As tempertures continued on the warm side over the southern part of the state,
I decided to try a different tack and headed to the Lake Tahoe area where things
were expected to be much cooler.
There was more snow in the northern part of the Sierra this
year as opposed to the southern half, so there would be that to contend with. I
brought snowshoes with me but didn't really want to use them unless the snow
proved too soft. I left San Jose around 7a, planning on a half day effort around
the Truckee area. I was well past Sacramento and about an hour from Truckee
when it occurred to me that Kristine lives in the area and might be interested.
I gave her a call and was happy to hear that she was both interested and
available. I apologized for the short notice but that didn't seem to bother
her at all. She had only about 30min to get ready and despite this, was only
a few minutes behind me in reaching the TH
in the Tahoe-Donner area. It would
be the only part of the day where she was behind. From the start it was clear
that she had not been sitting inside this past winter - I would find myself
hustling to stay within sight of her as she raced from one peak to the next.
Donner Ridge - Hawks - Peak 7,695ft
I had planned to do a moderate out and back to Donner Ridge and Peak 7,695ft.
Kristine had done both already, but was keen to add Peak 7,729ft which we came
to find out later was called Hawks Peak on the TH kiosk map. So it
ended up being an 8mi+ loop that would take us just short of four hours.
We traveled about half the distance on dry ground, half on snow.
The snow had been freezing over the past
few nights so that even in the afternoon we had pretty good conditions for
snow travel without the snowshoes. We were a bit concerned the snow might
soften too much so we carried them with us, but never needed them. Our route
took us first to the top of Donner Ridge in about 25min, fine views all
around. Views were pretty open for much of the route as the windswept ridges
had few trees on them. Castle Peak to the west was the most prominent summit on
the north side the Interstate, visible for most of the outing. There are fine
views (and lots of snow) in other directions too, as the Sierra Crest winds
south from Donner Pass to the Squaw Valley area 10mi to the south. Hawks Peak,
to the northeast of Donner Ridge, has little prominence and is
connected to Donner
Ridge via a spur ridge. This spur ridge, Hawks summit and the slopes south, west
and north of Hawks Peak are part of the Tahoe-Donner Cross-Country Center and
there are plenty of Close Area signs to indicate the boundary.
The summit is a modest rock outcrop overlooking the Tahoe-Donner area.
After a short summit visit, we reversed course to head back west along the
spur ridge where we met up briefly with a pair of backcountry snowboarders
preparing to drop off the north side of the ridge. We visited one of the ski
area warming huts at the west end before dropping southwest
off the higher portion of Donner Ridge on our way to Peak 7,695ft. There was a
loose, cliffy area to get through, Kristine and I finding different chutes that
worked equally well, then a bit of brush before things got tame again
when we got back on the snow. Snow-covered jeep roads continue for another mile
nearly to the summit of Peak 7,695ft. It has a modest class 2-3 summit pinnacle
that makes a fine perch overlooking Donner Summit to the west.
Interstate 80 and the drone of truck traffic can be seen and heard immediately
below the summit. It was close to 1p by the time we landed on the third summit,
about an hour and half still to go. Our return wasn't the shortest route but was
probably the easiest, taking advantage of single and double-track bike
trails on the south side of Donner Ridge. This helped us avoid the
softening snow on the top of the ridge with the only difficulty being some
traversing across modestly brushy slopes to reach the bike trail. We met
a backcountry skier on our way off Peak 7,695ft and a few folks on the
bike trails before we returned around 2:20p. Kristine made plans to
spend the rest of the afternoon on another hike with her boyfriend while I
headed off for other summits, but this was definitely the best outing of the
This modest summit lies a short distance east of SR89 between Stampede and
Prosser Creek Reservoirs. A high-clearance Forest Road gets within a few
hundred feet of the flattish summit with no views. I walked around
the summit area
looking for a highpoint but not really finding one - not much to
recommend this one though it does have almost 500ft of prominence.
This small summit lies between SR89 and the Tahoe-Donner development, north
of Interstate 80 and Truckee. There is a private road on the upper half of
the mountain with a gate that I found open. It is signed for no uninvited
vehicles which suggests pedestrians are welcome to use the road. I figured
there was little chance of someone complaining I didn't belong there and
simply drove up to the top of Alder Hill Rd and parked in
a cul-de-sac with
a single home half-hidden in the woods. A gravel fire road goes up to what
looks like a utility shed just below the lower south summit. I wandered through
the woods to the top of the south summit where a well-hidden cell tower is
found by itself, then wandered to the higher point to the north. That one is
more developed with several towers including an
Airway Beacon. Several
technician trucks were parked there. I asked if they minded my going up to the
summit rocks and taking a few pictures. They shrugged and commented, "Not our
land!" I though this one would be devoid of views but
the summit rocks adjacent
to the airway beacon offered some views looking west and north. I returned more
directly to the cul-de-sac using a gated dirt service road. I spent less than
30min on the hike.
This summit is located south of Truckee and Interstate 80, northwest of
the Northstar ski area. A Forest Service road can be found in the Ponderosa
Palisades neighborhood on the south side of the Truckee River. It is popular
with OHVs, mountain bikers and pedestrians. On a COVID-19 Monday, it had lots
of foot traffic, neighbors out to get exercise. I drove fairly slowly to keep
dust down and waved to those I passed by. Most seemed very friendly. A spur
road (06-6) gets within a quarter mile of the summit on
the north side. The mountain is completely forested and offers
no views, but the cross-country
travel in the forest understory is easy enough. There are other spur roads that
get even closer from the south side, but I doubt they save any time on this
This last summit is located east of SR267 and Martis Valley and would occupy me
for the last several hours before sunset. From where I parked on SR267 at
a locked gate,
one can use a mountain bike trail around Martis Valley and up East
Martis Creek to get fairly close to the summit. I didn't discover
this trail network
until I had started out cross-country, soon finding the trails and
using them to advantage. Where the trail crosses to the south side of East
Creek I left it to continue cross-country up steep slopes towards the summit,
about 2/3mi further to the northeast. The lower parts were fine with decent
forest understory, but the upper half of the mountain is made up of a great
deal of tedious, broken volcanic rock.
It was necessary to move much slower here to avoid tripping on the
loose rock. My more southerly return route had
less of the tedious rock, but it was impossible to avoid much of it.
The summit is semi-open atop a heap of the broken rock, brush growing
around it to block views to the north and west. The views across East
Martis Creek take in
the higher areas around Northstar and Brockway Summit. Not one of the more
scenic views in the area, I would rate it as a little so-so. It was nearly 8p
by the time I returned, only a few minutes after sunset.
A warm shower and cold
beer would do wonders to improve my spirits. I found a very quiet place to
sleep off Mt. Watson Rd near Brockway Summit where I was able to retire
undisturbed. Not a bad day at all, and much better than my recent experience in
the Southern Sierra - no warm temps and no ticks here.