This winter was a Sierra snow year for the books. I’ve lived in California all my life but don’t remember a winter where it rained for three months straight. All the snow meant my Sierra objectives were looking a little bleak and buried. I brushed up on my map and compass skills with REI and hit the trail in Mokelumne Wilderness at the beginning of June. My destination was a place I’ve never been: Fourth of July Lake in the Carson Pass Management Area.
Tag: mokelumne wilderness
My little brother just got back from a brief stint of backpacking through Europe. With his heart still full of adventure, he asked me to take him out somewhere, anywhere. He didn’t give me any criteria and said he was down for whatever, but the first time someone goes backpacking will obviously make or break their experience. After much hemming and hawing, Meiss Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness was my pick.
Hike: Round Top Peak via West Ridge
Where: Mokelumne Wilderness
Trailhead: Woods Lake
Duration: 5 hours
Length: 7.5 miles
Gear: [sn] Super.Naural W Base 140 Tee, REI Sahara pants, Triple Aught Design Artemis Hoodie, Boreas Gear Topaz 25, and Salewa Alp Trainer Mid GTX boots
Cost of Parking: $5
Round Top Peak has been one of those elusive peaks on my Tahoe to-do list. Every time I’ve tried to attempt it, something hasn’t quite worked out: someone’s sick, couldn’t make it to Tahoe. This weekend, Russ and I set off to do it! It was going to my first, his fifth.
We headed out from the Bay Area early in the morning and got to the Woods Lake trailhead at around 11am. The skies were clear and blue; weather was in the 70s. It was an easy 2.5 miles in to Winnemucca Lake where we would split from the trail and head up the use trail to Round Top’s West summit. The trail until the last 500ft or so was well worn. Once we got into loose scree territory, it was a little difficult to follow, resulting in a choose your own adventure. Russ opted to stay here, and I continued on to check out the East summit, aka the true summit.
I traversed across the narrow ridge to the drop before climbing up to the summit. From what I’d read online, the East summit is a class 3 scramble with tons of scree and loose holds that were prone to snapping off. It looked so incredibly unappealing. I decided that I didn’t want to die that day and headed back to join my climbing partner.
We then made our way down the way we came up and went out by Round Top Lake and back to the Woods Lake trailhead.
The San Francisco chapter of the Sierra Club holds an introductory snowcamping course every year. Members and non-members go out in the backcountry to get some hands-on experience with seasoned snowcamping veterans.
The course was… an interesting experience. I’m not sure if I would do it again. It’s definitely a great learning experience if you’re looking to transition from three-season backpacking to backpacking and camping year-round. However, the course could be infinitely more organized.
The course is taught in groups of thirty people, with about a 50:50 ratio of instructors or assistant leaders to students. Students spend one day in the classroom and two trips in the backcountry. The classroom day is meant to give you a brief overview on what to expect, how to prepare, and what you need. Then you go out on two trips to practice your skills: map and compass, snow shelters, digging, etc.
The Sierra Club Snowcamping version of backpacking is incredibly different from what I’m used to. I’m all about traveling long distances, eating fast dinners, crawling into my bag when darkness falls, and sleeping until the sun rises. I consider backpacking a nice “reset button” when everything gets thrown out of whack and I need to slow down on life. Not on this trip. The group had a five course (yes, five) meal that began around 5pm that was supposed to last well into the night.
Though everyone was great, friendly, nice and knowledgeable, the amount of anecdotal information everyone had to share was overwhelming and time-consuming. All the assistant leaders had something to say about everything; everyone had an opinion on what was right and what wasn’t. Oftentimes, the more seasoned folks repeated stories over and over again. It lead to a lot of sitting around and listening.
All in all, the instruction and knowledge were great. I got a good refresher in map and compass and route-finding. And I built an igloo-snowcave hybrid with a gear closet. I’d say the latter alone was worth it all.
If you’re interested in taking this course, please visit the Sierra Snowcamping website here. The 2014 season is almost over, but you can start prepping for 2015!
Hike: Winnemucca Lake and back
Where: Mokelumne Wilderness
Trailhead: Carson Pass trailhead off of Highway 88. Look for the bathroom!
Duration: 3 hours and 58 minutes roundtrip
Gear: CamelBak Aventura pack, UNIQLO Heat-Tech tights, REI Sahara Convertible Pants, Icebreaker Oasis Crew, Triple Aught Design Artemis Hoodie, Ahnu Montara Waterproof Boot, Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Poles, MSR Denali snowshoes, Black Diamond FrontPoint gaiters
Cost of Parking: $5 for a SNOPARK day permit ($25 for the season)
Mokelumne Wilderness is a pretty sweet gem off of Highway 88 near Kirkwood. Compared to its neighbor, Desolation Wilderness, it’s relatively unknown; I’ve rarely seen more than 10 other people on the trail.