Granite Chief (#8) and Tinker Knob (#9)
Day 7, Granite Chief and Tinker Knob
After another dark wake up call and a morning cold enough that my eggs were frozen and had to be scooped out of their shells, I drove up to Palisades Tahoe Ski Resort for my first proper peak link up: Granite Chief and Tinker Knob. As I drove, scattered clouds reflected the wonderous, rosy light of sunrise. Granite Chief would be a little bit tricky, as uphill travel is prohibited within the resort boundary, and the standard route lies within that boundary. I was surprised and a little bit disappointed to find that there was no established skin track up the Shirley Creek drainage. I set to work punching my way uphill through the snow, which was crusty on top and deep powder beneath. After a couple of hours of tedious skinning, I found myself on the north ridge of granite chief. I paralleled the ridge, staying just on its west side to ensure that I was out of the ski resort boundary. Near the top, the face was steep, a little wind loaded, and definitely felt sketchy for a few minutes. It was a little odd to emerge up onto the summit from the “wrong side“, to be greeted by a dozen resort skiers eyeing their lines after a 10 minute walk from the ski lift. I transitioned quickly, snapped a photo, and retreated back to the solitude of the northwest face. I made a descending traverse for a few hundred feet, then enjoyed wonderful, steep, fall line tree skiing for over 1000 vertical feet to the valley below.
I was hoping that I would find easy coasting down the valley bottom towards Tinker knob, but alas, my slightly too late start meant that I had more than a mile of slogging through sticky glop instead. I was worried that the skinning would be horrendous too, but I layered the skin wax on thick, and didn’t have too many issues on the climb. The vert went by quickly, and before long, I was enjoying a gentle afternoon breeze and expansive views of peaks newly familiar to me on the rocky summit spire. On the decent, I found a few surprisingly fun corn turns that will hopefully be an indication of the quality of skiing on some of the bigger south faces that I have coming up. A long, descending traverse, followed by a quick skin, returned me to the point where I had met Granite Chief’s north ridge. Along the way, I admired striking lime green bands of lichen on the trees, perfectly horizontal and evenly spaced. A very curious natural phenomenon indeed. The decent back down Shirley Creek featured lots of punchy, heavy, funky snow. I made the most of it, still found some manageable, if not particularly good, skiing, and was back at the van in a jiffy.
View the activity here.