Twin Peaks South

Dec 30, 2018

With: Jackie Burd

Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


Our first of two full days in South Lake Tahoe was intended to be a moderate snowshoe outing to Cathedral Peak via the Mt. Tallac Trail. I had high hopes that Jackie and I would be able to manage this, but those were quitely dashed. We failed due several factors:

  • A late start - we didn't leave the house until 9a because Jackie wanted to sleep in.
  • The road to the trailhead was gated. We had to park at the highway and walk an extra mile each way to reach the trailhead.
  • We had to be back by 2p. Mom wanted to go snowshoeing in the afternoon shift. Turns out Mom changed her mind after we got back. Wasn't a big surprise as it goes with the territory - I just have to stay flexible with these fickle ladies.
  • Even if we didn't have the above limitations, I don't think we'd have made it anyway. Jackie's heart and legs weren't in it today. She was rather slow moving and bit tentative about the headwall we'd need to climb to reach the saddle between Cathedral Peak and Mt. Tallac. We never did find out since we never got close enough to evaluate it. Looks a bit steep on the topo map, though.

    Despite the above, we still had a nice outing, covering about 7mi over the course of about four hours. The initial mile and a half along the road and then through forest was mostly flat and tame, not very scenic. The trail then climbs onto the long ridgeline on the northwest side of Fallen LeafLake. This part is quite scenic, with fine views overlooking the lake as well as far views to the north across Lake Tahoe. Mt. Tallac rises dramatically to the west. The trail then drops off the ridge through more forest, going past Floating Island Lake (indistiguishable from a meadow when frozen and covered in snow). Up to this point, the trail is well-packed and easy to follow as we'd left the snowshoes in the back of my pack. Where the trail veers left off to Cathedral Lake, the packed trail continues upslope, growing steeper. Jackie began to flag here, pausing to rest often or remove a layer, and we still had more than a mile to go with our turnaround time rapidly approaching. I decided to call a halt early, leaving us more time to play around with the snowshoes on the way back. After strapping them to our feet, we left the trail to descend cross-country over untracked snow, never straying too far from the trail. I think Jackie enjoyed this part the most - it was more like the snowshoeing she'd imagined before the trip.

    After we'd returned home and had lunch, I went back out by myself for a short hike to Twin Peaks South. This minor summit is found just west of US50 and Lake Valley. I parked south of the summit off Sawmill Rd where a few other cars had parked alongside a bike/hike path. It was less than half a mile to the summit from this point. I was happy to find a network of good use trails that helped with the heavy brush found on this side of the mountain. Because of the southern exposure, there was little snow to deal with and I simply went up in my boots with a pair of ski poles for balance should I run into any snow. I was surprised to find an impressive granite face on this side with several rock climbing parties enjoying an afternoon working their craft. One party was rappeling a large face while another was working on an interesting one-pitch route. I followed along the base of this cragging area to the west to find my way to the top via some mild class 3 scrambling. The summit rocks are large and flat and pockmarked with eroded divots that were all filled with partially melted ice. The highest rock appears to be to the northwest of the larger summit area, a short class 3+ effort. After taking some photos of the surrounding summits (Mt. Tallac, Tahoe Mtn, Twin Peaks North), I dropped off the east side of the summit to find my way back via another series of convenient use trails. This shorter outing took well under an hour, but made for a good way to finish the day...

  • Kirk D comments on 01/02/19:
    For future reference, when one is time poor in that corner of Tahoe, the Rubicon Trail is a good one to hit. Access via the gated Bliss Campground road, and follow the road past the kiosk to the trailhead. If one is lucky enough, the Pileated Woodpeckers on the point adjacent to the Emerald Bay entrance will be heard/seen ? It is particularly fine when the Summer tourists are gone.
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