One of the prominent peaks rising above the Carson Pass area, Red Lake Peak offers the backcountry skier a diversity of terrain ranging from long open faces to steep, cliff-lined bowls. Rising above 10,000 feet, Red Lake Peak and neighboring Stevens Peak sit slightly higher than many of the Lake Tahoe classics to the north, providing good options when Tahoe's snowline is riding high. While there are many great aspects to ski on Red Lake Peak, this write-up focuses on the descent down to Crater Lake via the north bowl.
An attractive aspect of this descent is that it can be done with a shuttle from near the top of Carson Pass at the Meiss Meadow Sno-Park, which eliminates a thousand feet of climbing. If you are only a one car operation and you will be starting at the same ending point along Highway 88 in Hope Valley (as was the case for this trip report), you’ll have to climb further, but will have the added benefit of inspecting your line through the crux section if you choose to ski Crater Lake Bowl.
From the large Highway 88 pullout that lies a few hundred yards north of the closed Alpine Mine four-wheel drive road (the initial skin track), head southwest through tree cover to intersect Alpine Mine Road. Continue up the road’s switchbacks to a saddle overlooking Crater Lake at 8,650 feet. From here, take the obvious northeast ridge that leads to Crater Lake’s summit. Views extend from Lake Tahoe to the peaks of the central Sierra and Ebbets Pass to the south.
A north-facing bowl drops from the summit and continues down to a funnel that leads into Crater Lake bowl. Crater Lake bowl steepens considerably; you’ll be glad to have spotted the terrain on your way up if you are navigating the bowl for the first time. Numerous cliff bands line the bowl and offer air options and plenty of exciting lines to pick through. Once you are down, push around to Crater Lake’s northeast bank, where you’ll be able to link back up with Alpine Mine Road to ski back to your car after a short climb out.
Make sure to check Sierra Avalanche Center's daily winter avalanche bulletin to help inform safe backcountry decision making before venturing out: www.sierraavalanchecenter.org.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.