Sierra Crest 30k Preview and Race – Donner Ridge to Donner Summit

This time I’m on my way to Tahoe-Donner to preview a trail race I entered for August 8. I volunteered to preview a portion of the course at the request of Race Director Megan and “AB” from Tahoe Mountain Sports in Truckee. “AB” fitted me with a GoPro camera on my chest to record some “action videos” and pics of the trail, to promote the inaugural event. I asked my friend Sara to help me with the trip, as the run I was doing was a “point-to-point” run, and I needed her to pick me up at the end. Sara is also a professional photographer, and contributed many pics to this post.

Sierra Crest 30k Preview Run

AB gave me a crash course in operating the GoPro, but it didn’t work as well as I had hoped…or I didn’t remember what he told me as well as I had hoped (I’m sure you can gather which one went wrong). Problem was, I was wearing too many bloody things on my chest already to add one more… luckily I had my own camera and iPhone for back-up, and Sara took some pics with her camera, so we still got some good shots in the end.

The first part of the course started at the Tahoe-Donner Equestrian Center and encompasses the vast Tahoe-Donner trail system, in summer months, mostly horse traffic. We opted to bypass this section in favor of a quicker, shorter, more picturesque section, that of Glacier Way to the Donner Lake Interchange (west-bound offramp for Donner Lake from Interstate 80). This is where Aid Station #2 will be. Trailhead #24 at Glacier Way on Donner Ridge was a beautiful, regional park location for the Aid Station #1 for the run. The pretty park-like sitting is probably used only by locals as there are no toilets or trash receptacles that we could see.

At the trailhead, there was a trail map of the entire system, but more than we cared to digest in the amount of time we had to get it done, and get the camera back to AB before the store closes. I did have  my GPS’s on my iPhone and my new Garmin Epix watch to guide me.

After making it to the ridge and I-80 overlook, there were few choices of trails, so little chance of getting lost. Sara and I ran for about one mile together until we reached the Negro Canyon Overlook Trail sign. From there, she doubled back to the car while I continued on down the hill. On her way back she snapped a picture of a buck grazing, seemingly unfettered by her presence.

At the Negro Canyon sign, I was conflicted as the sign said that the trail ends. I watched a single mountain biker pass me, and I waited for him to turn around or continue on, to see what to do. As he pedaled into the distance, I followed assuming this must be the way.

Finally the trail matched up with my GPS’s, and I was on my way down the trail.

Donner Ridge Preview from Tahoe Marmot on Vimeo.

Switchbacks down face of Donner Ridge from Tahoe Marmot on Vimeo.

I did come to a trail marker for the Donner Lake Rim Trail that was laying on the ground, not instilling a lot of confidence in me. There was a bushwhacked trail next to it, so it was a little confusing which way to go. After a little scouting, I found the correct trail and continued on. This brought me to a 4-way junction, but this time the markers were in their proper place. I followed the trail over the face of Donner Ridge and along the switchbacks, taking in the incredible views and panoramas with both cameras.

I made my way down the mountain in good order. The trail was in great shape but I still took my time getting down, taking in the beautiful day, and the sights and smells of the trail. Sara was picking me up at the Donner Lake Interchange off of Interstate 80, where the Aid Station #2 would be. This part of the course is a perfect 2-4 hour run or hike, with great views and no technical climbing. You would have to plan ahead and have someone pick you up at the Billie Mack Rd. parking area, or leave a car at both ends of the trail.


