8 MAA members joined me at Donner Pass this past Saturday to climb Castle Peak via the West Ridge. What we had penciled out was a nice stroll up to Castle Pass, turn right on the ridge and then ascend the 1,100 feet along the ridge to the East Peak with beautiful views of the region. What we got was low-lying clouds with poor visibility, intermittent drizzle and unconsolidated snow shortly after a blizzard had passed through.
But plans are plans and you can’t change the weather so we left the Sno Park at 8:30am and were up to Castle Pass by 10 despite soft, wet snow along the entire trail. Deep post holing with snow shoes on was intermittently enjoyed by one and all.
Before we left the parking lot we knew the avalanche forecast was not encouraging. By sticking to low-angled slopes we planned to mitigate any danger but one section of the route ascends a 35 degree slope. Sadly this section is more or less unavoidable. I did have the faint hope that wind would have scoured this of excess snow accumulation rendering it climbable but visibility remained poor and the snow stayed deep. Given that the avalanche forecast contained words like “considerable” and “historic” we felt discretion was the better part of valor and turned back, walking to the Peter Grubb Hut (neat hut, sad story see here: http://clairtappaanlodge.com/peter-grubb-hut-history) and stopped for a quick snack before climbing back to the ridge and then descending to our cars.
Everyone on the team did incredibly well and remained in good spirits despite less than ideal conditions and changes in plans. Special thanks to Sadie and Bryce for all the help!