It Ain't Over Yet. Not even in
Tahoe. Not even in the middle of June.
For Fathers' Day weekend of 2003, two dads snuck
away for a one day sufferfest trying to find skiable
snow in the Crystal Range. It wasn't easy, but
it was a blast.
I'd love to say we skied
the Crystal Range because we were ambitious. In
reality, we wound up there because we were just lazy -- not
wanting to drive all the way down to Tioga
Pass for just a one-day trip, we settled for less driving
(and, of course, less snow). Originally, we wanted to
hit Mt. Conness for our annual season-ending chute skiing
trip. But since the Saddlebag Lake Road was closed, I had
suggested to Chris that we hit the Dana Couloir. Chris
had other plans. "How about the Crystal Range?",
The Crystal friggin' Range?
Was he serious? It was an honest
and simple inquiry, but it had suffering written all over
it. Closer to home, the Crystal Range caps the western
half of Lake
Tahoe's Desolation Wilderness. It is a beautiful set
of peaks west of (and taller than) the Sierra crest, with ample late season snow and steep lines worthy
of several mouthfuls of drool. So what's the problem?
Unlike the roadside attractions of Tioga Pass or Virginia
Lakes, getting to the Crystal Range involves hiking, bushwacking and climbing through fields of alder-choked
talus, steep granite slabs and endless marshy bogs. Oh
yeah, and you do it with skis and boots on your back. Its a regular
masochist's triathalon. (photo: Chris hiking
in the lower canyon before it got ugly. Lovers' Leap cliff in
Because we are both desk
jockeys in our "real" lives, we decided to hike into a bivy
site at Ropi Lake in the dark on Friday night after work.
This wouldn't be a long hike -- about 2 1/2 miles and 1,500'
of climbing -- but it would involve a steep rock scramble up
the cliffs to the left side of Horsetail Falls. People
have died trying to get up these falls, and there have been
countless rescues conducted here. Well, at least we had
a full moon, right?
So Friday night we hiked up
the falls in the dark. The hike was spectacular.
Full moon rising over Mt. Ralston, the falls were absolutely
nuking, and the bugs were scarce. We made our way up the
cliffs and talus
incident, topping out on the saddle between Ralston and
Pyramid and into the lowest reaches of the beautiful
Desolation Valley. (photo: Rich scrambling up
the cliffs near Horsetail Falls. Notice the thinning
hair on this budding geezer.)
Now that we were wandering
aimlessly in the flats though dense trees and around tarns and
small streams, our chances of getting utterly lost were
rapidly approaching 100%. We finally decided to call it quits for
the night when we inadvertently stumbled out onto a razor-thin
peninsula jutting into Ropi Lake. With water on all
three sides of us, Chris confidently pronounced that we had found
the lake. "Let's camp here". I didn't protest.
We hunted around the rocks
and found a flat spot just large enough to accommodate two
sleeping bags. Soon thereafter, we were fast asleep.
(camping tip: when sleeping without a tent on full
moon nights, bring a multi-purpose bandana to tie around your
head like a blindfold to block the moonlight).
photo: Rich admiring
Horsetail Falls in the last light of day