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1029. Ralston Peak (04/09/16)

Hikers (16): Arlene, George, Giulia, Jeff V, Jim Be, Kevin, Mihail, Nagendra, Rainer, Sabine, Sarbinder, Sophie, Steve, Tiffany, Tula, Yipeng
Distance: 6 miles
Rating: 3 difficulty, 8 beauty
Park info: Desolation Wilderness Near Tahoe

Write-up by Steve -- Pictures by Sarbinder and Steve

This snowshoe trip had been arranged far in advance. As the date approached, it was clear there was going to be rain. Since most people had already arranged for somewhere to stay earlier in the month, plenty of people showed up. . .except Russ and Hima, who decided to lounge around all day instead.

The hike started on Tamarack Pines Road, east of the normal Ralston Peak trail head. The reputed benefit is that there is a parking lot there that is snowplowed during the winter, unlike the Ralston Peak TH. That was George's info, at least. . .but he was also conveniently staying walking distance away from this alternative trail head, so who knows!

1-2-3 INCH!

It was raining when we started. Sabine and Jeff V were AWOL, which was surprising since Sophie and Rainer had seen them in the morning. I knew the way to the start of the hike, which involved crossing HWY 50 and making a few turns up the local roads to get to a private camp area where the "trail" starts out from a parking area.

We wended our way up between the trees where the snow was not, until we reached high enough that the snow was mostly present. Then we donned our snowshoes and started off. Not soon after we saw Sabine and Jeff V. Turns out they had parked at the "normal" trailhead, and hiked up in boots. So we had a quick chat, and now everyone was back together. . .for a while.

It was pretty slow going, with the tail of the group taking longer and longer to catch up. One of my snowshoes kept falling off, so stopped to refit everything. Sarbinder was nearby, doing something similar. Not everyone had caught up at this point, but once I saw someone who said they could see everyone else, I took off. By that time, the front of the pack was ahead.

At some point, I decided to take a different route to the summit instead of following the route the rest of INCH was on. Sarbinder followed me, but I waved to Tula to follow the other group (in case my route turned out to be a bad choice). Soon we couldn't see the lead group anymore. We couldn't see much of anything, actually, because by now we were in the cloud line and it was snowing. Fun!

Sarbinder and I make our own route

The second group takes a different route

I wasn't breaking any records, but Sarbinder refused to pass, so we plodded along, ever steeper, on virgin snow. Eventually the summit was a mere 100ft away, and we couldn't see anyone. Turned out we were "early". So we signed the summit log, took some summit photos, and then hunkered down out of the wind.

The second group arrives

Soon a steady stream of INCHers arrived from the east. I wanted to wait for everyone, but it was getting too cold. I mentioned the route we took up was all snow (compared to the rocky approach from which most people came), but few people followed us down. Turns out, however, that all the people farther behind had followed Sarbinder and my route, so we first saw Arlene and Kevin, and then Tiffany and Jim Be later. Everyone was accounted for. Success!

More summiters

Too lazy to remove snowshoes

Views of Lake Tahoe were not to be had today

Getting down was definitely faster, although the steep sections were not always easy to navigate. In fact, it was snowing enough that it was making even the trail we'd taken up not always obvious. The people ahead of me (particularly Sarbiner and Mihail) would occasionally glissade down sections, making it harder to snowshoe down the same route. Eventually we reached a point where the snowshoes came off, and that's where it got tricky for people to find their way back.

I had the coordinates, not to mention the track we'd taken up, so getting back was easy. I left some arrows along the road, realizing that people would probably forget how they got there. Back at the parking lot, several people were back, but fewer than I would have expected. It didn't register at the time, but Sabine and Jeff were pulling out when I got there. They probably brought back some people from the (wrong) Ralston Peak trail head.

A second wave of people came back pretty soon after I got there, and then it was well over an hour until Sophie, Rainer, Yipeng, and Tiffany showed up. By that time, I'd dried off, hung up all my wet clothes in a nearby shelter, changed into all new clothes, played many rounds of Candy Crush, got cold enough to put on another layer of everything, and watched it snow quite hard. I was happy to get the hell out of there! But we were still missing Tula, Kevin, Jim Be, and Nagendra. I rationalized that every one of those was a "+1", so not my problem! Turns out they had also hiked out to the wrong trail head, and George fetched them not long after. All's well that ends well.

Back at the car, the snow came down in big blobs

Tula's 1st leaf

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