Hiking Stats as of 11/12/2019
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Jul 19, 2014 - Red Peak / Silver Peak / McConnell Peak / Tells Peak


Partners: Kyle Breen

Distance: 17.69 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,265 feet

Trip Time: 11:22

Maps and Stats:
For this weekends hike Kyle and I planned a traverse of 4 OGUL peaks in the Sierra, about 10 miles west of Lake Tahoe. We knew the traverse was possible after seeing a trip report from Bob Burd where he and Matthew Holliman had done the same traverse a few years ago. A summit of these four peaks (Red, Silver, McConnell and Tells) would boost my OGUL peak count up to 30, nearly halfway complete on the list of 63.

We met up at the Target in Rancho Cordova and took Hwy 50 to Icehouse Road, about 8 miles west of Kyburz. This was our first time on Icehouse, and it turned out to be an extremely well maintained, paved road that saw lots of traffic. Icehouse Road is quite long, and we followed it for over 20 miles to the turnoff for the Desolation Wilderness and followed that for another 6 miles. So despite such an early exit from Highway 50, the travel time to the TH was about the same as usual.

We arrived at the TH a few minutes before 10:30 and got started on the trip. The first bit was on a paved road, but about a half mile in we turned off on the Red Peak trail which we followed for the next several miles, largely over very easy ground as we entered the Desolation Wilderness. To our left we could see the tall peaks that we would be traversing, and we continually thought we must be looking at Red Peak (the furthest east and our first target) but the trail just going on and on, and new peaks kept appearing. By about 12:30 we finally started picking up some elevation, and in the afternoon heat we could see the start of the buildup of thunderstorms overhead. This bit of climbing brought us to a scenic area as we approached Lake Number 3, and the end of trail.

We stopped at the Lake for a few minutes to put eat something and to put on some mosquito repellant before starting up the steep slopes of Red Peak. The climb up was steep but not difficult, and about 45 minutes later we were on top of a false summit (we thought it was the real one for about 5 minutes). We could see the storm gathering strength to the east over Tahoe, but it was moving from south to north, so we were not in any danger. Still once we got up top the lightning and thunder were an impressive companion that would be with us for most of the rest day. We made the little traverse over to the true summit about 300 feet west and were on our first summit of the day. From this vantage point we had a great view down to Lake Number 3 and beyond that the Union Valley Reservoir in the distance. We eyed the traverse over to Silver (which looked like a mere bump on the ridge from here and McConnell, although Tells was not yet in sight. Didn't look too tough, so we took a few minutes to locate the summit register, including Bob and Matthew's entry from their traverse, and added our names. This would also be the best view we would have of the peaks to the east, including Dicks and Jacks, with the storm coming down behind them. After the obligatory summit photos we set off for Peak Number 2 - Silver Peak.

The traverse began with a bit of downclimbing followed by some annoying bushwhacking as we made our way towards the saddle. None of this was too difficult, and we made good time. We hadn't realized that Silver Peak was the "bump" on the ridge that we had seen from on top of Red Peak, although now it started looking more worthy. Silver peak is a giant pile of large boulders and rocks, and so long as you pay attention you can avoid disaster and keep it more in the class 2/easy class 3 range. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes to complete this traverse, and we arrived a few minutes before 4 PM. We were starting to get a bit worried about the time, and so we quickly took our summit shots and located the 1986 summit register, adding our names to the book. With one last look back towards Red Peak, we started down towards the saddle between Silver and McConnell Peaks - our third destination.

The first half of this traverse was a bit tricky but quite scenic, as we passed not too far above an unnamed lake trapped near the saddle. At the halfway point things got a bit easier as we took the southern sandy slope up toward the peak. Once again we took 1:15 for the traverse, arriving on top of McConnell at 5:20. We located the summit register and signed in, but noted that a couple of the entries noted that this was not the actual peak, and that a smaller bump about 700 feet away was the named peak. To be sure we had in fact summitted the peak, we climbed the outcrop but could not locate a register. Looking back towards McConnell we noticed a prominent rock on the ridge that might be higher than what we were currently on, although certainly still lower than the original point we believed was the summit. So we backtracked and climbed that rock, which we now believe is the named summit, although we still aren't positive which of the lower 2 peaks was correct. At this point the skies were darkening, although the views remained spectacular. The trip over to Tells was next, and we could see the full route laid out before us.

The traverse from McConnell to Tells was definitely the most difficult of the 3 traverses on the day. It began with a descent through some ridiculously sized boulders, which was actually a lot of fun. We had to do a lot of hopping, as the gaps between the boulders were fairly large and could result in injury in case of a misstep. This led us down to where a series of narrow ledges at varying angles led around the northern slope. This was both fun and frustrating, as the ledges were usually only good for about 30 feet, at which point it was time to scramble to another ledge. We were never quite sure when a ledge would dead end into a rock, and thanks to those rocks sticking out we could never see far enough ahead to actually formulate a planned route in advance. One particular section was extremely difficult, and Kyle led the way, having to drop down several feet between two rocks and then ducking as he traversed a narrow ledge which resulted in a dead end. It was at this point that we felt like we were out of options in keeping on the northern slope. I was far enough behind Kyle that I avoided his dead end, and instead I scrambled up to the ridgeline which didn't look all that much easier, although this was partially due to the dense brush on the southern side. I waited for several minutes for Kyle, and not being able to see where he was I began to wonder if he was not able to extract himself from that narrow ledge. I yelled out and then he showed up. We decided that it would be best if we split up, in the hopes that if one of us found a route they could yell for the other one to join. Kyle took the ridgeline itself, and I took the brushy north side of the ridge. Kyle had better success than I, and in fact we were near the higher saddle between the 2 peaks at which point it became very easy to simply hike up the slope. Heading up this final stretch we could see several use trails, as there is a faint trail that leads up to Tells Peak.

Although the distance between McConnell and Tells is not that great, it took us 2 full hours to complete the traverse, as we arrived on top at 7:20, quite a late summit time indeed. Both of us tired and a bit worried about the late hour, we didn't spend a lot of time celebrating our quadruple summit. I took some summit photos, and got one of myself and one of Kyle on top. We were not able to locate a summit register, although it is possible that we just didn't spend the time to look for one. We started down the faint use trail, repeatedly losing the trail and ultimately just aiming for the lake far below where we knew the trail was supposed to be. A little before the lake we found the trail, and from this point on the trail was actually in pretty good shape. It was now a race against time, as we descended into the growing darkness. We wildly underestimated the distance back to the TH, as the trail just went on, and on, and on. We had hoped to avoid using a light, but we finally had to. Kyle activated the flashlight function on his iPhone, and connected to my portable battery for extra juice. We finally made it back to the TH at 10 PM - and tired from the hike and with a 3 hour drive back home I was glad to have the next day off to do little more than sleep and rest.

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