I was a late add to the Memorial Day Weekend Mt. Lassen crew. Some friends had sent me the GPS coordinates of where they were camping outside the park. Drooling over the map from my living room, I knew I had to give it a shot. Quickly packing up, I drove up from Reno after dinner, reaching camp around 9:00 PM in the middle of a thunderstorm. I crashed in the back of my car, more than a little worried that the rain would ruin tomorrow's snow.
We set off from Emigrant Pass around 5:30 AM, headlamps really only necessary for gearing up. It wasn't a cold morning, but the snow was surprisingly firm. Any rain from the night before had frozen and solidified the snow. A snowbank probably 3-4 feet thick lined the road, so we started on skis from the very beginning. Crazy coverage for the end of May.
The first couple miles of the tour were easy and gradual. We moved leisurely, probably wasting time but conserving energy as we passed through the low trees near the trailhead. Quickly, we emerged into the Devastated Area, where big views of the peak dominated. A small bootpacking line in the middle of the mountain could be barely traced, and we decided to head toward that for our ascent. Two or three other parties were also out there, and this clearly seemed to be the consensus approach.
"Give me the bootpack!" I jokingly chanted as we reached the base of the real climb. 2,000 feet in the last mile was guaranteed sweat equity, especially with the sun already getting high in the sky. We put skis on our backs and switched to crampons and ice axes around 8,400 feet. The snow was softening but postholes from previous days' bootpacks made for a fairly secure ascent. There was maybe one steep stretch of ~20 feet that felt "no fall" to me. Parties ahead and behind all congealed into one big family, not quite Everest crowds, but we certainly were not alone on the mountain.
After a final bit of scrambling on volcanic rock, we summited! I didn't check the time but it was between 10:00 and 11:00. After some snacks and pictures, we transitioned and began our descent.
The snow was soft, I would describe it was "well-cooked corn." That said, the turns were great, especially higher up, where the snow was colder and free of suncups. Once off the main face, we party skied back down toward the car. The sun was hot, suncups present, and I had to really sit in the back seat to avoid a wet patch sending me over the handlebars. The last couple miles back to the car were awkwardly sloped: you couldn't keep speed on skis but it was still sloped enough that it didn't make sense to put skins back on. I was stoked but sweaty by the time I emerged at the highway, only ~100 yards north of the parking lot. Back at the car, we took our time and celebrated our success. What an awesome day!