Sierra Crest 30k and 50k Trail Race Aug. 8, 2015

Now for the day of reckoning, the race itself. Over 70 entrants will be racing two slightly different courses, mostly over common terrain. We will all finish at the Auburn Ski Club’s Lodge at Boreal Ridge near Donner Summit. Race Director Megan Seifert and Glenn Jobe from the Auburn Ski Club put on a well organized, well marked and staffed event for their first attempt. I met several new friends prior to the start, all accomplished trail runners eager to get on the trail as much as I was. Pre-race briefing was on Friday at Tahoe Mountain Sports to get last minute instructions for tomorrow’s start and to pick up my race bib number. On race day morning at 0630 many of us met to take the shuttle bus to the starting line, as this was a point-to-point race, leaving our cars at the finish. We all gathered at the starting line at Tahoe-Donner Cross Country Ski Resort (15275 Alder Creek Rd, Truckee, CA 96161) The 50k runners were off one hour before us in the 30k. Their course took them through the Euer Valley, beautiful, mostly level terrain, making them run an additional 20 km, about 13 miles.

Now it’s time for my group, and we’re off…well they are off like a shot. I’m going to be be gasping for a while, trying to get my heart and lungs accustomed to less oxygen for the next seven to eight hours. I didn’t seem to mind some of the younger folks passing me early on, but when one spry older 74 year old lady left me in the dust, I was a little crest fallen. This first section of the course was previewed by fellow Donner Party Mountain Runner, Jon Murchison, forewarning of the 2,000 feet of climbing in the initial seven miles. The climbing never seemed to end in some spots, but the higher I got, the views steadily became more picturesque as the morning progressed. I was far above the fog that enshrouded Donner Lake and parts of Truckee. The rains from yesterday’s thunderstorms knocked down much of the trail dust, making for ideal trail conditions.

Finally at Aid Station #1 at Glacier Way, where Sara and I scouted out the race two weeks prior. Grabbed some fresh water and electrolyte drink, a few munchies, and off on the section of the trail that we previewed. At least this section, I knew what to expect. Tried to keep up with some of the people I met at the Aid Station, but they were mostly locals and had the altitude jump on me.

I made it to the second aid station at about 12 something, long before the cut-off time…but my most difficult hill was just coming up after that. A gnarly 4×4 road, with ruts as deep as canyons, loose sandy steep footing, and in full sunshine took it’s toll on me. After more climbing back up to the next ridge, another runner in the 50k came from behind and was becoming as weary as I was. It was a relief to have some company on this arduous part of the trail and co-miserate a little. Chris and I became running partners, encouraging each other to finish what we had started. Neither of us had any intention of throwing in the towel, and we had each other’s back on that.

We did take the time for a few selfies at Summit Lake, and enjoyed the view for a few brief moments before getting back into jogging mode. By this time my left knee felt like I had an ice pick jabbing me with every step I took. My running form was now something akin to Festus on Gunsmoke, hobbling down the trail, trying to keep up with Chris and not hold him back any more than necessary.

Not far from Summit Lake, one of the Medic’s on a mountain bike came by, sweeping the course for those of us near the end. I assured him that I was ok and fully intended to finish the race under my own power. After a few more of his check-in’s with me, I thanked him for his concern but that I was becoming increasingly annoyed by his hovering…so carry on, go grab a beer at the end and I’ll be along “whenever” dude! Just before the last aid station, two other runners in the 50k we catching up with us…they were at the back of the pack also, giving it their best and enjoying every minute of it as Chris and I were. One of the guys was wearing a running kilt (a first for me), and the only two other people using trekking poles. We’re finally crossing under Highway 80 now, getting big cheers for the last volunteers on the course (probably they’re just happy that the last guys are finally past and they can go get a beer now and go home). The course for me would have ended at the Auburn Ski Club, but I had given Chris my word that we had come this far together, we were going to cross the finish line together as well. Another 1.5 miles to go, so that Chris could complete his full 50k, tacked on another one and one-half miles for me that felt like five miles. After the last few humps in the road the finish line was in sight, with cones, flags, and ribbons still left up until we crossed. Chris and I had a few pictures of us together along with his 12 year old son…we hope to get copies of the momentous occasion soon from the race people. No one waiting for me at the end…just have to be happy with the fact that I survived and completed what I promised myself I would do, pain or not, I finished the 30k and then some.


