Hiking Stats as of 11/11/2019
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Jul 5, 2014 - Rubicon Peak


Partners: Kyle Breen

Distance: 4.33 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,206 feet

Trip Time: 2:59

Maps and Stats:
With scorching heat predicted for most of California, Kyle and I planned on heading up to the high country for some summer hiking. We originally talked about doing a Reynolds/Raymond traverse, but decided to save that for a time with cooler weather. We also talked about a Dicks/Jacks traverse as well was a Silver/Tells/Red/McConnell 4 peak traverse, but our mental scars from the heat on our Junipero Serra hike a month ago made us opt for a cautious destination. We decided on a roundup of some OGUL peaks near Tahoe, with the ambitious plan being Rubicon, Phipps and Jobs Peak. In retrospect, with the driving required to get to each peak this was an overly ambitious plan, but we really wanted to be able to travel light and get a chance to cool down during the day.

We met up at a new location - the Whole Foods in Folsom, as I wanted to try a new route off of 99 that bypassed Sacramento. It was several miles shorter, but in the end it took just as long. We carpooled from there up to Tahoe, and headed north on 89, past the Eagle Falls trail which was our planned second hike, and up to a little enclave off Scenic Drive near Rubicon Bay. We parked at the end of Highland Drive where a dozen cars were parked ahead of us. We had noticed that everything was much busier on the drive up - there were people EVERYWHERE. We noticed that Eagle Falls had probably 200 cars parked in a quarter mile radius around the TH and it was slow going just to get to our location. Tahoe in summer is not something I am likely to want to repeat very often, as our winter hikes were much more calm.

We started off at 11 AM, under a warm sun with temps around 80 degrees. Our fear of the heat exceeded what actually happened, thankfully, as the trail was half shaded, providing needed relief. The bigger surprise was that there was a trail at all. My research had told me that we would be going cross country the entire way, but this was not the case at all. A fairly well defined trail led through the woods, steeply at first and then gentle for a bit as we got our first views of the peak about 20 minutes in. The hike itself was supposed to be fairly easy - by my mapping it was 2.5 miles one way, with 2200 feet of gain. But because of the trail, which led straight up the hill, the distance was cut to barely over 2 miles. The first mile gained about 700 feet, a fairly normal grade for trail.

The difficulty was in the second mile, which gained the last 1500 feet in what we both felt was the longest steeply sustained slope we had been on. So much for an easy hike. We came across a couple of groups of teens who were hiking as part of a weekend camping outing. They indicated that they were being forced to do this, and asked if we were doing this voluntarily. Ah, if only I had started hiking 20 years ago, was what I thought, but instead told them that the view would be worth it. The combination of the altitude and the steep slope sucked my breath away, and I took several minute long breaks as we got higher up. But the whole trip was only 2 miles, so there was never a question of getting to the top, and by 12:15 we were on the rocky slopes just below the top. We crested on top at 12:30, unsure exactly where the summit was. I was tired of the trail, and opted to head straight up the class 3 rock that looked like it would head up to the top. This was by far the most enjoyable part of the day, as I got stopped a couple of times along the way but eventually found a way up. Kyle was a bit more hesitant, and decided not to attempt the somewhat exposed class 3 section and instead headed off for a ramp that looked like it would stay class 2 up to the top of the summit ridge. The ridgeline narrowed quite a bit in this location, but Kyle made it over and joined me on top.

The views from the summit were quite spectacular, with Lake Tahoe dominating the scene. But the views were fine no matter which way we looked. While we saw about 10 people at the bottom of the summit blocks, we were the only ones who actually summited. A couple of the kids got up to a lower summit to the north, however, this did not connect to the main summit and they were turned around without success. So we got our bit of solitude after all, and sat down on the small summit to have a bite to eat and take in the grand views. It was quite windy, but otherwise the temperature was perfect. We spent 20 minutes alone on top, took summit shots of each other and then retreated down the class 2 ramp to begin our descent. The hike back down was a lot easier, taking less than 1 hour to complete, and we arrived back at the TH by 2 PM.

In deciding what to do next we decided we only had time for 1 more peak if we wanted to get home at a somewhat reasonable time. We talked about the pros and cons of Phipps, which was near by but had hundreds of cars which meant we would be in a Disneyland of sorts, at least for the early portion of the hike. We decided that Phipps should be done as a winter snowshoe ascent instead, and decided to head for Jobs Peak, which I had learned has a summer road providing access. Without the road, we would have to hike up Freel Peak to get over to Jobs, which would be much longer. We drove south on 89, and the crowds looked like they were double what we had seen on the way in. There was a line of cars perhaps 3 miles long heading north on 89, going at a snails pace because of one cross walk where the throngs of people were crossing at will, allowing only a couple of cars to pass at a time before taking over the road again. It would be at least an hour for any car joining this line to get through. We continued south, hooked up with Highway 50 and then took 89 south towards Luther Pass. We were getting nervous as we approached the junction of Highway 88, but finally spotted a road (there were no signs) and I quickly made the turn and let out a loud sigh when the road turned out to be an off road dirt trail.

Perhaps I could drive it, but I knew it was several miles long and I was not ready to risk it. So we turned around and pulled out our phones and frantically tried to search for another peak we might be able to knock out in the 2 hours we had left. Of course we couldn't get a signal in this location, so I turned around and drove back up towards South Lake Tahoe, pulling over in the entrance to a flea market when we had reconnected to the network. We could not find anything that looked like it would work until we saw a listing for Lovers Leap, a peak about a half hour away (on the way home off Highway 50 near Strawberry) more known for rock climbing but has a hiking trail. We read that there was a trail from Camp Sacramento, but that it was only a mile long and gained only a few hundred feet. This seemed ridiculous, so we opted to try to find a way from below the peak in Strawberry, and spent a good 45 minutes driving around following terrible online directions, ultimately giving up and just going home. This was not one of our most successful days, although the views from Rubicon, my 26th OGUL Peak, will not soon be forgotten. In the future we are going to have to have better secondary plans, and will probably avoid doing small hikes with lots of driving as it seems that too much can go wrong when you have so many variables in one day.

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