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15. Mt. Tallac (08/31/96)

Hikers (7): Elisa, Melik, Nick Pe, Patrick M, Peter, Taylor, Venkat
Distance: 10 miles
Rating: 4 difficulty, 10 beauty
Park info: Desolation Wilderness at South Lake Tahoe

Write-up by Peter

We drove up to Nick's place in South Lake Tahoe for Labor Day weekend. The plan was to hike Saturday, gamble (i.e. lose money) on Saturday night, watch the opening weekend of NFL games on Sunday, then head back on Monday morning. Could life be any better?

Only two of the founding INCH members, Taylor and myself, were there to hike, but that was enough to make it official. We got up early, hit to the 7-11 around the corner from Nick's to pick up sandwiches, then headed out to Mt. Tallac.

Taylor and I initiated the newcomers to the tradition of the Hike Cheer, and then we were off. The trail started in the Desolation Wilderness (nice name), and led quickly up past Emerald Bay -- beautiful view! For some reason, Venkat had chosen to wear a thick sweater and was already paying the price. We stopped for a quick rest and some photos, then continued up for another mile to Fallen Leaf Lake. It was quiet and beautiful. We were pleasantly surprised not to find more people on the trail.

We continued the steady climb up to Cathedral Lake and took a longer break this time. The effects of the altitude were starting to be felt. Venkat looked like he was on the verge of death, but vowed to press on. Good attitude!

After Cathedral Lake, we had a tough stretch up some rocky trails, and then we were above the tree line. The view of Lake Tahoe was great! We were hoping we were almost at the top, but, the truth was, we had only come just over halfway. Ugh!

Onward ...

The grade was getting steeper and so was the altitude. This hike was certainly at the tough end of the 3's, verging on a 4. Because of the high altitude, the air was relatively cool (even though it was a bright sunny day) so we weren't sweating, even though our hearts were pounding and we were huffing and puffing. The only exception was Patrick, who wasn't even breathing hard -- this was just a stroll in the park for him!

Elisa, Melik, Taylor, and Patrick on the way up
(Lake Tahoe in the background)

Thankfully, we reached a plateau and the trail went through a nice, flat meadow for a while. As we walked through wildflowers of all colors, we looked around and saw snow-capped peaks all around us. This hike definitely deserved a 10 for beauty. We sat on a tree trunk and took some more photos.

Almost there ...

The final mile after the meadow was an uphill push towards the peak. Nick took the lead, followed by me. The final 100 yards was a scramble over some jagged rocks. My fear of heights was starting to kick in once again, but I was determined not to turn back like I did at Half Dome, and went all the way up to the top (Nick still gives me grief because I did not actually sit on the rock at the top, but that was only because Nick's fat ass had taken up all the space).

Peter at the top of Mt. Tallac

The rest of the pack arrived about 5 minutes later, and we all sat down for lunch. It certainly hit the spot. The squirrels that inhabited the top shared our sandwiches with us. We were only 9,700 feet up, but it felt like we were on top of the world.

The view from the top was breathtaking on all sides, but I did not stick around for too long. Another guy who had made it to the top sympathized with my fear of heights, and had covered his head with a towel so he couldn't look down.

Leaving the others to bask in the glory of their accomplishment, I scrambled down the rocks, found a nice hollowed-out tree, and curled up inside it for a nap. About half an hour later, the laggards showed up, and we all headed back down.

Nick was in a rush to get to the casinos to catch the Texas football game, and I was in a rush to get the car and have a nice, cold Sam Adams, so the trip down went fairly quickly. I was "entertained" by a non-stop conversation all the the way down between Elisa and Taylor. Thank God for the aspirin in the backpack!

We only made one real stop at Cathedral Lake, where Melik and Venkat took off their shoes and went into the water to cool their heels. After that, it was straight down to the car. For some strange reason the last couple of miles seemed to take forever -- every time it seemed the trail should end, it just kept going and going, but I eventually did get to my beer and Nick did get to his game on time (and Texas actually won!).

This hike is highly recommended for all who want to spend a nice day in the Lake Tahoe area.

Elisa's 1st leaf
Melik's 1st leaf
Nick Pe's 1st leaf
Patrick M's 1st leaf
Venkat's 1st leaf

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