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Emerald Point previously climbed Sun, Dec 19, 1999|
I got up at 5:30a and made my way to the trailhead on the north side of the ridge by 7a. The directions on Yamagata's website were mostly correct, but they don't point out that Scenic Drive (yes, that's the actual street name) intersects SR89 at two points. Yamagata's directions are accurate for the more southerly junction closer to Emerald Bay (if you are coming from South Lake Tahoe or US50), but less so for the other junction you'll find coming from Tahoe City. It's easy enough to find the right way regardless. The roads were plowed to the end where a barrier blocked the road with two feet of snow on the other side. I would be using the snowshoes today for almost the entire day.
From the trailhead, I followed tracks laid down since the last storm, following the road for a short ways, then a trail up through the trees heading to Rubicon Peak on the north end of the ridgeline. It took about an hour and a half to make my way up over firm snow. The class 3 on the north side was rather spicy owing to the snow and ice on the rocks, but I managed to land myself atop without incident.
The views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding peaks were quite fine. It had been breezy earlier when I started, but it had mostly died down by the time I reached the ridgetop, and it was warming quickly. I had taken off my snowshoes for the final summit rocks, but put them on again as I continued on heading south. Most of the tracks had ended at Rubicon Peak, but a few had continued on in the similar traverse I was engaged in. The ridge was more difficult than it had looked to be from the map. Not that the map was inaccurate, it just couldn't show the detail of the rocky ridge, and there were plenty of pinnacles and rocks along the way to slow things down as I worked my way around them. The next higher point south of Rubicon Peak is the highpoint of the ridge, Pt. 9,269ft. It was not only higher, but was even harder to climb than Rubicon from the north as I found myself struggling on the last few blocks to reach the top. I took a photo or two from the top and beat a quick retreat as I didn't like the small perch all that much.
Continuing to the south I came across two skiers with a dog on another local highpoint. They had come up from the east directly from the road and were enjoying the views and sunshine found there before skiing back down. I talked to them just briefly before heading on. In looking for Jakes Peak they pointed me to a rounded summit not far to the southeast. It didn't match the location of Jakes Peak on my 7.5' map however, which had it as a rocky point between the two. I wandered over to the rocky point since it was on the way, but found I couldn't manage the last 15 feet to the summit. Without rock shoes, my wet boots couldn't grip the steep granite, and the alternative on snow was too risky. It was getting warmer and the thin layer of maybe 4 inches on one side of the rock was sloughing off too easily when I stepped on it.
I continued traversing south, tagging the other highpoint southeast of Jakes, then climbed down and back up to the last peak along the ridge, Emerald Point. It was 11a when I made this last point, still pretty early, but I had to consider whether to continue on to Phipps Peak as I had originally planned. As the day grew warmer the snow grew heavier, even with snowshoes it was a chore getting through it. Apathy set in and I decided to bail, leaving Phipps for another day. I chose the quickest way down, a steep gully on the east side of Emerald Point down to SR89. The snow was incredibly soft and in places dangerously so. What had been a firm snow base in the morning had become a soupy mess that could hardly support it's own weight. The gully had been in the sun all day making it the worst of all slopes. Everywhere there was evidence of sloughing snow, triggered by snow falling off some of the small cliffs in the gully. I was happy to eventually make my way to the lower part of the gully where the slope angle lessened and the snow itself grew thinner with the lower elevation. In the last couple hundred feet before reaching the road the snow became intermitent and I was able to pack up the snowshoes and hike down the slope. I followed some tracks I found, happy to find they led down to a road with some summer homes lining either side. The road took me eastward down to SR89 which I reached at 12:30p. Based on the last 45 minutes or so, it seemed a good decision to forgo Phipps - Lord knows how long it would have taken to wade myself back from Phipps with the snow like this.
As I started walking back north along SR89 I tried to thumb a ride. There were plenty of cars and trucks going by on this holiday weekend, but none offering rides. It took an hour and a half for me to hike the four miles back to where I'd left the car, making for a seven hour outing.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Rubicon Peak - Jakes Peak - Emerald Point
This page last updated: Sun Sep 30 14:07:27 2012
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