Today was my last day of skiing for the week, and it would be a big one. I scouted out the Round Valley area conditions two days prior, and I wanted to link up the summits of Castle Peak and Basin before I left. I left the Boreal Ski Resort lot at 8:30, my feet a little more sore and blistered than the last time. The trail was well cut, now, and so I cruised up way faster than the last time. It took me a tad over an hour to get to Castle Pass, and from there I proceeded straight up Castle Peak.
The climb was steep enough that my skins lost traction and I slid backwards at times. I made it to the top, though, or at least as far as I could wearing my skis. The views toward the West shore of Lake Tahoe were spectacular. I could see ridge after ridge of craggy peak all the way down to somewhere near Carson Pass. More importantly, I could see the line I wanted to take over to Basin Peak. Basin Peak and Castle form a ridge over Round Valley. The top of the ridge was wind-scoured and rocky, not fit for skis, so I needed to traverse the bowl to the left of the ridge itself. The plan was to stay as high up as possible in order to minimize the climbing I would need to do up to Basin Peak.
I pulled the skins off and jumped into the bowl, resisting the urge to cut turns through the powder into Round Valley. About two-thirds of the way over to Basin, I stopped and ate the salad I had packed for lunch. Blank white slopes surrounded me, and off in the distance cliffs and trees dotted the landscape. I put on the skins again and climbed the rest of the way up. I stopped about thirty feet from the summit. My skis lost their grip on the steep ice, and I decided a second attempt at those last few inches wasn’t worth the trouble.
Basin Peak is probably the best place in the area to view Castle Peak. Its views into Coon Canyon and Round Valley also could not be beat. The peak is a lot less-travelled than its neighbor, Castle Peak, and so hitting long swaths of untracked snow is much easier than anywhere else in the area. Ski up Castle Peak if you’re looking for a thrill. Ski up Basin Peak if you’re looking for a wilderness experience. Of course, Basin has its share of good skiing as well.
After taking some pictures I removed the skins and put on my helmet. I aimed myself downward and pushed into the slopes. The first couple-hundred-feet were crusty and windswept, but after that, it was wet powder all the way down. I rolled into Round Valley, plopped myself down in the snow, and ate a second lunch of cheese and salami. Here, again, the views up toward Basin Peak and Castle Peak were fantastic.
On the way out of the valley, I ran into two guys, one a splitboarder and one a skier, and we hiked back up to Castle Pass together. They went on to climb Andesite Ridge, but I was done for the day. I skied and pushed my way back down the trail, and got back to Boreal around 2:30. The week’s skiing was over, and my feet were dead, but I hit four peaks in three days, and I skied a whole lot of powder. I’d call this trip a success.