Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 17:11:46 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@hekili.k12.hi.us>
Subject: A Taste of the High Sierras Part 4

== Part 4 - "An Assault of Ralston Peak"

Up at 7:37 a.m. greeted by a cool but gorgeous day with lots of blue sky and sunshine! Following breakfast, Dr. Caldwell and I prepared the john for winter hibernation which included flushing as much human excrement as possible into plastic containers for disposal at the lodge. A wonderful job, no doubt. Yummy, yummy! :-)

Loaded the canoe and launched the vessel into glassy upper Echo Lake. Peter gave me some pointers as we began paddling across the body of water in route to the channel. "I'll make a paddler out of you yet!" he said with confidence. The breeze was with us and we entered the channel in no time. Due to the low water level, Pete and I carefully maneuvered the canoe to shore, jumped out of the boat, emptied the vessel and carried it to lower Echo Lake. A significant amount of snow had melted and the giant granite slabs at and below Flag Pole Peak were lit up nicely by the morning sun. Completed the paddle and landed on the "beach" below the parking lot and lodge. Disposed of the liquid waste, grabbed the remaining necessities from the car and started kayaking back to the cabin into a respectable wind. A few sea gulls glided inches above the water searching for fish then regained altitude, occasionally hovering directly overhead.

After berthing along the banks of upper Echo Lake down from Peter's cabin, we removed the vessel from the sea. Entered the cottage and commenced preparations for the highlight of the trip - an assault of Ralston Peak. "You're gonna love this!" commented Peter as the two of us loaded our day packs with supplies.

At 12:41 p.m. Peter and I departed the lake (elev. 7,400 ft) bound for the summit of Ralston Peak. Initially, Pete made his own trail through ankle deep snow as the white stuff entered our boots (should've brought my gators!). Eventually, we ascended talus slides with caution because the snow masked the crevices between the rocks. At higher elevations Peter and I encountered white pines and mountain hemlock. We stepped over small streams formed by melting snow and ice which contained pure water and Peter drank some. The two of us worked our way through snow banks in a pine forest and emerged onto an open area.

Traveled over sheets of granite and further up on the left a huge bowl shaped depression filled with an inordinate amount of snow was spotted below the crest between Ralston Peak and an unnamed peak (elev. 9,155 ft). Peter proclaimed it "The Snow Bowl". He and I took several photos of each other and of the incredible topography surrounding us. Passed a small but beautiful pond covered with a film of melting snow on the right and were awestruck by the magnificent vistas including Mount Rose and Lake Tahoe in the distance. Enjoyed "the excitement of getting there" as we ascended steeply along an exposed ridge over loose, snow covered granite (free rock climbing) gaining the broad summit of Ralston Peak (elev. 9,235 ft) at 2:49 p.m.

The adrenline was pumping as strong, freezing cold gusts tried in vain to push us off the apex. I raised my arms in triumph and shouted "I'm on top of the world! I'm the king of the world!". The wind made my hands feel like they were going to fall off as Peter snapped a picture of me.

Unable to endure the frigid wind chill any longer, Peter and I descended to the other side of Ralston Peak to consume lunch (peanut butter and jelly sandwhich). The sun came out between passing cloud masses and warmed us up. We gained pleasure as we sat from both the nearby and far off snow covered ridges and valleys clearly visible to the south/south east.

Pressing on, the two of us lost elevation as we descended through more snow banks along a trail marked by trees with blazes in them. Ascended a short distance to a superb lookout to the west of Desolation Valley featuring Lake Aloha, massive but cloud covered Pyramid Peak (the highest point in the region at 9,983 ft) giant snow banks partially covering her slopes, with Lake of the woods directly below.

From the lookout Peter and I trekked downward and took a shortcut literally skiing down a steep slope using our boots. Next, we cut through lovely snow blanketed Haypress meadows, picked up the Tahoe Rim Trail (open, rocky), and hiked along the footpath toward Echo Lake.

More excellent sights were ours to behold including the snow covered slopes of Ralston Peak and Tamarak Lake on the right, upper and lower Echo Lake dead ahead with an immense snow covered mountain range visible in the distance. Peter stopped on several occasions for photos esp. of the pink clouds floating above Ralston Peak and of the late afternoon sun illuminating a far off valley beyond Echo Lake.

Completed the loop reaching the cabin at 5:26 p.m.

== Paka


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