Schallenberger Ridge P500
Mt. Judah 4x P300 PYNSP / PD

Wed, Jan 2, 2013
Schallenberger Ridge
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile
Mt. Judah previously climbed Sat, Mar 31, 2012

Schallenberger Ridge is named for an 18yr-old member of the first wagon train that attempted to go over over Donner Summit in 1844, two years before the infamous Donner Party. Before being rescued, he survived for three months alone in the depths of winter at Donner Lake on that trip, eating foxes and coyotes that he trapped. His snowshoes were fashioned with a rigid design that held both the ball and heel of the boot fixed to the shoe - a most tiring way to travel as he came to find out. Thankfully, showshoe design has come a long way. The ridge overlooks Donner Lake on the south side. It appears to be a popular ski tour for folks starting from Donner State Park, about two miles one way, with 1,500ft of gain. My route would double both of those stats, starting from the Sugar Bowl Ski Area where I had taken my son and his friend to ski and snowboard. I bought their lift tickets in the morning and sent them out with instructions that I'd be back in 5-6hrs. Though I didn't ask, I'm pretty sure they didn't want me tagging along.

It had been almost a week since the last snows had fallen, a goodly amount that saw a great start to the ski season before the first of the year. It had also been cold since then, barely above freezing during the day and much colder at night. This left the snow mostly unconsolidated, good for skiing, not so much for snowshoeing. On my way up from the Judah Lodge, I followed along the edge of the ski runs to make for easy climbing, transitioning through the woods with the deeper snow as I made my way towards the saddle on the Sierra Crest between Mts. Judah and Lincoln. It took about an hour to reach the saddle where I had a good view of the higher summits along the crest to the south and my first view of Schallenberger Ridge to the east.

There were no serious impediments getting from the saddle to the highpoint of Schallenberger Ridge. The traversing across the SSE side of Mt. Judah was made easier with well-consolidated snow, without danger of avalanche. The initial part down the SE Ridge of Judah was steep, but pleasantly so. Most of the snow was untracked along the ridge itself. I passed over skier tracks at two saddles that facilitate the easiest crossing from Lakeview Canyon to the north over to Emigrant Canyon to the south. Above the second saddle I came across a snow-covered road that was used by a pair of skiers to climb higher along the ridge. I followed their tracks because they made the snowshoeing easier. The tracks eventually met other tracks and yet more as I neared the summit. It was then that I realized this was a somewhat popular outing and there must be easier approaches.

It was after 12:30p before I reached the highpoint, having taken some three hours to cover about four miles over the snow - not an easy outing, to be sure. There are fine views of Donner Lake and Castle Peak to the north and northwest, Mt. Lola just discernable far to the north. To the east lies Truckee and the Martis Valley, Mt. Rose rising to 10,000ft behind it. To the southeast are the Northstar ski runs on Mt. Pluto. To the south and west is the Sierra Crest from Granite Chief at Squaw Valley to Donner Peak just above the old route US40 at Donner Pass. The Southern Pacific Railroad wraps 3/4 of the way around Schallenberger Ridge, one of the most difficult sections of the Transcontinental Railroad when it was first built almost 150yrs ago. The snowsheds that were added years later to shelter the tracks from avalanche are still serving their purpose.

I spent a short time at the summit having a light lunch and drinking more of the Gatorade I'd brought with me (but often neglecting to consume when it's cold outside). My return route would be the same all the way back across Schallenberger Ridge - it's pretty easy to follow one's snowshoe tracks in unconsolidated snows. I decided to ascend to the summit of Mt. Judah for no other reason than to take a different way back. It was my fourth ascent on snowshoes and by now a very familiar summit. It was windier and colder atop Judah, so I beat a hasty retreat off its West Face at a shallow saddle between the highpoint and the Judah chairlift on the north end of the summit ridge. Protruding rocks kept most of the skiers off this slope, but it was still thoroughly tracked over the past week - no fresh snow anywhere within ski area boundaries is safe from powderhounds. I dropped into the trees, eventually emerging on one of the numerous ski runs lower down. It was 3:30p before I was back at the Judah Lodge.

I met the boys about 20 minutes later - they had spent the day on the terrain park and were fairly exhausted. It did not take them long to fall asleep on the drive home, though they managed to rouse themselves back to consciousness in order to consume dinner at the In-N-Out in Stockton. Overall a good day for the first snowshoe trek of the year, the first outing of any sort for the year, actually.

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This page last updated: Tue Jan 8 16:45:13 2013
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