Hiking Stats as of 11/20/2019
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet
There are no pictures from this hike as I lost my camera at the end of the hike. A most unfortunate occurrence as the views to Lake Tahoe surrounded by the snow covered mountains were breathtaking...

I called Kyle up Friday night to see if we were on for another visit up to Tahoe to get in some snowshoeing. He was up for it, and I suggested that we visit Mt. Rose, a Nevada County highpoint and on all the peak lists that I am working on. The downside was it would be a bit longer of a drive than we typically do, but when Kyle told me the driving directions I realized that we could cut about 20 minutes (each way) off of the trip by instead doing a a snowshoe up to the Placer County Highpoint, a bump just off the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) on the western flanks of Mt. Baldy. Thus one of the silly oddities of county highpointing - our primary objective was not even to summit Mt. Baldy, but rather to get to the rock outcrop just on the California side of the border. We decided we would add Martis Peak and of course actually go to the summit of Mt. Baldy in Nevada to add the requisite difficulty to the trip to make it worthwhile. The Mt. Baldy West Ridge would be my 27th California county highpoint.

We met up at the Fry's in Roseville and carpooled up I-80, turning south at Highway 267 and driving past the Northstar ski resort. We found Martis Peak Road, which was one of our starting options, but deterred by a "no parking" sign we moved on to plan B, which was to start at the Tahoe Rim Trailhead, another mile down the road. We got started around 11:15 (yes, we were pretty late on this day) and followed the TRT as it switched back and forth up the south facing slopes. As such, there was no snow on the trail. We ran into several people walking their dogs on the trail, and one couple asked if we really thought there would be enough snow to require the snowshoes which we were carrying up. I was confident that there would be, we could see lots of snow on the surrounding peaks and we were heading up to over 9200 feet after all. Once we got to the top of the initial climb the trail slope became much gentler, and patchy snow and ice was present. Our plan was to first visit Martis Peak, and it was about an hour and a bit more than 2 miles into the trip when when we ran into the last people we would see all day. There were 3 or 4 of them, without snowshoes and they said they got to "the meadow" where they lost the trail and for good measure had wandered about looking for it, creating lots of tracks that led nowhere. At this point although the ground was fully covered in snow, the TRT was easy to follow, and it appeared that a lot of people had come before us making for a packed, easy route to follow.

The meadow that they had referred to did in fact look like a meadow, there were no trees and it was flat, and just as they had done Kyle and I found that the trail disappeared in the snow. But we didn't really care, we had snowshoes on by this point and we would just go cross country. We each were using GPS maps, and could see that we were a short distance from the Martis Peak Road, which we could just take up instead of the TRT. We easily found the Road, covered in deep snow but traveled over several times by snowmobiles which had compacted the snow very nicely and made route finding trivial (although following a road, even if covered in snow, is not hard since you just look for the 20 foot gap between trees). We followed the road up, ultimately reaching a gate which was signed as closing at 6 PM. The gate was closed (obviously for winter) so we walked around it until we could see the Martis Peak Fire Lookout perched on the rocks ahead. This is my first regret in losing the camera - the views form the lookout were tremendous. The building is a small one room cabin, with an outhouse about 100 feet down the road. The lookout was a glass house, with views in all directions. There were drawings above the windows informing the occupant which peaks they were viewing out of each window. The Desolation Wilderness, Tallac, Lake Tahoe, everything was crisp and clear and snow covered. Amazing views. Thinking about it I might have to come back here just to get some shots, they were that good. It appears that overnight stay is permitted in this building as well, although I am sure it is much easier to do this in winter, when the road is closed and snow travel is required, than in the summer when you can drive to within about a half mile of the building and thus demand would be much greater. It took us 2 hours to reach the lookout, covering about 4.75 miles in that time.

We spent about 15 minutes looking around before setting off to summit Martis Peak, which was only about 100 feet higher, with the summit ridge being quite narrow. We looked around for a summit register but found nothing, although due to the snow cover we didn't look all that hard. We didn't linger, and traversed down the opposite side of Martis Peak, descending 350 feet before starting back up again towards Mt. Baldy. We were able to locate the TRT, although the snow covering the trail was pristine. It appeared that we were the first ones to visit this section of the trail in the few weeks since the last snows. We followed the trail as best we could, although there was no advantage in doing so other than eliminating the need to worry about routefinding. We knew that the trail was supposed to run right along the base of the small bump of the county highpoint and then on towards Mt. Baldy. Kyle and I were both using our GPS devices, but had different maps. He was using Google Maps and I was using a TOPO map, and his information was more accurate in terms of following the trail. But the trail was descending to stay withing the National Forest boundary, and I suggested that we follow my map, which showed the trail heading up to the ridgeline and following that. We went my way, which worked out great, and just before reaching the county highpoint the TRT joined back up with us under the snow. At this point Kyle's map showed we were in Nevada, while mine said we were still in California. There is in fact developing confusion regarding this as it seems that the latest maps have moved the Nevada border 75 - 150 feet to the west. Andrew Kirmse had told me of this situation a few weeks ago and here it was playing itself out in real life. If the map change is accurate, the bump in front of us would not be the Placer County highpoint since we were in Nevada already. Instead, that title would go back to Granite Chief which was thought to be the highpoint for many years until this small bump was discovered. This will have to be resolved at some point, as some online maps now indeed show this bump as being in Nevada, while others show it in CA. Andrew and David Sanger have contacted the responsible governmental agencies and GIS departments to try and sort this out. In any event, Kyle and I had hiked up Granite Chief a couple of years earlier, so the distinction won't impact my county highpoint count.