R&R after Trail Preview at Donner Lake with Sara

After my run, we headed down to Donner Lake for some lunch and a dip in the cold water. Sara went in, I was too chicken with the icy water…should have in hind-sight. It was still such a beautiful day, and we had a little time to get the camera back to AB at Tahoe Mountain Sports. Found a nice parking spot in the shade and a short hike later to one of the public piers at Donner Lake and we were happy as clams. A few other ladies were the only other ones on the pier and they didn’t mind sharing some of the dock space with us. Sara was brave enough to get into the chilly water, but also seemed happy to get out and sit in the sun after. Never want to leave whenever I am anywhere in Tahoe area. Must say, I am becoming quite found of the Donner Lake and Truckee area as a place to live rather than the hustle and bustle of Lake Tahoe. Still have so many favorite spots around Tahoe though…just adding to my ever-growing long list of favorites.

See you again soon, on my next adventure in the Tahoe Wilderness

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Castle Peak

On the first day of summer, we’re off to Castle Peak, just north of Donner Summit off of Interstate 80 to the north. You can see it towering above the highway as you approach Donner Summit from the west. There are many ways to get there from I-80. I took this route today as I was eastbound to Tahoe City eventually. Take the turnoff for Boreal Ski Resort and turn back under the highway driving north. You will see cars parked along the road, but do notice the no parking signs for part of the road. The paved section ends in several hundred feet, then becomes a dirt access road for four wheeled vehicles.

This about 4+ hours, 7 to 8 miles for an Out-and-Back, or loop, depending on your choice of routes. Once at Castle Peak, you can either double-back on your tracks or continue on to Warren Lake Trail to Summit Lake Trail, returning to the Rest Stop on the north side of Interstate 80.

Castle Peak Summit: 9,103 feet

Distance: 7 to 8 miles

Time needed: 4+ hours (Less if you’re not chatty like me)

Elevation gain to the summit: 1,890 feet

(Note: An alternate route would be from I-80 westbound, starting from the Rest Stop area. Join the PCT behind the restrooms and West Lakes, hiking in the northwesterly direction until you arrive at Castle Pass)

(Click here to view GPS Track and download GPX or KML track in Google Earth)

Click here for Topographic map of area

This route is a mecca for mountain bikers, four-wheelers and hikers alike. It is also a popular snow-mobile road in the winter time. The road is wide enough for everybody to enjoy it at the same time. The road starts off with a gradual climb to a fork in the road. There on your right, you can see Castle Peak above you, our goal for the day. If you continued on the road to the left, it would also take you to Castle Pass, where the  trail meets with the PCT. Branching off of the access road to the left is “Hole in the Ground” trail, routing you beneath Andesite Peak, eventually meeting at Castle Pass as well.

We will cross Upper Castle Creek several times on this route. Only a little runoff at this time in our drought year. It is flowing well enough as a water source for drinking after treating or filtering. After another quarter of a mile, the road intersects with the PCT or continues straight on the Donner Lake Rim Trail. Mountain bikes usually continue on to the Rim Trail, but we will be turning left to join the PCT to Castle Pass.

Castle Pass is great place to meet other people out on a day hike or thru hikers on the PCT, on their way north. Today I met up with a fellow seasoned hiker and Grass Valley local, “Mountain Goat”. She had been camping at Paradise Lake, on the other side of Castle Peak.

After a brief chat, it was time to get the show on the road. The terrain changes quickly here, from an earthen soil on the PCT to crushed and powdered volcanic ash. It can be a scramble up the hill with rocks and volcanic ash, not a great footing. I met several solo hikers and small groups coming back down the mountain for the saddle below Castle Peak. It is a good place to stop and rest and enjoy the view or continue on to the summit.

Once at the saddle below the peak, you can take in the panoramic views.


