Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Heavenly Valley Gondola ride

Our bnb host works for a huge resort in South Lake Tahoe called Heavenly Mountain Resort and gave us free tickets for the Gondala Ride.

We parked the car and toddled over to the bottom station of the ride. The resort seems to have dozens of small shops selling stuff I would never want.

The bottom station.

It was about 9 am and the queue for tickets was quite short.

Although the thick wire that carries the gondolas keeps going at a constant speed, a mechanism ensures that the gondolas go at a very slow speed while people get on and off. It's quite easy and safe.

Our intrepid heroine quaking in her boots as we set off up the mountain side for the 3000 foot climb.

The gondola moves quite quickly.

Looking up the mountainside. The windows of the gondolas are scratched so taking photos is difficult. This location is renowned for skiing so I expect the scratches were caused by skis.

Huge pine trees.

Cabins in the woods.

Views of Lake Tahoe appear.

The gondolas arrive at a viewpoint at over 9000 feet and you get off. The rise is about 2900 feet. Subsequently you get back on and continue to a slightly higher spot.

It was not a scary ride at all, unlike the Feuerkogel in Ebensee, Austria that was used in the film 'Where Eagles Dare'. It rises 3640 feet in total and the heights above the ground way below can be quite scary if you don't like heights.

Viewing platform.

At over 9000 feet and on top of a mountain, the pine trees are built to withstand brutal conditions. If the wind gets too strong, they have to close down the gondola ride for safety.

View west to the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe was shaped by glaciers during the Ice Age. It's the largest lake in the USA after the Great Lakes. The water is fresh and half comes from rain and snow. The lake lies on several fault lines and earthquakes have the potential to trigger tsunamis of up to 30 feet.

Snow covered mountains. It was cool at this height but not cold. We did not need our jackets but if the wind had started, we would have put them on. Dehydration and sunburn are a problem at this height. I could notice a bit of huffing and puffing if I needed to climb steps.

The border between California and Nevada lies just to the left of the large casino building in the center of the photo. Some of you might remember another gambling joint called Las Vegas, also in Nevada.

Coffee shop.

If you want to get married up here.

You get married down there on the terrace. The cynics would declare that it was 'downhill all the way' for any marriage conducted here.

The 250 year old Western White Pine tree. 

Rocky outcrops.

Final view of the lake.

A small lake across from the bnb where we are staying. Most of the other houses in the street appear to be a bit ordinary but our host's house is quite nice and they have done a really fine job with the bnb accommodations. We have a bedroom, bathroom and a lounge area with refrigerator and TV. There is also a Keurig and they left us a bottle of red wine.

Now that is a snow blower. We got back on the gondola ride which continues on a few hundred yards but only rises a few more feet.

There were still some patches of snow.

Many people pay extra so that they can use the exercise facilities at the top of the mountain. Here is some sort of rope course you can traverse. There are also hiking trails and zip lines. I suspect when I was young I would have really enjoyed doing these activities. Not now when I am an old fuddy-duddy.

We noticed an unenclosed gondola. Presumably they can use it for repair work.

Marianne wondered how they got 'stuff' up the steep mountain side. I suggested small carts that would fit in the gondolas and here they are. The employees all wear orange shirts.

Our ticket also entitled us to take a third ride up the Big Easy ski lift and then take a leisurely walk back down a dirt road. Marianne was initially not too keen since she remembered ski lifts from thirty years before.

The border between California and Nevada lies roughly where the fence is as you can see from the following map.

However, she was brave and away we went. Can you see her knuckles are white.

It was only a few feet down so not very scary.

At the top, the young man who helped us off talked to us for a while. He was from Cleveland and he and his friend had driven out to work at the resort. They had traveled on route 50 across Nevada which we will do tomorrow.

Ski slope to the left. It looks like the beginners slope.

The road back down the hill.

Really dirty old snow.

We walked through the forest to get this view of the valley we would visit later in the day. I could hear a large engine which turned out to be the engine of a large truck that came up a road on the other side of the mountain from the gondola ride.

A family playing with the snow. They were from Florida and this was the first time that they had touched snow. It reminded me of my first time touching snow in 1972 when I drove to the top of Mount Kosciusko which is the highest mountain in Australia at 7310 feet.

Australians might like to read about the Kosciusko Mound in Warsaw which the mountain was named after because of its shape.

California that way.

Notice the elevation painted on top of the building. I suspect the only time I have been higher at ground level was when my sister Clare and I landed on a Mount Cook glacier in New Zealand in 1973.

Rock wall climbing.

We returned to the top of the gondola ride and descended. The gondolas do not stop at the viewing platform on the way down. It was a fabulous experience.

The queue of people was much longer two hours later.

The ticket cost is over $40 per person. Marianne and I discussed the ride over a bottle of wine at dinner and we agreed that in this case, the $40+ was worth it. Even at the zero dollars we paid, it was more than worth it. What a pair of cheapskates.

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