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Lake Tahoe Area

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Lake Tahoe Area

Postby irish » Thu May 25, 2006 12:41 pm

I have a trip planned from 6/21 - 6/29 and was hoping to get in the Saddlebag area or Tuolumne Meadows but both look bad because of the snow still there.

Would the Lake Tahoe area be free of snow to do some camping and backpacking? I am not familiar with that area so any help will be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.



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Postby mountainLight » Thu May 25, 2006 2:13 pm

There are some nice hikes into desolation wilderness out of Tahoe. I did one last year from fallen leaf lake (glen alpine trailhead). Hit Gilmore, Susie, Heather, Aloha, and then back down a pretty steep and hairy trail back to glen alpine. Nice little loop for a good view of the area. It is quite a bit lower in desolation than the sierra so snow should only be an issue in the shaded areas. We went in Jun and ran into a few patches but nothing serious.

http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?lat=38.8762&lon=-120.1388&s=100&size=l&symshow=n&datum=nad83&layer=DRG25

Let me poke around a bit here and see if i can find the map from last year to post.
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Postby giantbrookie » Thu May 25, 2006 4:42 pm

Desolation is superb. The great loop that mountainlight refers to is a trip my wife and I dubbed the "lunker loop" owing to the size of fish coming out of the lakes. The time we did it we caught some nice browns out of Heather, big brookies out of Lake of the Woods, and nice rainbows out of Triangle before doing that superb drop off trail mentioned. We hadn't yet dialed into the immense macks in Gilmore (we did that the next year; on the loop we just caught a couple of medium sized rainbows).

Snow and thaw conditions may be iffy. Although lower than many of the high destinations discussed on the board, this is much further north and the effective snow and thaw line descends northward. As of 6/21-6/30 I think it will actually be pretty snowy given that the snowfall there may have been heavier than last year (haven't checked the DWR snowcourse records and historical comps. because I'm not headed there this summer), and I was into gobs of snow (one stretch was over a mile straight on snow) in early July there last year. We were mainly on the Crystal Range from Highland Lake to Schmidell to Top Lake and much of the higher travel was nearly completely over snow. Fortunately, the only lake that was frozen over was Lois. On the other hand, you'll be a bit earlier in the year. I believe there is a Crystal Range rainshadow effect, so the effective thaw line is a bit higher to the east where you'll be. Gilmore is a south-facing cirque, so it should be OK even at 8300' (last year's frozen over Lois was about 8300 but east exposure on the E. flank of the Crystal Range. You'll probably run into a lot of snow around Heather Lake and Aloha. The rather thrilling descent from Triangle to Glen Alpine might actually be dangerous with too much snow on that north-facing slope (I'll bet the trail will be nearly totally covered). That's a very steep slope and it might not be safe without an ice axe. Even with one, you may have the spring soft snow condition, which is hard to self arrest on (ice axe pick doesn't bite) and consequently hazardous if there is no bowl-out at the bottom.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Postby hikerduane » Thu May 25, 2006 6:02 pm

Hey giantbrookie, glad to see someone else has been to some of the lakes on the west side of Desolation. Not many people way up there, unlike the reported crowds on the east side and close-to-the-trailhead destinations. I used to go into Desolation in early August and still get snow at Schmidell.
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Postby ridgeline » Fri May 26, 2006 5:26 am

I remember awakening to a bunch of noise near Gilmore lake, when I walked down to the lake I could see hundreds of fish jumping for bugs, I was the only person around in August. Did a hike from Fallen Leaf to Tallac and back out I think Dicks Pass? Its been awhile. Lots of skeets before late Aug. Need to get back into that area.
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Postby irish » Fri May 26, 2006 7:37 am

Thanks for all the info, I appreciate it.
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Postby mountainLight » Fri May 26, 2006 8:09 am

Giantbrookie is right about the trail down. It is very steep and along and in creek run off. If there is still snow it could be dangerous. It is so hard to know, but GB had some good info there. Desolation is a great area and I am sure you can find some nice hikes there to avoid the snow.

Another option which we did last year as well because of the high snow was Trinity Alps. Not sure where you are driving from, it is a bit lower still in elevation, but further north. Redding area.
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Postby Baffman » Fri May 26, 2006 5:32 pm

I too have spent some time in Desolation. It doesn't compare to Kings and Sequoia, but is very nice. I stayed at Schmidell 2 years ago. That's a nice spot. I actually logged on to see if anyone had been up in Desolation yet to give a snow report. As was said, it's lower, but it gets a lot of snow. Late June should be safe up there though. I was wanting to go in a couple of weeks. May be too early though. Anybody been in there yet??
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Postby giantbrookie » Fri May 26, 2006 9:47 pm

hikerduane wrote:Hey giantbrookie, glad to see someone else has been to some of the lakes on the west side of Desolation. Not many people way up there, unlike the reported crowds on the east side and close-to-the-trailhead destinations. I used to go into Desolation in early August and still get snow at Schmidell.

The west side is nice and the crowds are really thin. As with many places in the Sierra and Klamaths, it may be fair to say there are even fewer people going back there than 30 years ago (during the "peak" of the backpack era). You can work out some fairly interesting off trail routes in W. Desolation (the Shadow L.-Huth L.-Highland route over Tells Peak is very nice, for example), whereas the eastern area is laced with trails, taking away any advantage of off trail travel. That having been said it isn't all gravy. All fingerling air drops have been terminated in the Rubicon drainage to protect the MYLF. There are a pretty significant number of what used to be premium (ie big fish) fisheries that may go fishless or have already become so. Schmidell is not threatened as there are more than enough brookies to go around (although they're not all that big).

In contrast the E. side does get very heavy use. Lake of the Woods very often looks like a glorified walk-in campground and I've been to Gilmore on some days when the outlet end looks like a public swimming pool. Nonetheless, there is no place in the Sierra that has fish that get bigger than the premium lunker lakes of Desolation, the short list of which includes (but is not limited to) Gilmore, Grass, Heather, Lake of the Woods, nearly the entire Meeks Creek drainage, Lower Velma, Eagle etc. No backcountry area of comparable size is its equal in my book (for average fish size), with the possible exception of the NW Desolation area and environs with the big lakes (Spider, Buck Island, Rockbound, etc). Now that I'm an hour further away than I used to be (Fresno vs SF Bay Area), and so much closer to the S. Sierra, I won't be hitting Desolation as much as in years past, but my I'm always thinking about that place. Best wishes to all that go there!
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Postby tahomus » Thu Jun 08, 2006 7:28 pm

desolation is still quite covered with snow. my husband is a big backcountry skiier. it still has a ton of good skiing.
lakes are still almost all frozen-just a little thaw on the edge if some of the lower lakes.
he said gilmore looks like a spaceship crashed in the middle- thawing in the middle!?! not thawing on the edges at all.
my week off is 4th of july week. i plan on doing desolation, but the snow levels may make me drive somewhere else.
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