Skiing Stoke from Lake Tahoe

Category: Off Season (Page 1 of 3)

Getting High on Mt. Whitney

Mt. Whitney has the gradual ridge approach to the right, with Mt. Muir in the center.

Morning light on Mt. Muir (center) and Mt. Whitney (far right).

By Geoff Forcier

Autumn has arrived in Tahoe and some say it’s the best time of the year. Temperatures are starting to fall and crisp cobalt skies filter abundant sun. Good weather is perhaps the single most important factor in knocking off any alpine objective. Fueled by the seasonal slowdown, a fortunate permit acquisition and an unquenchable thirst for adventure, we packed our gear and studied our maps. We launched a classic Eastern Sierra mission from North Lake Tahoe to the 14,505-foot summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48.

Because of its location in Southern California, Mt. Whitney has no glaciers. Mt. Rainier is only about 100 feet lower than Whitney, but is covered with glaciers due to its northern latitude close to Canada.

Two and half hours after leaving Tahoe City, we set up camp outside Bridgeport, in a broad valley dotted with natural hot springs. We slept under the stars with impressive peaks cresting the western skyline. This type of landscape prevails all the way down US395. Towns like Lee Vining, Bishop and Lone Pine break up long stretches of desert highway and provide ideal starting points for alpine adventures.

Natural hot springs outside of Bridgeport, CA.

Natural hot springs outside of Bridgeport, CA.

As we rolled south toward Lone Pine, we encountered heavy winds that created a massive dust storm across the valley, obstructing our view of the peaks. The bigger concern was how it would affect our summit chances. Would it blow us off the mountain side the next morning?

We took a fascinating side trip to Bristlecone Forest on the opposite side of the valley.  At an elevation of 10,000 feet, the ancient forest is a worthy trip. At the top, the wind was virtually non-existent,  just a whisper of a breeze. It felt strange to look 6,000 feet down into the valley engulfed in a churning dust storm.

4000 year old trees at 10,000 feet in the Bristlecone Forest.

Checking out 4,000 year old trees in the Bristlecone Forest.

As we got closer, we wondered how the 2013 federal government shutdown that had happened a few days prior would affect our trip. Would the mountain be closed? Rumors of law enforcement shutting down trail heads and closing roads loomed. It turned out that the roads and trail heads were open. No one was checking permits, we couldn’t even pick ours up because the office was closed.

Movie Road leads into Alamaba Hills, featured in hundreds of motion pictures.

Movie Road leads into Alamaba Hills. Whitney Portal Road leads to the Whitney trailhead.

We set up base camp in the Alabama Hills on BLM land west of Lone Pine. The landscape has spires, hoodoos and slabs interwoven with dirt roads and tracks leading to hidden camp sites in every direction. The site of countless western movie productions, Alabama Hills is featured in a Lone Pine museum celebrating its rich film history. It sits 4,000 feet below the Mt Whitney trail head camp site and is considerably warmer at night. With the wind gusting from all directions, we bailed on cooking dinner and took a short drive back to Lone Pine for Chinese at the cozy Merry Go Round Restaurant.

If it feels like your in a western that's probably because you've seen one of the hundreds of movies that have been filmed here.

If it feels like your in a western film that’s probably because you’ve seen one of the hundreds of movies that have been filmed here.

The wind kept up all night and we left the campground to began our climb at 2:30 am. When we arrived at the trail head, we were amazed to discover that there was no wind. The weather could not have been better for a summit bid.

First light on the crest leading to Mt. Whitney.

First light on the crest leading to Mt. Whitney.

We traveled in darkness for the first three hours, following light from our headlamps, trying not to stumble on rocks, and occasionally stopping to gaze at the perfect starry sky and canyon walls. At 11,000 feet, the sun came up and we found ourselves in a rock amphitheater that comprises the east face of Whitney. We paused for photos and refueled before ascending “99 Switchbacks,” a seemingly endless series of short switchbacks that ascend the steep face to the Trail Crest. At the crest we passed through the saddle and got our first view to the west toward Kings Canyon, Sequoia National Parks and the towering peaks of the southern Sierra Nevada. We snaked our way around towers, or aiguilles, as we made the final traverse to the summit. Above 13,000 feet, we really felt the altitude but the lure of the summit pulled us up.

Ridgeline leading to the summits of Mt. Muir and Mt. Whitney.

Ridgeline leading to the summits of Mt. Muir and Mt. Whitney.

Bad weather shelter on the summit of Mt. Whitney.

Bad weather shelter on the summit of Mt. Whitney.

Approaching from the west, the summit of Mt. Whitney is a broad plateau with a small, historic, stone hut with a rescue cache and a refuge room for hikers stranded in lighting storms.  Just past the hut, massive cliffs fall away for thousands of feet.  After the obligatory summit glory photos, a rolly, IPA, bacon and eggs we headed down. The decent was long but pleasant as it had warmed up lower on the mountain. It was a little rough on the knees, but we got to check out the intricate rock walls of Thor Peak and the beautiful meadows and creeks that we missed in the dark on the way up.

