Peak 8,997ft P300
Peak 9,450ft P300
Peak 9,008ft

Jul 1, 2021

With: Kristine Swigart

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


In an unusual move to avoid the continuing heatwave, I had spent the night at the Motel 6 in South Lake Tahoe with the AC running to keep cool. It was cool enough outside when I awoke at 5a to begin my day. I loaded up the Jeep and headed out towards Luther Pass, stopping at the Starbucks near the "Y" (nice that they open at 5am) for some caffeine to start things off. I was at the Tahoe Rim TH just north of the pass 20min before our 6am meeting time. Kristine showed up only a minute later and I had to down my breakfast a little faster than planned, easily done. Our goals today included three unnamed summits on the north side of the highway. I had originally sketched out a route from the north via Saxon Creek, but had been persuaded by Kristine that this would work out better. The plan was much like the previous day - get up and back by noon to beat the heat.

Today went much easier than the previous day as we had none of the bushwhacking that we had encountered on Peak 9,380ft. Most of the day's route was on well-maintained trails with cross-country excursions to reach the various summits. Ours were the only two vehicles on the side of the highway (there's room for about 6-8 vehicles) when we started, but would be almost full when we returned. The trail starts climbing from the get-go, meeting up with the Tahoe Rim Trail from Big Meadow in the first half mile. We climbed about 900ft over the course of a mile and half where we chose to head cross-country to Peak 8,997ft, about 2/3mi to the northwest. We spent about 50min in reaching the summit from the TH, the last 20min for the cross-country stretch. A collection of class 2 granite boulders forms the summit with open views in all directions. Views to the north (where Lake Tahoe lies) were hazy, those to the east were washed out by the early morning sun. Better views were had looking south to Waterhouse Peak and Peak 9,380ft, and west to the Sierra Crest around Echo Summit. We thought the best view was to the northwest where Echo Lakes could be seen nestled in the ridges and summits in the Desolation Wilderness area. We paused at the summit for about 10min, leaving a register before heading back.

We returned to the Rim Trail a bit higher than where we'd left it, then followed it through forest along the meandering ridgeline connecting Peak 8,997ft to higher summits to the east. We reached a trail junction above Turkey Flat, where the Saxon Creek Trail joins the Tahoe Rim Trail. A sign here indicates the descending trail to Saxon Creek as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, a name bestowed nearly 40yrs ago. The descent has many twists and turns with challenging rock steps that earn it a Most Difficult rating for cyclists - there's no way I'd have been able to descend this trail on a bike. On foot it was a much easier prospect, and we followed it down to Turkey Flat and a bit further before striking off cross-country once again. We had another climb of almost 900ft to reach Peak 9,450ft via its South Ridge. Through clear understory, we climbed the steeper lower slopes where Kristine came across a rusty find - what looked like the ashtray for an old vehicle. No other traces of such a vehicle could be found anywhere and we were left to guess how it might have found itself to its current resting spot. The slope relents after half the mile-long distance to the top and 3/4 of the elevation gain. We bypassed a lower point on the west side before finding our way to the highpoint at the far north end of the ridge, arriving around 8:20a. There are several closely-spaced granite blocks vying for highpoint honors. The highest is a class 3 pinnacle with a small perch that holds one person. We climbed this in turn, then returned to the lower, roomier block where we took a short break and left a register. Views from this summit are mostly blocked by trees.

Our third summit was 440ft lower, about a mile northwest of Peak 9,450ft. There is a 700-foot drop to a saddle before one can climb to Peak 9,008ft. We found three points in a line, of near-equal height among the trees and granite that comprise the summit area. The outer two points are represented on the topo map by an extra contour. LoJ had the easternmost one at an interpolated elevation of 9,020ft, but we measured it to be about 2ft lower than the 9,008ft spot elevation. We left a register at the western point (9,008ft) where the views were better, too.

It was 9:30a by the time we started down, now with a 900-foot cross-country drop to return to the trail near Saxon Creek. Near the end of this segment, we got separated as we took different lines down the side drainage we were following. I stayed on the northwest side while Kristine crossed over to the southeast side and disappeared from view. I got back to the trail a few minutes before her. She reported seeing a bear that turned towards her, to which she began loudly making noise to drive it away. I told her I didn't her any of her shouts and would have been oblivious if the thing had started gnawing on her leg. She could see I would be no help in a pinch. Regrouped, we began the long, 800-foot climb back up Mr. Toad's Wild Ride to return to the trail junction with the Rim Trail. There was a bit more elevation gain after this, but most of the 2.5mi return from the junction to the TH was downhill. We passed by half a dozen parties - cyclists, backpackers and day hikers, finding the trail far busier than when we had started earlier. We were back to the TH before 11:30a with the day really starting to heat up now, about 78F. It was a good time to call it a day and head for home. Thank goodness for air-conditioning...

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