Hiking Stats as of 11/17/2019
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

May 3, 2014 - Tallac, Mount


Partners: Kyle Breen

Distance: 12.07 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,475 feet

Trip Time: 7:19

Maps and Stats:
It was exactly 4 months ago that Kyle and I suffered our most dubious outing, first aiming for Mt. Tallac but finding the access road closed, then going after a few other peaks and being denied on all of those for various reasons which included me getting a speeding ticket and Kyle having to get out of the car to guide it down an icy section of a road when I lost steering control. The sadistically inclined can read about that unfortunate series of events at http://mountainhiker.org/trip_report.aspx?id=118. In fairness to my ego, however, I do have point out that we did wind up summiting Waterhouse Peak that afternoon, an OGUL Peak in its own right so we did accomplish something that day.

We hadn't been doing a lot of snow hiking lately, we had done Snow Mountain and Devils Peak on March 22 and Clouds Rest on April 12, although only the last 1,000 feet of Clouds Rest had any real snow cover. For today's return to the high country we met up at the Target in Rancho Cordova and were pleased to see that the road providing access to the Glen Alpine trailhead near Fallen Leaf Lake was open. We took the single lane road as it winds down through the resort cabins overlooking Fallen Leaf Lake and were happy to find ample parking at the TH when we arrived at 11 AM. As we started we could see some decent snow cover up on the higher elevations, but since we would be headed mostly up the south facing slopes decided to go light and left our snowshoes in the car. The Glen Alpine trail is quite scenic, from the get go, passing by a nice waterfall and a stream cutting right through the trail as it winds towards the Glen Alpine Springs at around the 1 mile mark.

We didn't realize it until our return back down, but the Glen Alpine Springs is quite the historical area, the site of an old resort centered around natural springs called Soda Spring. We took a few minutes to briefly explore the area, including seeing little bubbles coming up from Soda Spring (along with several other locations within a few minutes walk of the Spring). We could see an old parking area, now mostly reclaimed by nature, along with several boarded buildings, one of which seemed to be a visitors center. An placard explained the history of the area - one of the more interesting informational signs I've come across on the trail. We didn't have a lot of time to linger, however, and got started back on the trail after maybe 15 minutes of exploring.

15 minutes later we entered the Desolation Wilderness, following the well marked trail as it headed up alongside many small streams and waterfalls. Thus far the southern exposure had melted all of the snow, and we were able to make quick work up the slope. Looking across the Desolation Wilderness at the north facing slopes showed a totally different terrain - lots of snow over there. Our starting elevation was about 6500 feet, and by the time we reached 7800 feet we started getting more consistent snow cover. The frustrating thing was that the cover was mainly on the wooded areas, which is where the trail was. We looked up to our right and saw that there was no snow on the steeper hillside, and if we could get to the rock bands visible up higher we could avoid snow for quite a while longer. So up we went, doing some moderate bushwhacking before arriving in the rocky area which gave us easier passage as we went straight up the hillside. We would never try these sorts of cross country shortcuts and maneuvers without a GPS, and I continually looked at the screen to make sure we were headed in the right direction. A half hour later we found ourselves back in the snow, but at least we were back on the trail.

Just a few minutes away from that junction is Gilmore Lake, which was still frozen over. It was 1:30, so Kyle and I decided to stop here for lunch, as it offered some nice scenery and we (actually mostly Kyle) had some fun throwing rocks high in the air to see if they would break through the frozen lake. Turns out they would not, although I considered the lake to be too fragile to walk on, as the melting snows from above were creating a river like flow around the far edge of the lake. As luck would have it, we had to get across this extremely large stream (actually it looked more like a very small river, I'm not sure where to draw the line between those two). There was a long snow bar that led out the first 1/3 of the way across, followed by a small gap and then a rock wall that went most of the rest of the way before giving way to a series of logs that had to be hopped to get around this thing. I was a bit nervous about this, but Kyle set out and made it across the snow bar to the rock wall and so I followed suit. This didn't go so well for me, as I stepped on a bad section of the snow and my foot went all the way down to the water below, getting about calf deep. This of course meant that my waterproof boot was now full of water, as it filled up from above. When I fell through I instinctively pulled back, so I was still on the wrong side of the now weakened snow bar. I was puzzled for a minute about what to do next, but Kyle found a log stuck against the rock bar that he was on and managed to bridge it across the gap and providing me with a means to distribute my weight more effectively (like a snowshoe), and I was able to walk on the log to get to the rock bar. That part was easy enough, but then we had to cross some logs to ultimately get across to the other side (the linked picture is of Kyle heading back across on return).

Once on the other side, there was too much snow to be able to tell where the correct route was, so we decided to just go up, and wherever possible look for rocks to climb to get off of the snow. The views now really opened up, and although we had yet to see Lake Tahoe, which was on the other side of Tallac, we had great views behind us of the Pyramid Peak/Mt. Price peaks of the Desolation Wilderness. An hour after the river incident at Lake Gilmore we were up 9500 feet, and at the foot of the talus field leading up to the summit of Mt. Tallac. We always enjoy scrambling, although this never really got any harder than class 2. We made it to the top a few minutes after 3 PM, and had our first views towards Lake Tahoe. I had heard that Tallac had the best Tahoe views, and I with the unobstructed views laid out in front of me I have to agree. But the views were spectacular in every direction. Looking down to Fallen Leaf Lake and our starting point, down to Lake Gilmore (the location of my foot incident), the Pyramid Peak ridgeline, snow capped Dicks/Jacks peaks, but the show belonged to Tahoe. Much to our surprise, there was another party of 2 on the summit, although they had come up from the north side. We were all on top together for about 5 minutes before they left and once again we had an amazing summit to ourselves. There were really only 2 problems - first, the wind was blowing fiercely, so much so that we spent much of our summit time crouched on the other side of some rocks to shield ourselves. Second, my foot was quite cold thanks to the Lake Gilmore incident, and I was a bit anxious to get to warmer ground. So we took some cool looking summit shots of each other, although we were not effectively able to conceal our discomfort, as we both didn't even want to take our hands out of our pockets. Time to go down.

We had tons of fun on descent, especially on the steep section down to Lake Gilmore. Rather than avoid snow, we now looked to stay on it as much as possible, as the conditions were perfect for glissading. We flew down the mountain, losing 1000 feet in about a half hour. Back down at these levels, there was sufficient snow melt to start feeding the streams, as evidenced by pockets of missing snow where water could be seen gushing down. There was no need to follow our tracks down, as we simply navigated toward Gilmore Lake. By 4 PM we were back at the infamous river crossing, and I was taking pictures every step of the way so I could document Kyle's mishaps if they were to occur. He hopped the logs, made it to the rock bar and easily made it to his new log bridge that connected to the weak snow bar. My turn. I made it to the rock bar, and before making the leap of faith back to my nightmare snow bar, I took what I hoped would be a famous last shot of the 2-3 feet deep water. Fortunately, I made it across, with Kyle's log invention saving the day. We found the trail and started down on the last portions of snow covered trail.

The afternoon snowmelt was quite impressive at this point, resulting in several underground streams that were only visible in small bits. We enjoyed rock hopping the streams on descent before arriving back down at the Glen Alpine Resort area around 5:45. We took more time to explore the area now that we had time, and I felt it interesting enough to get more shots of the information displays. We found what was billed as an old post office and made our way up toward some other buildings but were a bit nervous by the No Trespassing signs so we didn't actually get to fully investigate everything. The waterfall that we saw in the morning was now going strong, even throwing off mist. From there it was only a few minutes more down to the cars, and we set off back towards Rancho Cordova tired and excited from another Sierra ascent.

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