www.MountainHiker.org

Hiking Stats as of 11/21/2018
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 325
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Dec 14, 2013 - Ralston Peak

 

Partners: Kyle Breen

Distance: 7.58 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,909 feet

Trip Time: 6:10

Trip Report  |  Trip Photos  |  GPX: (1)
 
Links:
Summitpost | Wikipedia
Maps and Stats:
December was halfway over, and the Sierra had only seen a couple of snow events, and nothing of note since November. Instead of winter storms, the forecast called for sunny skies and temperatures above freezing for the high country. Kyle and I had visited Castle Peak and Basin Peaks the weekend prior to Thanksgiving and had elected to do the trip without snowshoes, although there were sections of that hike where snowshoes would have certainly helped. We really wanted to do a snowshoe trek, so we decided on Ralston Peak, an OGUL peak of just over 9,200 feet with easy access from Highway 50 near Lake Tahoe. This would be my 18th OGUL peak, as I continued on my quest to summit the 63 OGUL peaks in the Tahoe area.

Kyle and I met up at the Target in Rancho Cordova and carpooled up to the trailhead. We were quite lucky to find room to park in this little area, as the parking area was not plowed except for a tiny area with enough room for 2 cars to park. We were car number 2 on the day, arriving at 11 AM. The conditions allowed for either snowshoes or for boots, although we elected to go ahead and start with the snowshoes thinking that the snow would only get deeper higher up. We had researched the trip ahead of time, and understood that we were in for a steep ascent - no fooling around with switchbacks or gentle slopes. That made the initial section of the gentle trail somewhat confusing, as it was nice and easy going. This soon changed, however, and the snowshoes came in handy as we started uphill.

The lack of new snow had allowed tracks from previous visitors to remain in plain view, and route finding was not an issue. We continued to head steeply uphill, although the level of snow cover began to vary somewhat, at times requiring snowshoes and at other times being spotty which made hiking up rocky areas rather difficult in the large snowshoes. For this entire stretch we were aiming for a ridgeline which just seemed to be close enough to make us think we were almost there but never seemed to get any closer. The long ascent led us into the Desolation Wilderness, where the ridgeline looked to be still the same distance away and the breaks in the snow became more frequent. The route requires going up some easy rocky areas, however, these are precisely the types of areas where snow tends to melt and where trying to hike in snowshoes is very difficult. We decided to switch to microspikes and continued on our ascent towards the ridgeline.

At 1:30, and about a quarter mile below the ridgeline I got tired of carrying my snowshoes (I couldn't get my straps on my pack to work correctly) and I decided to stow them off to the side of the trail, thinking that the ridgeline would not have too much snow on it. Kyle didn't think that was a good idea, and decided to keep carrying his snowshoes as we continued up. Well, as you might suspect, the snow got progressively deeper almost immediately, although I refused to believe that it could possibly remain so deep for long. Kyle decided to put his snowshoes back on , while I kept going without. My progress soon came to a painfully slow pace, as the combination of knee deep snow an uphill slope halted any progress. Kyle was able to continue on, and I tried to use his tracks in the hopes that he was packing the snow enough for me to walk on but that proved to be wishful thinking. It was 2 PM at this point, and I was really worried that I would not make the summit. I couldn't continue up without snowshoes, and to go back down and get them and come back up would take an hour. We were still an hour away from the summit (with snowshoes) and I figured Kyle would have to go on up without me and I would just start back down towards my snowshoes and meet him lower down the mountain.

Kyle had a better idea, however. He offered to go down and retrieve the snowshoes, figuring that he could cover the round trip distance in much less than an hour since he had snowshoes for the trip, and so off he went. I started downhill after him but he quickly disappeared, going maybe 4-5X my pace. I stopped on a rock and removed my frozen microspikes and decided to just wait there for Kyle to return. I was amazed when he re-appeared over the ridge in a matter of 10 minutes or so, my snowshoes in tow. Now we were ready to get going again! We followed the single tracks along the side of the peak for a while, and then, using my GPS as a guide, we made our own tracks headed straight for the summit. We were able to snowshoe up to just below the actual summit, which is comprised of pile of rocks which were devoid of snow. I paused to take off my snowshoes and enjoy the view of our ascent route before climbing up the last 25-50 feet to the top.

The summit views are quite impressive, and even though it was already 3:30 we stayed on top for a while to take in the spectacular views. To the east was an amazing view of Lake Tahoe and to the west a view of Pyramid Peak, Mt. Agassiz and Mt. Price. Looking around we could see Jacks and Dicks Peaks and the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort. With fantastic views in every direction, we hated to leave, but the setting sun got us to refocus on the need to descend. We signed the summit register and got a summit shot of Kyle and myself before hurrying off to get down.

We knew that we would be descending in some darkness, and since I had brought my headlamp we weren't too concerned about that. So long as we were back to the wider trail of the lower slopes by darkness we would be okay. We hurried down the mountain, racing against the sun which eventually set behind the mountain. The descent would only take 2 hours, and I would pay for that pace in the coming days. For now, the moon was very helpful in illuminating the way for us on the final stretches. As we hit the final stretch at 5:30, we could see flashing lights, flares, and a tow truck in the little parking area. Worried that I had missed a "no parking" sign I ran down to my car only to discover that my car was not the subject of all the commotion. Instead, it was another vehicle who had not realized how small the area was, and had driven into the snow and was now stuck. Kyle and I waited for the tow truck to get out of our way and then set off on our return trip home.

Normally this would be the end of the story, but when I got home and peeled off my hiking socks I was surprised to see that my left big toenail was completely blue. I had never had any injury like this before, and walking on it was quite painful. I looked it up on Google and it appeared that the solution was to drain the blood through the nail by heating up a pin or paper clip and creating a small hole. This didn't sound like something I wanted to do, so I toughed it out, walking both Sierra and Marcus while limping. I set up an appointment to see a doctor on Monday (my birthday) to see what should be done. The doctor was not too happy that I had waited 48 hours to try to drain the blood and cautioned that it may have already clotted. He proceeded to attempt to create a drainage with a heated needle (it actually didn't hurt although I was quite nervous while he was doing it). On about the 3rd try he got it, and the blood started coming out. The doctor massaged the toe and drained the liquid out, and suddenly my toe was all clear again. He recommended that I wear a special shoe for a couple of days but after that no restrictions. I was quite relieved to hear this, as my vacation was coming up and I couldn't bear to think of being hobbled by this during my time away from work.

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