Looking west of the crest toward Mt. Hitchcock.

Looking west toward Mt. Hitchcock.

Coming down the mountain! Below 99 switchbacks it feels like you should be on the home stretch but really still have 3,000 vertical feet to go.

Below 99 switchbacks it feels like you should be on the home stretch but really still have 3,000 vertical feet to go.

Thor Peak.

Thor Peak.

Back at the car we toasted to success with some Olys. We decided that although this was a 22-mile, 6,000-vertical-foot, monster day, it was the best overall hiking adventure that any of us had ever had. Back at Alabama Hills more glory photos, high fives and beverages went down with grilled steak and baked potatoes.  Getting high on Whitney felt great.

Author Geoff Forcier with SBDC blogger Rob McCormick.

Author Geoff Forcier with SBDC blogger Rob McCormick in the Alabama Hills.



Bentley Rolls Deep in Squaw Valley

Skiing-blog founder Susan McCormick takes the new Bentley for a spin in Squaw Valley.

Ski mountaineer Chris Davenport accompanied Bentley CEO Christophe Georges and a few automotive writers as they showcased the new Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible in Squaw Valley last week. The car redefines luxury and performance and with a top speed of 202 miles per hour can boast being the fastest four seat convertible in the world. We had the opportunity to take one for a spin down Squaw Valley road and although we couldn’t really open it up, it wasn’t hard to tell it was capable of some major giddyup. At a retail price of $240,000 we were just glad to get it back unscathed.

Rob McCormick and Chris Davenport with the new Continental GT Speed Convertible.

Pumpkin and ARCADE Rock the PlumpJack Pool Party!

PlumpJack pool party on Sunday, August 19.

The PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn hosted it’s second and final pool party of the season last Sunday. DJ Pumpkin from Los Angeles rocked the house while partygoers ate, drank, danced and chilled on the PlumpJack pool deck. Tahoe DJ’s Grant Kaye, Michael Okimoto and Justin Levi also manned the decks earlier in the afternoon. Many thanks to ARCADE and PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn for collaborating on this very special event.

The PlumpJack pool deck felt a little bit like Las Vegas on Sunday.

Pocket Underground DJ Pumpkin from Los Angeles.

In Squaw Valley? Really!?!

PlumpJack Pool Party This Weekend

ARCADE, Pocket Underground, and PlumpJack present: the final PlumpJack Pool Party of 2012, with special guest DJ from Los Angeles:Pumpkin (Pocket Underground).
PlumpJack is offering a special $159 room rate which includes breakfast Monday morning.
Bring your swim trunks, kids are welcome!

PlumpJack Pool Party

The PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn hosted its first pool party of the summer on Sunday, July 15th. The party featured Pink Mammoth DJ’s along with food and drink specials. It was a blast! Pumpkin plays the next one! Don’t miss it: August 19th from 1 to 5pm.

DJ Nasty Nate

DJ Nasty Nate

Plumpjack Pool

Plumpjack Pool Party

Plumpjack pool party

Plumpjack Hot Tub

Big and Small Pump it at the Truckee Pump Track

It’s not often that you get a bike workout at the same time, in the same place as your kid does. Amazingly the new Truckee Pump Track lets you do just that — you’ll get your heart going and start sweating as you pump through the bigger features, while your little one rides his push-bike or mini two-wheeler around the outer ring or on the smaller features on the other side. Check in on the platform and drop in again!

The new, professionally-designed Truckee Pump track opened on June 10th, less than a year after Brooks McMullin and Mark Featherstone got the $45,000 project approved by the Truckee Recreation and Park District and the Truckee Sanitary District. Read more about the Pump Track at Moonshine Ink. Then, go check it out for yourself. Get there early to beat the crowds and watch out for the sprinklers! A little warning alarm for them would be a nice touch….

Riding the Truck Pump Track

Pumpin it

Pump Traack

Gettin low

Riding the Outer Track

Riding the outer track

Dropping into the Truckee Pump Track

The ramp

Truckee Pump Track Platform

Hanging on the platform

Woodward Tahoe Grand Opening

On Saturday June 9, hundreds turned out for the grand opening of Woodward Tahoe. Dubbed “The Bunker,” the new 33,000 square foot indoor action sports center at Boreal is open to skateboards, BMX bikes, roller skis and boards and inline skates. Tony Hawk, Tanner Hall and a host of other pro athletes came out to greet packs of fired-up locals and demo the new facility.

The facility features 6 Olympic sized trampolines, a super tramp, two Skatelite ramps (one into a foam pit), a mini ramp, 3 foam pits, a pump track, bouldering wall, tumbling track and a skatepark, with spring floors throughout.

