Sourdough Hill P300
Lost Corner Mountain P500 PD
Peak 7,980ft P300
Peak 7,860ft P500 PD
Peak 8,091ft P300
Peak 8,330ft P500
Peak 7,550ft P300
Peak 4,999ft P300

Jun 23, 2020
Lost Corner Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile


My second day in the Lake Tahoe area saw me re-creating an outing to four summits that Kristine Swigart had done a year earlier in April, undoubtedly with more snow. My starting point was along the Rubicon Trail, a rough but very popular OHV route that crosses the Sierra Crest between Lake Tahoe and Loon Lake. I had driven the first two miles of the trail the previous afternoon and found a place to camp at Miller Lake. It is possible for one to drive to the summit of Sourdough Hill, but that initial drive on the Rubicon Trail discouraged me. The spur road leading to Sourdough Hill was actually in better shape and probably doable in my jeep, but I didn't mind the extra workout (and extra peace of mind) that came with the longer outing on foot. Overnight temperatures had only dipped to the low 60s and would warm close to 80F before I returned around noon. Along with the abundance of mosquitoes for which repellent proved only partially effective, I decided to call it a day, sort of. I switched modes from foot to jeeping, finding some peaks south of SR50 that I could drive to on some challenging but non-rock-crawling OHV routes.

Sourdough Hill - Lost Corner - Peak 7,980ft - Peak 7,860ft

I was up early, starting off from my campsite before 6a, the sun just about to reach Miller Lake. With calm waters, Lost Corner Mtn was lit up nicely with a fine reflection across the lake. Just past the lake is the junction with FR14N391, the OHV route to Sourdough Hill. The road heads south to Richardson Lake, about a mile distance, where it makes a wide curve around the east side of the lake before heading up to Sourdough Hill. I got distracted when I reached Richardson Lake, looking for a shorter route shown on the topo map going around the west side. At the north end of the lake were more than a dozen folks camped in tents, backpackers from the nearby PCT/TRT. I said "Hello" to several of those that were up and about, but it illicited no response. Their somber moods may have been the early hour or perhaps the result of the mosquitoes that were plaguing anyone with fresh blood. I walked through the camp area and found the road on the west side of the lake with little trouble - it is no longer open to vehicles, but it makes a fine footpath. I didn't realize that the PCT itself was just a short distance to the west or I would have used that instead. The westside road led south and up to the forested saddle between Sourdough Hill and Lost Corner Mtn. Nice signs indicated where the PCT/TRT crosses the road. Just past this, the old road meets up with the Sourdough Hill road, the one that went around Richardson Lake's east side. Views begin to open up as one follows this road to the top of Sourdough Hill, winding around the south and east sides of the peak. There is a small, nicely-maintained building at the summit, though I didn't investigate its purpose. Views are decent, but partially blocked by trees. The top is large and flat with no discernable highpoint. I walked around the periphery to get views of Desolation Wilderness to the south and southwest. The topo shows a more direct road up the southwest side of Sourdough Hill. The newer road replaces this steeper, older version, now covered in logs and branches to keep vehicles off. I used it for my descent route, the logs not appreciably hindering foot traffic.

I followed the Sourdough Hill Rd down to the saddle and then a bit further to its closest approach to Lost Corner. Here I left the road to head cross-country up the northwest side of Lost Corner. It took about 25min after leaving the road to make my way up the half mile stretch, somewhat steep but not too brushy, mostly through forest understory. The summit was a collection of granite boulders on the edge of the steep East Face. This was the highest of the four summits and had the best views. Lake Tahoe could be seen to the east at the mouth of the General Creek drainage (where Sugar Pine Point SP is located), but because it wasn't yet 8a and the sun was still low, the view was somewhat washed out. All the major peaks of Desolation Wilderness could be seen to the south, still plenty of snow on their northern aspects. I left a register here, the only one I would leave on the day.

There are easier ways to get off Lost Corner, but I decided to take the direct route towards Peak 7,980ft by descending the class 3 East Face. I had to pick my route carefully to keep from getting cliffed out, but it worked quite nicely and was the best scrambling of the day. There was a moderate amount of brush on the lower slopes, making route-finding a little tricky, but I managed to get down without too much wallowing in the stuff. I had also entered the northernmost section of the Desolation Wilderness, with about a mile to traverse before exiting the other side. Once at the base of the mountain, I continued through forest across General Creek and then up towards the third summit. I came across an old trail that no longer appears to be maintained, shortly after starting up the east side of the creek. This trail is still shown on the newer topo maps, but I doubt it gets much traffic. After a steep 200-foot climb, the terrain relents in a high plateau area under the forest canopy, now out of the Wilderness. I passed by a small unnamed lake, then the larger Lost Lake. The Lost Lake Trail reaches to the lake from the north and east. It used to be a jeep trail, but has been restricted to foot and bike for some years now, even though it is outside the Wilderness boundary. After a small creek crossing, I had about 1/3mi and another 200ft to climb up to Peak 7,980ft. I had expected this one to be forested without views, but was pleasantly surprised to find a rock outcrop forming the highpoint with views looking south across the Meeks Creek drainage.

After leaving the summit of Peak 7,980ft, I returned to the Lost Lake Trail and followed this north to General Creek at the base of the last summit, unnamed Peak 7,860ft. The trail appears to be well-used and easy to follow, with little downfall blocking the path. To avoid heavy brush on the south side of the peak, I had thought I might ascend a rocky buttress where the trail meets General Creek, but closer inspection showed this was a more serious affair than I was prepared for. Instead, I climbed up the steep forest slopes west of this buttress, gaining the ridge to then follow it east to the highpoint about half a mile distance. The ridge has some heavy brush on the sunnier south side, but it can be avoided by sticking to the more forested north side where the brush, when present, isn't too bad. This summit also had a rock outcrop forming the highpoint, with views looking south across the General Creek drainage to Peak 7,980ft and Mt. Tallac behind it.