Take time to look around you and enjoy the moment… you see some flowers that aren’t everywhere in the Tahoe Basin. Some of these flowers grow in areas with volcanic soil, like here, Ellis Peak or Barker Peak. The brilliant deep purple Showy or Sierra Penstamen is everywhere here. Wolley Mule Ears, with it’s yellow daisey-like flower, the white, three petalled, and low-growing Smokey Mariposa or Mariposa Lily by another name… Firecracker flower (a type of phlox or gilia), and yellow Marumleaf Buckwheat.

I got a late start today driving up from the bay, so I only have time to climb a little more. The trail becomes steeper and more loose in traction. My Altra Olympus trail running shoes are really not the best choice today. A shoe with a Vibram sole might be better in this section. As I climb higher, Round Valley below me is lush and green. The PCT follows the meadow on the western edge. The Peter Grubb Hut, owned by the Sierra Club is there for PCTers for shelter on their way north. Our Donner Party Mountain Runners have used it in the winter time as a ski-in or snowshoe-in for overnight outings. Reservations are needed. 

Can’t peak out today, time to head back down the mountain and drive to Tahoe City for the night. This was a great way to spend the first day of summer, out in my element…the Tahoe forest.

Hope you enjoyed the trip today. Whichever route you take, you will really enjoy the scenery…it’s some the best views in the Truckee-Donner area.

Until next time…

See you on my next adventure…

Somewhere in the Tahoe Wilderness

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Ellis Peak from Barker Pass

This is my second day of running, hiking, climbing of a two day jaunt up in Lake Tahoe. I came up this time for a variety of reasons, one to see a friend that I hadn’t seen in a year, but she bailed before I got up there. (I was not very happy) This week also started the Alpenglow Mountain Festival, sponsored by Alpenglow Sports of Tahoe City. There were a week’s worth of outdoor activities planned, such as SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding), yoga and trail running. Speaking of trail running, I met up with my friend Robert Rhodes of Bay Trail Runners, who was showing his acclaimed, Trails in Motion Film Festival, the premier trail running and ultra-running film tour at Tahoe Art Haus and Cinema in Tahoe City. I know it was a sell-out crowd…you can look for all of them listed in Bold on Facebook.

This trip is to Ellis Peak, a 8,740 foot peak that is just west of the Homewood Ski Resort. Just 11 miles from the Tahoe City “Y”, we turn right on Barker Pass Road, just at Kaspian Campground, and drive up Blackwood Canyon. There are signs several miles up the road for you to bear left and continue up to Barker Pass. When you come to the second green iron gate, the pavement ends. Find a good spot to park off of the road, as the trailhead is just on the other side of the road. (Note: if you continue down another mile, you will find the Barker Pass PCT/TRT Trailhead parking area, with vault toilets if needed.)

It is approximately a 6 mile out-and-back to Ellis Peak, with approximately 1,700 feet of climbing. If this will be at a hiking pace, give yourself about 4 hours overall. It is quite steep in sections, and with the altitude, expect to take many breaks. Not a problem, as there is so many beautiful things to see in any direction you look. Right now, the first day of summer, the wildflowers painted a brilliant palette of color over the ground and hillsides. This hike can be dog friendly if you bring extra water along for them. It is a dry hike, unless you venture down to Ellis Lake, adding at least another 2  miles to your outing. (I did meet some folks with some dogs, and the older dogs were not very happy…it is a strenuous hike for all, so keep them in mind.)

View GPS Track on Gaia here (If you have Google Earth, you can download the track and flyover on satellite. You may also download a GPX file to use on a GPS receiver)


The hike begins straight up the hill right out of the gate. Several open sections of full sunlight then back into the shade as you switch back up the hill to the first plateau. From there, all of Desolation Wilderness opens up before you to the west and southwest.

To the west, you can easily see the largest lake in the area, Loon Lake, which lies just outside of the Desolation Wilderness boundary. (We will save that track for another day) As I reach the ridgeline, the trail runners from this morning’s Alpineglow Mountain Sports run were coming back down the mountain from Ellis Peak. It was nice to see some trail runners from Germany and Norway enjoying our Lake Tahoe trails and spectacular views.

