Bear Claw Couloir, Herlan Peak

Herlan Peak from Homewood.
2010 02 11 - Charlie and I were on our own this week, so what should we do?  After consulting with the guidebook, and Charlie explaining how he needed to do something, we settled on the Bear Claw Couloir, one of the few lines in Lake Tahoe that's long, continuous, and actually almost ends on the Lakes eastern shore.  We finally got out of the house after lunch and made the dash to Incline Village.

The view at 8000'
We drove past the couloir a couple of times before picking out a parking spot at the view-point just north of Sand Harbor.  Turned out to be the perfect idea - just south of the rest stop a skin track started into the woods and up the mountain.  OK, we'll follow!  The skin track eventually reached a large break through the trees visible on the north side of the mountain, and continued to make switch backs up through some perfectly spaced old growth.  Seriously, the Incline Village locals have some awesome Dawn Patrol terrain!  We took breaks at 7000' and 8000', and during our second break I noticed that the clouds had come in and completely obscured the summit.

On the summit.
Oh well, nothing to do but skin-on!  It took me a moment to realize that the skin track we had followed almost led directly to the summit of Herlan Peak (8840').  Charlie and I took a another break, sharing the last of our water and food, cause we knew we wouldn't be stopping until we were back at the car.

The Bear Claw entrance.
Finding the entrance to the couloir was a little challenging in the cloud fog, and we were robbed of our summit view over the Lake and Carson Valley.  Still, we found it and I was even able to side-slip my way into the chute despite the flat light, funky snow, and rocks rising up everywhere.  Once I picked my way through the first 100', the remainder was fun, if a bit heavy, surfing.  At some point part way down we came out from inside the cloud and could finally see the Lake.

We continued down until it was evident we were below the rock bands that frame the couloir and started traversing back to the car, somewhere north.  The sounds of the highway came closer and closer until we finally met it just a few hundred feet away from where we started. This was the perfect "mental health ski" for the next five days of teaching skiing at Alpine Meadows!

Looking across to Homewood

Statistics:  Herlan Peak (8840'), Bear Claw Couloir.  2600' climbed and skied.