California Gold Rush, Part 1

What a trip! Where do I even begin? How about on Wednesday afternoon…
With snow falling down everywhere I kept checking the weather. Where was the snow going to continue to fall, how much, what density would it be? It came down to 2-4 feet forecasted in Utah, 2-3 feet in the Rubys, and sunshine on the West Coast.

Rick Barker and I had originally scheduled to leave Thursday night and ride in California Friday and Saturday. But I just couldn’t get past the amount of snow Elko was receiving, and remembering last year’s epic powder there, I made a call to Rick and we decided to leave that night and ride the Rubys on Thursday and continue on to California later that night.


Day 1.
After driving through a raging blizzard for five hours we made it to Elko. Cold and frozen, we still couldn't wait to ride the deep powder in the Rubys. We awoke to find clear blue skies the north and hoped that they would conquer the clouds that enshrouded the mountains. Off we went. The snow was deep, and we made run after run after run of sweeping powder lines through the trees. We would follow the pockets of sunshine from the bottom of the canyon all the way up to the top until the clouds socked back in and we would repeat the process. Then suddenly the clouds all together disappeared for 15 glorious minutes.


I sat behind the cameras while Rick and Jeff Teeter tore up the hillside like a couple of sharks in a feeding frenzy. Then as quickly as it had come, it was gone and the clouds socked back in and with it came super freezing temperatures. I have never actually seed a tree get frosted before, but in a matter of about 30 seconds I watched the trees go from green to frozen white. The ride out was cold, but filled with spectacular scenery of peaks, waterfalls, and clouds moving up and down the mountain. I had forgotten how beautiful the Ruby Mountains are and wish we could spend more time out there.


Day 2.
We drove straight through to Reno on Thursday night (special thanks to the Kaltenbacher family for hosting us!). Early in the morning we headed for Gold lake California. Of course somehow we were still the last to arrive in the parking lot. Gold lake is the site where Gold was first discovered in California. It was the spark of the gold rush in 49. The area is known as the lakes basin because seemingly every valley has a lake in it. The day started off right with chutes being climbed left and right. Footage rolled on and clothes kept coming off! That California sun is HOT! On one climb, Jacob the BillyGoat, slipped out at the top of the chute, somehow in typical Jacob fashion, his sled managed to slide down on its side and miss all the deadly rocks and trees, resulting only in bent handle bars and broken plastic. While we were doing that a couple of our new friends, Duncan and the Alpine Assassins team, were busy building a booter over a small gap. Shane Kelley stepped up and stomped the hit and pretty soon there were 5 guys in rotation nailing the jump. Bryan Smith (not the army sergeant) overshot the jump landing in the uphill part and smashed his face into the bars. Clearly he was unconscious by the way he rolled and was laying in the snow. We all held our breath… when we got over to him he popped right up and seemed to be fine, but didn’t remember much about the wreck…


After that we headed to the Sierra Buttes. For those of you not familiar with the Sierra buttes, they are the tallest peaks in the region. Sharp narrow spires that give the feel of the swiss alps in steepness. At the very top there is an old fire lookout station. Of course I wanted to go check it out. So we started hiking up to it. When I mentioned about steep jagged spires I hope you can understand just how steep and rugged this peak is. They have stairs built across gaps on the ridge to make it up to the shelter. Add a little snow and ice to the stairs combined with a long ways down and my knees and stomach were getting weak! It gets worse… Once on the shelter I walked around the corner only to discover that the shelter over hangs the cliff. It was like 2000 feet straight down! Ok I have no idea how far down it was but it was enough to scare me really, really, really bad. The only thing between me and certain death was 1/8” steel flooring with holes in it… YIKES! After snapping a few pictures it was time to head out, and once again another adventure ensued!


Smashers clutch broke on a pretty steep sidehill. I have to interject here and note that my Cat pulled him and his sled across that sidehill… an impressive feat I must say… Then later there was another steep hill we had to pull his sled up. This one was giving us trouble. Some of the group at the top became a little anxious as the sun was starting to set. We finally got back to the top where we were supposed to drop in and go another shorter way out. The group at the top had become restless and decided to move on without a guide going the way we had come in, which was a long ways around. Knowing that they might have run out of gas (everyone was on E by this point), I stole all the fuel out of smashers broken sled, a siphon hose, and with Dan, we set out to follow their tracks to make sure they were ok while everyone else took the shortcut back to the trucks. We rallied hard and covered a lot of ground in a hurry. We made the loop and didn’t see any sign of them so we headed out. Fortunately, everyone was safe at the trucks enjoying some drinks.


At this point the adventure was only just getting started, days 3 and 4 would see some of the highest and lowest points of the trip. To be continued…

7 thoughts on “California Gold Rush, Part 1

  1. Uhh, gold was discovered first down in the mountains above Newhall, Ca. by a Mexican sheepherder and later in Coloma, Ca.(about 100 miles S. of Gold Lake) by James Marshall.

    Careful of those late season sled rides on those sidehills. I lost a Bud a few years ago to avalanche.

  2. Yea defintly fun, Would like to ride with y’all some more for sure. And Fatty its “Alpine Assassins” but you were close so good try.

  3. Way to throw Huck under the backing bus. He was put in time out had a good but bad day. Yes very fun to have you both here and my family enjoyed having you here great guests Tracy said she never even knew you guys were here you were so quiet. Unlike Shane when he stays yelling around the house at 6 am waking my boys. Thanks for making the trip. I think we need to make more trips to Elko this next year and film there.

  4. Very cool shots Phatty…. I like the one of Shane on the tower at Grouse…. nice depth…. GREAT to see you guys again

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