Outside of the Bunker, action sports vendors displayed their wares, while a BBQ fired on the upper deck and skiers and riders hit the Superpipe and terrain features on the surprisingly snow-covered hill above.

Summer Skiing Riding Boreal

Boreal on June 9th

Foam Pits

Foam Pits at Boreal

Woodward Skate Park

Woodward Skate Park

Skier Flipping into Foam

King of the Hammers

Another one bites the dust at King of the Hammers.

King of the Hammers has been called the toughest single day off road race on the planet. Held in Johnson Valley, California the race combines the speed of the Baja 1000 with the technical aspects of rock crawling. Racers compete against the course and their own cars as much as each other. Breakdowns are not only common, but expected and true competitors are prepared to do whatever it takes to fix their rigs and cross the finish line. Only 40% typically make it. Haines Alaska Heli Ski Guide and Tahoe City resident Tom Wayes has completed the race five years in a row and finished in the top twenty four times.

Tom Wayes from Tahoe City finished the Hammers in this rig for the 5th year in a row.

Prepare for liftoff.

Christmas Product Review: Hotwheels Track Pack and the Gyrowheel

Christmas is right around the corner so we are going to review two gifts for kids, one affordable classic and one revolutionary bike riding training tool.

Hotwheels tracks have been around since the 70’s. They are inexpensive, do not require batteries, encourage creativity and are super fun. The Hotwheels Kidspick Track Pack contains orange sections of track that are linked together with red connectors allowing you to create a custom raceway that is compatible with most Hotwheels and Matchbox cars. Unlike many “themed” track kits that are kind of gimmicky, the Kidspick kit contains all the essentials to get rad with none of the bogus flair. The kit comes with track, a loop, 180 degree berm, trackclamp for gravity setups, trigger propulsion system, risers, jump, catchtrack, carrying case and of course one HotWheels car. The traditional propulsion method is to set up a high start point and use gravity to roll cars downhill. The other option is to use the included rubber band trigger system to rocket cars down the speedway. Kids can get creative with limitless different track designs. Not all concepts work. You need to incorporate physics into your track design to keep cars from jumping off the track. If your track is too steep or off camber, cars fall off. If your inrun to the loop is not fast enough, the car won’t make it. Things get really exciting when setting up large gap jumps. The set comes with a jump and “catch track” that if placed properly will allow your car to stick huge jumps. You can maximize thrill factor by setting up stuff like toy bussess under the jump just like Evil Knievel would do. At around $25 this is good ole fashion fun that lasts for hours and won’t break the bank. You could really go nuts if you got two kits and linked them together. Bring out the stuntman in your kid with a Hotwheels track for Christmas!

The next gift item is an amazing piece of technology designed to help kids ride a two wheel bike without training wheels. The Gyrowheel, designed by two Dartmouth Alumni, goes in place of the standard front wheel on your kid’s bike. It uses cyntrifical force to stabilize the bike when moving forward. It offers more tension at slow speeds and less at high speeds allowing the rider to learn to balance naturally. It comes with three different settings so that you can start with the most stable and back it off as balance improves. Eventually your kid won’t need it and will be able to ride a bike about five years ahead of schedule. At $150 the Gyrowheel is not cheap. The smart thing to do is buy one and share the cost with your neighbors. Once your kid can ride, pass it on to the next kid. Pretty soon you will have a BMX gang of four year olds terrorizing the neighborhood.

UPDATE: Fact correction from the manufacturer. SBDC apologizes for the misinformation.
I do have two quick fact corrections for you however. First, Gyrobike’s basic “proof-of-concept” was the brainchild of four undergrad engineering students for a class project. Gyrobike’s founder and CEO was at the business school at the time finishing her MBA. She licensed the patent, founded the company, and worked with a team of engineers in San Francisco to bring the concept to market.

The second thing is about the physics behind why Gyrowheel works – it isn’t a centrifugal force that creates the stability. If you really want to geek out – the physics principle is called “gyroscopic precession.” ( Simply put, the disk/wheel wants to stay “upright” and at a 90 degree angle to the axle – the “axis” it is spinning around.

Here’s one last tech toy that rocks…The Syma Remote Control Helicopter. Here’s our review from last year.

Syma metal series mini helicopter review

Bridge Day

Shane McConkey loved Bridge Day.  Bridge Day gives base jumpers the chance to huck themselves in whatever fashion they can imagine…legally.  Held on the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia, Bridge Day simply rocks.  Here’s a stellar edit from Tim Dutton that features JT Holmes standing in as a member of the Red Bull Air Force and jumping the last of Shane’s unused parachute pack jobs at Bridge Day.

Bridge Day 2011 with Red Bull Air Force from Tim Dutton on Vimeo.

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