The trail continues to climb for another half mile or so before reaching the crest and turning down hill once again on the backside of the mountain.

Eventually, the road Intersects with a forest service road and the trail down to Ellis Lake at about 8300 feet, and the 3 mile mark. Now you’re in for a little heart pounding climb up the gravelly hill to the base of Ellis Peak. Now you’re just behind and above the Homewood Ski area. (Note: if you would have turned to the right on the Forest Service Road, it would have brought you down to Lake Louise and the top of the ski lift at Homewood) Rest assured, we’re almost there…just a few hundred more feet and it will all be worth the effort.

 

 

The trail is composed of mostly broken and powdered volcanic rock and ash…not the best traction at times, so take it slow. Finally the peak is in sight. A mound of rocks that looks like a chair, and a breath-taking 360° view of everything! The entire Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond lies before you…and to the southwest, all of Desolation Wilderness, still with snow of some of the northeast facing facets.

 

On my way back down from the peak, I met a young guy with a sweet mountain bike that PUSHED it all the way up the hill so he could ride back down the mountain from Ellis Peak!!! Now that is a die hard!

About a mile or so down the road he came whizzing by with a big smile on his face that he did it…well, a couple more miles but he’ll be there in no time. I also met some people that brought their dogs up with them…out of the 4 dogs, only one looked like he was having fun. It was pretty warm today.

Well, I’m to that valley now between the two mountain tops…rats. This means I have to start climbing again…and after yesterday’s climb to Castle Peak, I’m toast. I can’t wait to get back to the lake and jump in and have a swim.

One last look over the edge of the cliff into Blackwood Canyon, then back to the car soon. Two days of some intense hiking/running/climbing… Now’s time for that swim.

 

Thanks for coming along…until next time…

See you soon, somewhere in the Tahoe Wilderness

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Tahoe City to Ward Creek, Tahoe Rim Trail Run

Gorgeous weather was in store for Lake Tahoe this week and I was lucky to tag along with my friend JoAnne to Tahoe City. While she was attending a seminar for the Ross Valley Fire Department, it would give me enough time for a leisurely run/hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail to Ward Creek and back. Before starting my trek, we ventured behind the Tahoe Dam and Gatekeeper’s Quarters, where there should be water…but not this year. This year the area behind the dam is bone dry – the lake behind the Gatekeeper’s Residence has been replaced by a field of Crest Lupin, beautiful purple flowers that grow out to the water’s edge, some 100 meters away.

The TRT Trailhead starts on the west side of the bike/foot bridge that goes over the Truckee River. Depressing to see what little water is flowing for businesses like river rafting and restaurants along the Truckee. I only hope they can survive the season.

Just over the bridge is a nice picnic area with tables in the shade of large pine trees. Parking is abundant for beginning your TRT section or biking along the Tahoe Bike Path. Outhouses are nearby for any last minute needs.

This section is just under 6 miles with about 976 feet of elevation gain. It is kid and dog friendly on a leash (leash for kids optional). The trail follows the Truckee River northward for a short time before ducking into the forest of pines and cedar. (Click here for a satellite view of the section route)

From there, the trail switchbacks up the side of the canyon, following the contour as you climb away from the Truckee River. Flowers are in abundance along this section of the TRT. The bright “Daisy-like” flower of Mule Ears and the lavender blue of Stickseed flowers lined my path.

As the trail turns to the south, the first of several meadows come into view.

Not easily accessible, it’s best to wait for Page Meadows. Finally, after the last grove of trees disappears, the scene opens to the sprawling panorama of Page Meadows, perfectly showcasing the volcanic monoliths of Twin Peaks and Ward Peak in the distance.

The concrete “Boardwalk” placed there by the volunteers from the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, help keep the trail open during soggy months, insuring that the trail will still be there the following season. Once on the other side of the meadows, the trail once again finds it’s way back into the forest.

