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Desolation Wilderness, Triple Crown – Trip Report

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Desolation Wilderness, Triple Crown – Trip Report

Postby mschnaidt » Wed Jun 29, 2011 2:38 pm

After noticing that there were not many trip reports in this section (and being nudged by an Admin to post something) I thought I’d put up a trip I did last August.

The goal of the trip was to summit Mt Price, Mt Agassiz and Pyramid Peak with nights at Smith Lake and Lake Sylvia. These three peaks, I call them the “Triple Crown” are the three highest peaks in the Crystal Range of the Sierras. Price is 9975 ft, Agassiz is 9967 and Pyramid is 9983.

We started our hike (after work) at Wrights Lake. The 1st day was just under 3 miles with an elevation gain of 1713 ft. Not a hard or long hike as it was on an established trail but the elevation gain got our blood flowing. The trail is great with excellent views. We passed Grouse Lake and Hemlock Lake on the way to our first nights campsite at Smith Lake.

Smith is a jewel of a lake with a great view of the Western Slope. There are a couple of campsites on the North side of the lake but they are not very flat and are pretty dusty. The best sites are on the West side of the Lake just up from the outlet. They are exposed but are flat and sandy. There are some rainbows in the lake but I wouldn’t make a special trip to fish it.

On day two, our goal was hike cross country from Smith Lake to the summits of Mt. Price, Mt. Agassiz and Pyramid Peak. We planned on dropping down to Lake Sylvia for the night.

We hiked around the East end of Smith and then up to the low point of the ridge behind the lake. On the other side of the ridge we dropped down about 100’ and then gained about 1100’ within a half mile. This stretch was typical class 1 and 2 cross country travel. This put us on the summit of Mt. Price and offered us some great views of Lake Aloha and the rest of the Crystal Range.

After 30 mins on the top of Price we headed down to a little tarn in the bowl beneath and between Price and Agassiz for some lunch and to get out of the wind. After lunch we headed up the Southwest ridge to the summit of Agassiz. The Summit block has a short class 3 section. The views from the summit are spectacular as you can crawl out to the edge of the overhanging “wave” of a summit block for some great exposure.

From Agassiz we headed South along the ridgeline planning to follow the ridge and head up the back of Pyramid. The conditions were fairly rough coming off the summit and the ridge looked tough so we contoured around the bowl beneath Pyramid and worked our way up the West flank of Pyramid to the summit after dropping our packs. There is a crude use trail up this ridge that ends at a field of large talus just below the summit.

At this point the weather became a concern. It had been very windy all day (25mph+) with some cloud cover. Nothing overly threatening, no lightning but it was late afternoon. After a minute or two on the summit we noticed that there was a lot of static electricity. When we touched someone else we got a good shock. Then we noticed that the rocks around us were buzzing. We immediately headed off the summit as quickly as we could. Although we were tired we moved fast! It’s amazing what a good dose of adrenaline will do. If you can imagine four guys hopping from talus block to talus block hunched over as if that would keep us from getting hit by lightning. In retrospect it was a funny sight but we were scared s***less at the time. After a few hundred yards the buzzing stopped. We emptied our pants grabbed our packs and headed for Lake Sylvia.

As we hiked down the ridge towards Sylvia we noticed that there was a large group camped at the lake. We decided that we preferred solitude to a packed house so we stayed up on the ridge and camped at a small, pretty unnamed lake that we christened “Plan B Lake”. It was a good choice. There was a nice, flat campsite in the trees.

Mileage for the day was around 6 but it felt like 12. Altitude gain was 3100’ with a drop of 3400’.

On day 3 we made our way down the talus field to Lake Sylvia and took the Lyons Creek trail to the Wrights Lake trail and back to the trailhead.

Mileage was 7.5 with 560 ft of altitude gain and a drop of 2000 ft.

Wilderness permits are required in Desolation Wilderness and they have quotas. Check out the Eldorado National Forest website for details.

Enjoy,

Michael

Desolation Wilderness Triple Crown.JPG

Smith Lake.jpg

Smith Lake 2.jpg

Trail Conditions.jpg

Lake Aloha from Mt Price.jpg

Mt Agassiz and Pyramid Peak from Price.jpg

Looking back at Agassiz.jpg

Plan B Lake.jpg

Lake of the Woods and Echo Lake from Pyramid Peak.jpg

Plan B Lake.jpg


Lyons Creek.jpg



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Re: Desolation Wilderness, Triple Crown – Trip Report

Postby ERIC » Wed Jun 29, 2011 8:33 pm

Nice report! Thanks for sharing. :thumbsup:
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Re: Desolation Wilderness, Triple Crown – Trip Report

Postby gary c. » Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:26 pm

Great report and pictures!
"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."
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Re: Desolation Wilderness, Triple Crown – Trip Report

Postby windknot » Sat Jul 23, 2011 12:42 pm

This is a creative route that looks like it was a lot of fun, thanks for the report and pictures! Did you happen to fish or see any fish at "Pyramid Peak Lake," the little lake NW of Pyramid Peak?
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: Desolation Wilderness, Triple Crown – Trip Report

Postby mschnaidt » Sun Jul 31, 2011 10:09 am

Sorry it's taken a week to reply to your post Windknot. I was backpacking Cottonwood Lakes and the Mitre Basin with an attempt at Mt Whitney on Friday. That didn't work out so well...

The Triple Crown was a great route. I would highly recommend it. I didn't see any fish in Pyramid Peak Lake however.

M
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Re: Desolation Wilderness, Triple Crown – Trip Report

Postby East Side Hiker » Sun Oct 16, 2011 1:44 am

Very good photos, especially the one showing you guys slogging through the rocks. I should also be nudged to report on my travels, but I've been out of sorts and my creativity wanes...
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Re: Desolation Wilderness, Triple Crown – Trip Report

Postby mschnaidt » Sun Nov 27, 2011 9:45 am

Hey East Side,

Please take the time to share your trips. After a nudge from an admin I started posting a few of mine. I found that it was a good way to relive the trip and is very therapeutic on a rainy day.

Thx,

M
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Re: Desolation Wilderness, Triple Crown – Trip Report

Postby Vaca Russ » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:50 am

Michael,

This post inspired my GF and I to take the dogs up the "Triple Crown" on Saturday. We were blessed with very nice weather (for 10,000 feet). We started and ended at Lyons Lake.

mschnaidt wrote:Mileage for the day was around 6 but it felt like 12.


HA! It felt more like 1200 miles. I really admire that you guys did the first two with full packs. :eek:

Lake Aloha

Aloha.JPG
Lake Aloha


Mt. Price from Agassiz

Price from the top of Agassiz.JPG


The full report will be posted when I get the rest of the pictures.

Thanks,

-Russ
” Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports … all others are games.”- Ernest Hemingway
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Re: Desolation Wilderness, Triple Crown – Trip Report

Postby mschnaidt » Sun Aug 04, 2013 11:12 am

Hey Russ,

I'm glad you enjoyed the trip. Your report was great and I appreciate that you used my title. I live on a ridge in Cameron Park and have a great view of the Crystal Range and the Triple Crown so it's never far from my thoughts.

Best,

Michael
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