Eight skiers and a dog met at the Rock Creek pack station parking area Saturday morning for a hike/ski into Little Lakes Valley. The trip was supposed to be a Piute Pass weekend, but the snow was nearly gone in the first of April in that area. Reiner brought Tatanka, his 1 year-old German Shepherd, who was to learn a lot about snow over the week-end. As the group was preparing to hike the snow-free road to Mosquito Flats, (which was to open the following Monday), Owen Maloy and a friend showed up in time to join us for the trek into the valley.
We avoided snow until around Heart Lake, where we skinned up and skiied/carried to the gulley below Treasure Lakes. The snow was good from this point on, and after reaching the Treasure Lake Basin, we headed up the southern ridge toward Dade Lake. We found a bench out of the wind between the lakes basins, and, after eating lunch there, decided to camp there also, It was a good decision, as the wind picked up, and my plan to camp at Dade would have been very unpopular that night, since Dade is very unsheltered.
Owen skiied back after lunch, and, after setting up camp, we headed for the bowls above Dade Lake, Tatanka had learned, after a few hundred feet of paw-holing, to walk in ski tracks and in the shadowed areas where the snow would support him. On the steep slope between our camp and Dade Lake, he was very cautious, but quite suddenly overcame whatever fear was bugging him and he was an instant snow dog. We skiied across to the far side of the lake and Reiner,Tatanka, Richard Smith, Mark Bailey and Jim Valensi and I climbed a steep section of the hill for our "break-in" run of the trip. It proved to be a pretty successful run (only a few of us telesaulted), and Ellen Miller took a couple of photos.
Mark had been to the jump-turn clinics, so we all pretty much watched him do some nice jump teles. The dog was right behind Reiner coming down, and he really seemed at home in the snow already. Since we were burning daylight, we went back toward camp and climbed the hill overlooking our bench, After a couple of attempts to find a good route to the snow field above our camp, we found a way thru the rocks and bushes to some excellent snow, and the group skiied down, meeting Ray Smith on his way back up. He had elected to pass on the trip to Dade lake, and had skied the slopes around camp and the gulley toward Long Lake. We all skied down to the Treasure Lakes basin again, and then climbed back up to camp.
Reiner built a neat little igloo for Tatanka, and even put a flap over the door so the pooch would feel at home. He was sure the dog would realize how practical the structure would be, even though the odds were put at 7-1 that Reiner would have a canine tent-mate that night. Rosemary Lynch even gave up an insolate pad so the dog would not have to sleep on the cold snow in the igloo. Sunday morning found Tatanka asleep outside near the tent.
We lazed around camp, waited for the sun to soften things up a bit, had breakfast, packed up, and some of us decided to try for the slopes below Bear Creek Spire. Ellen, Rose and Ray chose to ski the hills around camp. Reiner and his great snow dog led the way, and we eventually climbed to various levels of the huge bowl below the spire. Reiner went to the mouth of the gulley just below the ridge leading to the summit. Richard, Mark, Jim and I watched as he skied beautifully down, with the dog terrorizing a great set of ski tracks down to a slight bench where we waited.
The descent to Dade Lake was really fine, and I think we were all satisfied with the ski down, Richard and Reiner decided to try the very steep chute down to Treasure Lakes from the Dade bench. Neither was very successful, as the snow wasn't that good, but they did get down with the aid of a couple of ski-pole arrests. This left the rest of the group on top-including Tatanka, who had sufficient survival instincts to not take the chute. Instead, he stayed at cliff level, watching his master disappear. This proved to be a little much for him, and he started downclimbing the cliff above Treasure Lakes. At a point where all he had left below him was a thin ledge and lots of air, he stopped downclimbing and started howling.
Jim and I went after him, and I made my first snow dog rescue. I should have had a water-bottle full of kibbles under my chin, but instead, Tatanka and I did some nice high third climbing back up to the top, only after Reiner had ascended the steep slope again, carrying his skis up to where the dog could see him. You haven't lived until you try to talk a dog into following a crack climb up about 15 feet, with one hand around his chest, the other grabbing handholds and wearing 3 pin boots!
We broke camp about 12:30, and were to the cars by around 3 PM. It was a fun trip. My thanks to Richard Smith for a fine assist.
Reporter: Scot Jamison
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