. So take some time to get out there and feel the dirt under your feet, the wind on your face and the smell of good clean air as you breath it in.