Mount Elwell (#4) and Sierra Buttes (#5)
Day 4, Mount Elwell and Sierra Buttes
The morning dawned clear and cold, perfect conditions for some bluebird pow-skiing peakbagging. I had driven up the Gold Lake road the night before, and found it to be serendipitously plowed a couple miles further than I had expected. The skin up Elwell went quickly and easily, and in no time I was on the summit, marveling at the freshly blanketed landscape of forest and granite. I clicked in to my skis right on the summit and enjoyed excellent conditions all the way back to the van. It felt great to ski powder again after such a long dry spell. I got back before 11 am, and decided I would drive to Sierra Buttes, climbing it if I had enough time. The drive was slow and the roads icy, but I was still able to get going shortly after noon.
A couple miles of road brought me to the lovely Sardine Lakes, the craggy east face of the Buttes towering above. My eyes were drawn to the smorgasbord of aesthetic, steep ski lines that cross-crossed the face. Alas, with the heightened avalanche risk from the recent snow and wind, I would be taking a more conservative decent. Fortunately, “conservative”, in this instance, still meant 3000' of great turns in some interesting terrain. I glided across Young America lake, then climbed the head wall above. A short distance higher, I found the incredible staircase leading to the fire lookout, precariously perched on the precipice. The afternoon sun illuminated views from Lassen to south of Tahoe, including all of the local SPS peaks. I enjoyed the view for a while, then enjoyed the skiing back down even more.