Meandering in and out of direct sun, the shady sections are welcome in the noonday sun. Several steep sections arrive just before the end of the trail segment. Forest Service Road 15N60 is a wide and a fairly steep climb or “glissade” over dirt and gravel, depending on which way you are going. There are several last distant views of Ward Canyon and mountains behind. The service road continues straight, to intersect with Ward Creek Road further east. The TRT trail, branches off to the right, towards Ward Creek Road, then crosses it to join the TRT Ward Creek to Barker Pass Segment. There is ample parking along the road on Ward Creek Road near the trailhead for either section of the TRT you wish to do.

 

A couple of bonus pictures on my way back to Tahoe City… The “New” William Kent beach area that has been under construction for more than one year is now open…with flush toilets and picnic tables in the shade and a very nice, but small, beach to bask in the sun. Parking is limited, so be patient or prepared to walk a few blocks. If you’re hungry, one of my favorite eateries in Lake Tahoe is just across the highway, the Firesign Café.

Thanks for riding along with me…until then…

See you on my next adventure, in the Tahoe wilderness

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Shirley Lake Trail to High Camp, Squaw Valley

For one of the best day hikes near Lake Tahoe, take a road trip to Squaw Valley, CA, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Very popular, so expect crowds during peak spring and summer months. It seems that all of the hotels send their guests here, so plan to leave before noon to avoid the bulk of the groups, kids and dogs.

When to go:

This is a great late Spring to late Fall trip, as there are many areas of snow on north and north-east facets into early June.

How to get there:

  • Take I-80 to Highway 89/Truckee Exit 185 and turn south toward Lake Tahoe.
  • Drive south for 8 miles, turn right on Squaw Valley Rd.
  • Follow the road until you arrive at The Village at Squaw Valley , 1750 Village East Rd. on your left
  • (An excellent place to stay BTW, and a good place to buy food for your hike).
  • Trams rides are free from High Camp back to the village (nice!)

Check with squawalpine.com or dial 1-800-403-0206 to confirm Tram schedule

Distance to Squaw Valley from:

  • Reno                 43 miles
  • San Francisco  196 miles
  • Sacramento       96 miles

From the parking lot at The Village, walk to Squaw Peak Rd. (if you see the PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn, you’re in the right place)

Follow the road looking straight up at the mountain with Tram tower above you for about 0.5 miles until the apex of the cul-de-sac. There you will see the sign for the Shirley Lake Trailhead.

What to bring:

  • Good hiking shoes or trail running shoes (regular tennis shoes not recommended)
  • Trekking poles (highly recommended)
  • Small backpack with hydration or several bottles of water
  • Snacks or lunch (REMEMBER TO PACK OUT ALL YOUR TRASH)
  • Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses
  • Light jacket and packable rain jacket (weather conditions change very quickly in the mountains)
  • Camera
  • Optional: Water purification system like Sawyer or MSR so you can filter that ice cold, refreshing mountain stream water right into your bottle and “taste” the entire experience of your hike.

What to expect:

  • This is a MODERATE hike – Give yourself 3-4 hours overall if you plan to take many pictures and breaks
  • The trail starts off fairly flat, but transitions quickly from a lush green forest to steep granite slabs – when you arrive at High Camp, you will have climbed over 2,000 feet in elevation.
  • Remember you are at altitude – you are starting at 6,200 feet above sea level, climbing to 8,200 feet in under 4 miles
  • Conditions change quickly in the mountains – let someone know when you are leaving and when you expect to be back
  • Many wonderful views, photo ops, wildflowers (Mule’s Ear, Corn Lily, Squaw Carpet, Mesquite) and critters.

Click on this link for a GPS track of my trip:  Shirley Lake Trail and High Camp, Squaw Valley

Let’s hit the trail…

From the trailhead, the trail is marked with blue spray painted lines and marks on rocks and sign posts to indicate your path. The path follows Squaw Creek, as it climbs quickly into Shirley Canyon, displaying many waterfalls and cataracts along your path. The creek will be on your right side ascending most of your trip.

