Carving up Mt. Rose

21 Apr 2009 - by Will Mollandsimms

Having just finished my season at Heavenly I had determined that my last snowboarding day could not come via some man carved snow road but rather on the side of some broad mountain side. Mt. Rose would do.

The route up the east face of Mt. Rose is not terribly difficult to follow. The Mt. Rose highway (SR 27) makes a sharp U-turn at about 7400 feet on the eastern side of the pass and at this turn is a small turnout which heads perhaps 50 feet into the trees. From here, I walked west above Galena Creek for about 100 yards to where a small bridge crosses over the creek. It appears as though there is a fairly steady trail here is the summer time, however it was partially covered with snow at this point in the year. Once on the other side of the creek I was able to stay on the trail for about half a mile as it slowly ascended the hillside to my north before I lost it in a small snow covered flat filled with aspens at the base of the east ridge of Mt. Rose, which looks more like a hillside from here.

The first several hundred feet of the route are pretty much free of trees and ascending the slope was hot, really hot. The high temperature in South Lake Tahoe the previous two days were 75 and 74 degrees respectively, both record highs, and today was supposed to be very similar. After going up a few hundred feet I had enough and removed enough clothing to leave me in shorts and a t-shirt at 8 am on a snow covered hillside at 8500 feet. I could only imagine how hot this route would be on a blazing August day! About half the way up the slope I began to encounter some tree life. As I kept ascending the trees became more abundant and closer together, to the point where I had to look around from time to time in order to find the best route through them. Soon enough though I came to a highpoint on the ridge and got my first up close look at Mt. Rose standing before me and the sweet treeless snow slope coming off its eastern flank. It would be a good ride down, I could feel it!

After a quick break I ascended the snow slope and, huzah, was on top of Mt. Rose! Oops, false summit must keep going. 10 minutes later, huzah, I was on top of Mt. Rose with all its rock shelters... although that little guy over there looks taller. I went to the NW summit as well, just to be sure. Mt. Rose does offer some astonishing views of Lake Tahoe and all of the Northern Sierra from its high vantage point. Everything was still snowcapped and beautiful however the summer sun will soon change all that. Mt. Rose also offers astonishing views of hot and dusty Reno with its casinos, which looked big even from up here, and its dry brown soil. Now for the fun part!

I had left my snowboard at the first false summit because there was not only a hill between the true summit and my route down, but also a large bare area. Once back at the false summit it was pure joy carving S turns on the eastern snow slope back towards my route up. If I were a better snowboarder I might have been able to do the whole thing without stopping but the top 200 feet of super dense trees on the bottom part of the ridge forced me to move with much caution. After some more gleeful turns on the bottom of the ridge it was over, but well worth it. I spent the 1/2 mile walk back to the car wondering which peak to try next after a nice ascent of Mt. Rose.

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