By: Chris Davenport

Our first ski experience of the ‘Ring of Fire’ Volcano Tour couldn’t have gone better.  Daron, Jess and I have been so excited to get this trip underway, and now that we have our first peak under our belts, we are thrilled. 

After a three-hour drive from Reno with “Captain” Grant Burrow behind the wheel, we pulled into Lassen National Park and the “Devastated Area” parking lot at 5 pm yesterday evening.  We spent the good part of two hours pulling all our gear and food out of the RV to sort and organize everything.  With two weeks of food from Whole Foods Market, Bare Naked Granola, and Clif Bar on-board for 5-6 people/day, we had a lot to go through. 

Although it probably wasn’t necessary to wake up so early for what would be a relatively short climb and ski, we were so anxious that we had the coffee on and were gearing up at 6:15 am this morning.  The sunrise illuminated the grand northeast Face of Lassen, the unstable weather having pushed out the day before. 

We were skinning through the forest at 7 am and by 8 am were above the treeline and climbing steadily.  If any of you have been following Jess’ blog or her tweets (@jessmcmillan), you know that she has been training like crazy at home in Jackson, WY, and has climbed almost 75,000 vertical feet in the last three weeks.  I was feeling good as well, having just come back from a wonderful trip to the Alaska Range, and Daron, well, he’s just about as strong as they come.

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We hit the summit of Lassen in just under three hours after a straightforward skin directly up the northeast face.  We ended up boot packing the final 1,000 feet as it was just a bit too steep and slippery to skin (even with ski crampons).  There was a breezy north wind blowing up there, which cools you down quickly, especially if you’re at all sweaty from the effort getting up there.  But our spirits were high and the views were spectacular. 

Our next objective, Mt. Shasta, showed brightly in the distance as we pulled skins and stepped into our bindings.  

The northeast face is big and has many options.  Jess dropped in first and went skiers’ left into a steep and clean gully filled with fresh, wind-deposited snow.  I headed over to the north-facing bowl (skiers’ right) and had some awesome highspeed turns on soft snow. Daron traversed across the upper face and dropped into an east-facing couloir that some friends of ours had skied the day before.  The fact that we all skied the face top-to-bottom without stopping was a testament to how great it was!

We regrouped in the basin below the face with big smiles and high-fives going around.  The snow had been safe, soft, and really fun, and the group was truly strong.  We enjoyed a pine-tree giant-slalom for more than a mile back to the parking lot and our waiting Spyder Land Yacht.

Right now we are en route to Shasta, downloading photos and video, eating mango slices with almond butter, and mentally preparing for our first of two 14ers on the trip … Mt. Shasta tomorrow, where the conditions are rumored to be “all time.”

-Chris