Josh Daiek is penning the history book of Lake Tahoe backcountry skiing
Last spring, Lake Tahoe local Josh Daiek set out with snowboarder Abe Greenspan to accomplish a goal he dubbed the Tahoe Ten, a single-day mission that involved 10,000 vertical feet of climbing. The duo traveled from Daiek’s home in Meyers to Emerald Bay, ascending and skiing five different peaks and racking up over 10,000 vertical feet in the process. Last year’s mission featured Angora Peak (8,586 feet), Echo Peak (8,895 feet), Mt. Tallac (9,738 feet) and Maggies Peak South (8,699 feet), resulting in a 12-and-a-half hour day.
In December 2016, Daiek and Greenspan sought to continue their project and accomplished a feat that had never been done in the rich history of Lake Tahoe backcountry skiing. The trek is documented in the video above.
Beginning at Kirkwood Mountain Resort—Daiek’s home mountain—and ending in Hope Valley, they were able to summit and ski Thimble Peak (9,805 feet), Emigrant Peak (9,795 feet), Round Top (10,381 feet), Red Lake Peak (10,063 feet) and Stevens Peak (10,059 feet). No one had ever linked these peaks together in a single-day tour, and to make it even more impressive, the two did it near the winter solstice, meaning the days were much shorter than they would be later in the season.
While being the first to accomplish this is impressive, Daiek says that setting benchmarks was never the motivation for the project. “It’s funny. For me it’s never really been about being the first or trying to set records,” he explains. “I just like the idea of saying, ‘How far can we go?’ That’s how the ‘Tahoe Ten’ project started, Abe and I wanted to link a bunch of peaks together and see how far we could make it in a day.”
And to many, such a long day of slogging through the backcountry, gaining and losing elevation and clinging onto exposed faces may seem like a suffer-fest. But Daiek describes the trip as “really rad.”
Daiek and Greenspan first descended Carnell’s Couloir off of Thimble Peak, which is accessible from Kirkwood. “This face is relatively steep and highly exposed,” Daiek describes. “The time of year we skied it there was literally only one way down without mandatory airs. Being that the snow was wind-scoured hard pack, airing out was not at the top of our priority list.”
Next on the agenda was Emigrant Peak (or Peak 9,795), which is also a Kirkwood local’s favorite. There are many lines littering the face of Emigrant, but being the steep skiing (and snowboarding) enthusiasts they are, Daiek and Greenspan chose Pipeline Chute, because, as Daiek puts it, “it’s the spiciest line on the face. The steep, blind roll into the face can be hard to navigate, making it hard to know if you’re in the right spot. Once you’re in it, though, you’ve got roughly 2,000 feet of sustained 45-degree pitch to work with.”
With twin objectives in the bag, Daiek and Greenspan headed toward Round Top. On the way, the two had to decide whether to take the long route or another course which was far more exposed. Feeling a sense of urgency to get moving as the day wore one, they skinned and boot packed the more consequential avenue, en route to the dangerous Crescent Moon Couloir.
“[The couloir] has a steep, exposed entrance. A fall here would most likely be fatal,” Daiek describes. “Your first 10 turns are on a 45- to 50-degree slope in a certain ‘you fall you die’ type of zone. This wouldn’t bother me too much except for the fact that the snow was variable with patches of boiler plate ice and hidden sharks under the thin snow cover.
With the toughest descent out of the way, it was time to make moves toward the final two objectives. Red Lake Peak brought some much needed mellow terrain. The face does feature plenty of cliffs and steep chutes, but with daylight running out, the Tahoe Ten team chose the quickest descent down the mountain.
It was then a sprint to the finish as the two crested the summit of Stevens Peak as the sun sunk to its lowest spot in the sky. The day finished off with a nighttime descent of the Comma Couloir. “The snow was consistent and reliable so I felt comfortable linking up some turns,” Daiek says. “I’ve never skied anything like that in the dark so it was a very cool experience for me. I was hooting and hollering coming down.”
In total, the crew ascended 9,901 vertical feet, which, of course, is a bit shy of their 10,000-foot goal, but, in our eyes, it counts just the same. It’s always intriguing to witness those in the snow sports world set out and accomplish feats that have never been done, and have fun while doing so.
With two Tahoe Ten legs in the bag, Daiek says that he hasn’t finalized any additional routes yet, however, he’s “sure we will come up with something rad.”