From the summit of Peak 7,860ft, it was less than a mile in a direct line back to my campsite and the jeep at Miller Lake. I was worried about brush after descending the north side of Peak 7,860ft, and imagined I could be thrashing through willows and other unpleasantness while trying to get around the lake. So instead, I headed west along the ridge of Peak 7,860ft and returned to the Lost Lake Trail. Though longer, it proved to have no disagreeable brush and once at the trail I could simply follow it and the various roads back. There was an old, abandoned cabin standing in the woods near the start of the trail, a downed snag leaning against one side of the roof. The insides contained a rickety table and old bedsprings, detritus scattered about the floor with a generous helping of rat poop - not a very inviting place. Back at the start of the trail, I was soon on the Sourdough Hill OHV route heading north towards the Rubicon. 15min more walking saw me back to the jeep, finishing up just after noon. Temps were in the high 70s here, much too warm to be comfortable, and the mosquitoes were nearly as determined as they'd been when I started out. The outing would have been much more enjoyable in cooler weather. I was ready to give up and go home, not wanting to hike the rest of the afternoon and not really wanting to camp somewhere for the rest of the day with it so warm out.

Peak 8,091ft - Peak 8,330ft - Peak 7,550ft

I needed a new plan. I had some peaks in mind on the south side of Echo Summit that I was interested in, more than an hour's drive. Air-conditioning would be a nice change. I drove back those first two miles of the Rubicon Trail, a slow process I can't say was terribly enjoyable, wondering which rock I would misjudge and end up banging the undercarraige. Perhaps my skills are improving as no damage was done, though again, maybe I just got lucky. I drove south on SR89 on the west side of Lake Tahoe, marvelling at the congestion of folks at the small towns of Tahoma and Meeks Bay, with obscenely high numbers around Emerald Bay - so much pent-up demand from the COVID sheltering. I drove through South Lake Tahoe, stopping at the Starbucks for an afternoon caffeine fix, then continuing up to Echo Summit. I found the road I was interested in gated at the highway, making for a 5mi hike each way, for which I was in no mood. Thunderstorms overhead were beginning to pile up alarmingly, with some rain starting. A Severe Thunderstorm warning came flashing on the Jeep's display. I needed to head west, away from the storms. I perused the peakbagger app, identifying several candidates about ten miles to the west. Marcus Sierra had reported visiting them in 2018, hiking rough jeep roads for a 10mi outing. I would make a much more decadent outing of it. I drove to the town of Strawberry, crossing the American River at the 42Mile Access point on the south side of the highway. Paved Strawberry Creek Rd (aka Packsaddle Pass Rd or Forest Road 71) winds up nicely to Packsaddle Pass, just below 7,200ft. Shortly before the pass, I turned left onto the forest road Marcus had started his hike from. It was a pretty decadent outing, driving the jeep along some pretty rough roads with plenty of downfall barely arranged to allow the jeep through, all the while I'm sipping a carmel machiatto with my AC and music keeping me cool and chilled. I did this all the way to the summit of first Peak 8,091ft, then Peak 8,330ft. I got out to hike the final 100ft to the flat summits on foot, noting few views save for the thunderclouds slowly making their way west. Near the summit of Peak 8,330ft, I took a turn a little too tight and slowly ran over a 10" log with the rear tire, causing some minor damage to the plastic trim on the bumper - "no worries, it'll buff out," the standard jeep motto. A few drops began to fall while I was on Peak 8,330ft, and the idea of having the trail turn into a mudfest got me back in the jeep and leaving before such a thing could develop. Back at the pavement, I drove a short distance up the road to Packsaddle Pass and another dirt spur road that I could drive up to Peak 7,550ft about a mile to the west. It, too, had little to offer in the way of views, but one could drive virtually to the summit. On my way back to the pavement, the thunderstorms had moved sufficiently west to begin unloading a dump of hailstones, some as large as marbles but most the size of peas. They made quite a racket bouncing off the hood and starting to fill the tire channels in the road. Hail works out much better than rain - no mud, at least for the short time it took me to get back to the pavement.

Peak 4,999ft

With the storm unleashing, I kinda expected the fun to be over and continued towards home once I reached the highway. More perusal of the peakbagger app found another peak 10mi further west, just off the highway that I could do before calling it quits. Peak 4,999ft lies south and above the small community of Kyburz on US50. Paved Silver Fork Rd provides access to a number of homes scattered about the woods, continuing some miles up to SR88 at the Iron Mtn Ski Area. The topo map shows a dirt road going partway up Peak 4,999ft to a saddle on the SE side. This unsigned spur is no longer open to vehicles and hard to find. I went past it without finding it, then drove back to a shorter spur not shown on the topo that I had passed by. With a bit of brushiness, this led up to the saddle where I discovered not only the dirt road, but the fact that it leads all the way to the summit (I could also have learned this had I read Marcus' short TR on PB). This was a good thing, because the elevation was low enough to allow poison oak to grow here and it could have been awful had I had to bushwhack the 1/3mi to the top. The summit has some class 2-3 boulders forming the highpoint, tucked in among trees and brush, offering some views, but nothing great. The thunderstorms were spreading west and though I was still bathed in sunshine, it seemed it was only a matter of time before things would change. I hightailed it down the road/trail to the pavement, then walked the road back to the jeep where I showered before driving home. Despite the so-so day I had in the Tahoe area, the extra jeep driving made for a fun afternoon and I ended the day on a high note...

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