In early Spring, California Snow Flowers pop up under pine needles in shaded areas along the trail. Rich loam of decomposing trees resemble a park-like setting. Soon the path finds the water, at it’s a real treat when the water is flowing. Dogs make a mad dash to be the first ones in the water, only to come find me soon after to rub on.

I usually hike alone, but this time I made an exception. My friend Sara really needed to get out of town and unwind – and I needed get back into my element. Though this hike is not the wilderness, it’s still Tahoe, and my home. I shared my trekking poles with her, and we would soon find out how handy they were going to be today. That extra “umph” to get you over that boulder was a “God’s Send”. It is really fun to bring someone that is not used to seeing this much nature and wonder all in one hike. It was truly a treat for both of us. Sara is a professional photographer and I could always use a few pointers from a pro.

Now for the first of many waterfalls along our hike today…

Soon, our  trail ascends the canyon…over tree roots and boulders…then the boulders became slabs of granite. The repayment for our hard work were the views…just awe inspiring.

After several boulders, we were climbing away from the water now. Just boulder after boulder…some rocks wet from run-off, so taking it slow and easy. We’re making it…the views just get better. The air a little cooler and wetter now, as the mist turns to a light drizzle. Now the rocks have become an enormous slab of granite that must be overcome…

Finally having having conquered the granite slab, brings a moment of pause to survey what we just conquered and the beauty of the Olympic Valley below us.

We find snow and runoff on the trail…that is, when we can find the trail. Now and then the snow hides the blue markers, and the gentle rain has now made the rocks wet…making it harder to see the paint.

We pass people along the way and they pass us…at this point we’re all oblivious to the time it has taken to get up here. We finally arrive at Shirley Lake.

The north and west sides of Shirley Lake are the only friendly sides, as the rest of the area is rather marsh-like and soggy. There is a trail and an unpaved road on the other side of the lake near the Shirley Lake Express chairlift. In summer it is easily visible, but not today. Today, all north and northeast facets are covered in snow, and the rain is beginning to turn to hail the size of BB’s…not pleasant, but then again, not as wet as rain. At about 4 pm, a group of young people have gathered with us at Shirley Lake, inspired by the view that they have earned. Inspired as we all are, we realize we have one hour and one mile to climb the snow and rock covered slope to reach the Tram in time before the last download of the day at 5 pm. The trail is nowhere to be found – it’s covered in snow and mud. Sara and I find some solace in watching the young one’s bushwhack the route…then we see if it worked or not…and go accordingly.

I didn’t think that we would need spikes, crampons or snowshoes on this trip… and Sara, an Alabama Girl, didn’t grow up with the benefit of knowing how to deal with snow and mountains. Each of us made use of one trekking pole to help anchor each step. I gave Sara a crash course in self-arresting technique in case she lost her footing, as it was a long wet slide back to the bottom of the hill. She was a trooper, and followed my steps that I carved in the snow. Finally a break in the snow, and she was off like a cannon-shot. The summit was in sight, we’re soaking wet and it’s 4:40 pm, no time to waste. Close to the summit was broken talus, a shale-like rock that is like trying to climb over dominos.

Finally in the safety and warmth of the Tram building, complete with infra-red heater and other fellow “drowned rats”, we are joyful in our conquest of time – we made it before the last Tram! It was a personal victory for Sara as well – an accomplishment to be proud of for certain.

One more adventure is in store for the day…the Tram ride back down the mountain with spectacular views from above.

Well that’s it for this trip – Hope you enjoyed the hike and will make it yourself sometime soon !


Tomorrow is another trail run and Annual picnic for my Donner Party Mountain Runners…and I’ll give you a little preview of the day… Yes….more hail, but bigger. We all had a great run for the adults and two races for the kids…who were completely undeterred by the weather.

See you on my next Adventure in the Tahoe Wilderness

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