Peak 8,925ft P300
Little Pyramid P500
Peak 9,045ft P300
Peak 9,420ft P750

Wed, Jun 17, 2020
Etymology
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With a couple of free days, I headed to the El Dorado National Forest near Lake Tahoe. I arrived the night before so I would have a full day for an outing in the Crystal Range to tag a foursome of summits that had so far eluded me. The highest of these was unnamed Peak 9,420ft with almost 900ft of prominence. I had made a weak effort to reach it two years earlier, but as it was late in the day and I was already kinda tired, my heart wasn't in it and I turned back after an hour. Today I would have no excuses and didn't need any - it was a very fine outing that I enjoyed a good deal. Temps were in the 30s to start and with a stiff wind I would have my fleece on for most of the day. But it warmed up nicely as I descended the last peak and would end with temps in the low 60s. I would spent almost 10hrs on the outing, covering 16mi and 4,600ft of gain, a pretty good day.

Arriving late the previous evening, I was in no rush to get up with the first light in the morning. This close to the summer solstice I would hardly need of an early start with so much available daylight. I drove to Wrights Lake from my campsite in the morning, eating breakfast along the way. I had intended to start from the Rockbound Trailhead but found the access to Wrights Lake blocked at the south end, still closed for the season, apparently, or COVID-19. There is a large parking lot at the closed sign with a dozen or so vehicles there, so I simply found myself a parking spot, put out my shower jug on the dash, and headed out a little after 7:30a.

I walked the road to the Rockbound TH and headed out on the trail. The trail makes its way for more than a mile through forest, passing by scenic Beauty Lake along the way. The trail then emerges from the forest as it gains altitude and granite slopes become more dominant, opening up the views some. I reached a junction shortly before the Wilderness boundary, taking the right fork which climbs to Gertrude Lake about 800ft higher, nestled in a cirque north of my first summit, Peak 8,925ft. I left the trail a little earlier, though in hindsight it probably would have been better to stay on the trail until it goes over the NW Shoulder of Peak 8,925ft, at a saddle with Pt. 7,984ft. My route would end up on the NW Shoulder anyway, in order to avoid heavier brush on the west side. There was some steep snowfields on the north side of the ridge, but I was able to pick a line through breaks in the snow and avoid most of it. The ridge was never harder than class 2 all the way to the summit where I arrived just before 10a. Tiring, but the hardest part of the day was done.

The summit is a fine one, better than I expected, even though it was the lowest of the four. Mt. Price rises to almost 10,000ft 1.5mi to the southeast. Lovely Twin Lakes and Island Lake lie in the high rocky valley between them. I would find that there are a surprising number of such lakes all around the Crystal Range, most of them in granite basins with very little forest. A register had been left here five years earlier by Bob McLaughlin, a name I recognized from the Sierra Challenge. There were a few other names I recognized on the six pages - Chris Kerth, Sean Reedy and Kristine Swigart.

The next summit, Little Pyramid, was one air mile to the northeast, connected by a ridgeline. The initial part getting off Peak 8,925ft was some fun class 3, eventually becoming class 2 for the remaining 4/5 of the distance, still enjoyable scrambling. There was a good amount of snow on the north facing slopes and some patches along the ridge, but nothing serious and no need for crampons or axe. I reached Little Pyramid shortly before 11:30a, finding myself now on the crest of the Crystal Range. There was a coffee can for a register (the plastic lid won't keep the contents dry for long), left by the father of Ryan Shreve who died at the age of 24 in 2003. There was a copy of a BGN proposal to name the summit as Mt. Ryan, along with a petition that had a few names on it. Since the peak is in the Desolation Wilderness, it will require an act of Congress (and a congressional sponsor) for that to happen - seems unlikely. From the summit, one can look east down into Rockbound Valley which separates the Crystal Range from the Sierra Crest. Dicks Peak and Jacks Peak, two almost-10,000-foot summits, rise prominently across the valley. The Rubicon River can be seen meandering through the forested valley.

Peak 9,045ft lies another mile to the north along the crest of the Crystal Range and it was in this direction I headed next. This was the easiest segment between peaks, mostly easy class 2 and a very nice hike with great views the whole way. There was a lovely little tarn found at a saddle right on the crest just below Peak 9,045ft. It took about 45min between Little Pyramid and the third summit. There was no register there, so I left one of my own before continuing. The last summit was 1.7mi further northwest, the longest segment between peaks. I had to first drop down to Rockbound Pass where I crossed over the trail I had started out on hours earlier. It was a steep climb up the north side of the pass, but still class 2, nothing really difficult. After gaining 600ft the gradient relents and it becomes an easier walk. I came across a second trail just before Pt. 9,331ft, a bit unexpectedly. A look a the GPSr showed I could use this trail to return to Wrights Lake, but I ended up not retracing my route along the crest. There were a few intermediate pinnacles to go over past this second trail. Had there not been too much snow on the northeast side of the crest I would have bypassed the points on that side, but the slopes were too steep to consider crossing without proper snow gear. Going over the pinnacles proved no serious obstacle and fun, too. I eventually reached Peak 9,420ft around 2:20p, pretty tuckered by this time. There are two summits of near-equal height, but I determined the northern one was about 10ft higher. I left another register here.

It was now time to head back. Below to the west lay Lawrence Lake and a short distance downstream, Barrett Lake. The latter is the endpoint for the Barrett Lake OHV Trail, the route I had started on two years earlier before turning back. So I knew I had only to descend to these lakes to find a trail and then the OHV route. The SW Slopes of Peak 9,420ft were steep but class 2, sandy in places, a little brushy in others, slabby granite in still others. Overall it was a decent descent route and got me down to Lawrence Lake with little trouble.

I found several nice campsites near the first lake and picked up the expected trail on the northwest side of the lake. The trail led down to Barrett Lake and the OHV route, leaving me about 6mi to return to Wrights Lake. It was not easy following the OHV route as it is very, very rocky. How these folks get vehicles up such terrain is beyond me - just walking it was harder than hiking on your standard foot trail. There were large water obstacles, creek crossings, snow in places, really not all that much fun, especially since it was getting warmer. The saving grace was that the OHV route is not yet open for the season, which meant there was none of the heavy dust that I had encountered in August of 2018. I got back to the start of the OHV route at Dark Lake by 5:15pm, leaving me another 15min of hiking along the pavement to get back to the jeep at the lower lot. I had had a pretty full day so didn't bother trying to grab a few extra easy bonus peaks - these four would do just fine for the day...

Continued...


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