So we climbed up the little ridge to claim the high point, going over a series of 3 bumps and finding the last bump to be highest. The views to Tahoe were incredible, so close and nearly 3,000 feet below. It was getting late, about 3:30 at this point, and we chatted for a minute about whether or not we wanted to continue on to summit Baldy. It would be nearly another third of a mile and 200 feet of gain which seemed way too minor to not summit since we were so close. We both had headlamps after all. We soon set down our packs (since we would come down this way) and hustled up to claim the summit. We could not find a summit register on Baldy either, and we spent a couple of minutes continuing east along the ridge until it started to descend in order to ensure we had found the summit. I don't want to even think about the views from just off the summit - some of the finest I've ever seen. Kyle and I both posed for multiple summit shots, with snow covered peak serving as a picturesque drop off to Lake Tahoe below, and the surrounding mountains making a perfect winter postcard style scene. After getting our shots we quickly hustled down, picked up our packs, and abandoned our ascent route tracks in favor of a shorter return route down to the car. There was no need to go all the way back towards Martis Peak, and we could both see roads on our GPS devices that should lead down. Thanks to some snowmobile tracks we found the road, and followed it down. There was a wonderful shortcut shown on my map that would leave this road, head straight down for a third of a mile, and rejoin this same road, saving nearly a mile of otherwise flat hiking. We could not locate the turnoff (no snowmobiles had gone this way) and so we went cross country, although it was very easy. No need for a defined trail in snow anyway, since most of the underbrush and scrub is covered in snow and thus it doesn't really matter where you are walking.

On this cross country section we came across the massive tracks of a bear, wonderfully preserved in the deep snow. They were larger than Kyle's foot, as he posed for pictures showing the size of these things. Each individual toe print was visible as a part of the giant tracks which were running perpendicular to us. We had no idea how recent the tracks were, although the quality of them suggest it was likely within the past day or so. After a few minutes admiring the sight we continued on down and came across a series of boulders and a small fence. At first we were confused, but after thinking about it we determined it was likely the end of the road up (this would explain why we couldn't find it up higher). We followed this back to the main road, and continued down. The most frustrating part of the day (except for the camera loss) was this next several miles. The road was seemingly flat, and just when we decided we were low enough to take off the snowshoes it wound around and gained a bit of elevation, putting us back in more snow. This road was annoying, and to make matters worse we had to keep checking the maps to make sure we made the correct turnoffs. We missed one, and we only noticed as the road ascended and showed no sign of heading down. We backtracked, and found the road down. For some reason the snowmobile tracks followed this upper road but not the lower one. Eventually we made our way down again, and as much as we tried to avoid it we needed to use our headlamps for the last half hour. This was the first time I had seen Kyle's headlamp, and his was several orders of magnitude brighter than mine. Upon my arrival home one of the first things I did was order a better headlamp. We finally made it down at around 6:15, after covering 13.5 miles on what turned out to be a good day in the mountains. But as we were packing up our stuff, I set my gloves and camera on the roof of my car so I could put the snowshoes in the trunk and load my pack into the car. The gloves, camera and car are all black, and with nighttime darkness having set in I did not notice that I had left those items on top of my car and drove off. I did not realize the error until I got home. I'm not as upset about losing the camera as I am losing the day's pictures. It was time for a new camera anyway, as this one was showing the scars of years of abuse in the mountains. I put up a notice in the lost and found section of the Reno Craigslist and posted a request in a California hiking group on Facebook, but as I write this 24 hours after losing the camera I have not yet received a response.

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(4 years ago) Petesthousandpeaks said:

Next time, if you are enabled, you can upload a word file or similar to your memory card. If someone gets the camera and is curious to see the photos to try to identify you as the owner, they can open the file (you may wish to have bi-platform files) and view all your contact info. Course, if a bad guy gets it, you then will have revealed your contact info. I've never lost hardware aside from perhaps a drop. Being poor, I can't afford to make stupid mistakes. I wear my cameras all with straps, and take great pains to remind myself that I don't want to forget it anyplace. The hiking club had many morons, who lost or broke their expensive cameras, and I suspect they are the same with other hardware. You may get back your camera, but as far as craigslist, I just joined and tried it, with unfortunate results. In the uploaded file, you may offer a sizable reward for its return with shipping paid.