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Overview.  Most peakbaggers visiting the southwestern part of the Desolation Wilderness head only to Pyramid Peak, the highest peak in the area.  However, just north of Pyramid, along the spine of the Crystal Range, lie two summits that are less visited, and perhaps more interesting than their neighbor.


Overview:

Mount Price (9,975') is the second highest summit in the Desolation Wilderness, standing just eight feet lower than Pyramid Peak to the south.  In between these two peaks stands Mount Agassiz (9,967'), whose overhanging summit resembles a granite wave poised to crash down into the Desolation Valley nearly 2,000 feet below.  Both Agassiz and Price offer fun scrambling and airy summits, and can be easily reached from the west side Desolation trailheads.  For those looking for more challenge, these peaks can also be climbed from the Lake Aloha area, or combined with Pyramid Peak for a high traverse of the southern half of the Crystal Range.   We present three options here, each of which is also presented on the attached topo map.

Option #1 -- Lyons Creek Approach:

Mileage:

4.3 miles to Lyons/Sylvia Trail Junction

5.7 miles to Mt. Agassiz direct (0.5 miles to Mt. Price)

5.8 miles to Mt. Price direct (0.5 miles to Mt. Agassiz)

 

 

Elevation:

Trailhead:  6,700'

Mt. Price Summit:  9,975'

Mt. Agassiz Summit:  9,967'

 

Hiking time:  A full day for both summits

Trailhead/Wilderness Permits:  Take Highway 50 to Wrights Lake Road. This road is located about 35 miles east of Placerville (or about 6 miles west of Twin Bridges). Follow the winding Wrights Lake Road about 5 miles in a northerly direction until you reach the "Lyons Creek Trailhead". There is limited parking here.  At the trailhead, you can self-issue a required wilderness permit for day hikes (overnight permits are subject to quota and must be issued at the Visitor Center or at Forest Service Ranger Stations -- click here for details).

Mt. Agassiz -- The Route:   The route is fairly straightforward for the first 4.3 miles; simply follow the well-defined Lyons Creek trail up Lyons Creek, until you reach a trail junction.  The right fork heads towards Lake Sylvia, while the left fork heads towards Lyons Lake.  In between these two forks, the broad SW ridge of Mt. Agassiz rises up towards the summit (which is out of view from here).  In order to bag Agassiz, you can follow either fork from the trail junction, the distance is the exact same.

 

If you elect to take the Sylvia fork, follow the trail for about 1/4 mile until you reach a small tributary of Lyons Creek (right before Lake Sylvia).  Follow this tributary NE towards a small heart-shaped tarn, which is located at 8,720'+ on the topo map (photo:  view SW to Lake Sylvia from above the heart-shaped tarn).  From this tarn, the route to the summit is obvious -- just follow the slope north to the summit.  The hike up to the summit block is fairly easy, although you will encounter some large talus and thick trees near the top. 

 

If you elect to take the Lyons Lake fork, follow the trail NW to the outlet of the lake.  Contour around the flat west shore of the lake, and then follow upper Lyons Creek up into the cirque between Agassiz and Price.  Head north, then east up to about 9,400', where the angle eases.  From here, the route up to the summit block of Agassiz is obvious.

 

Mt. Agassiz -- The Summit Block:  The summit block of Mt. Agassiz (easy class 3) is a spectacular overhang, and is most easily climbed from its NW side.  If coming from the south (Lake Sylvia approach), angle slightly to climber's left as you approach the summit block, then drop down slightly before climbing back up the NW side.  An easy crack leads up to the flat diving board summit.

 

Traverse to Mt. Price:  From either Price or Agassiz, you can bag the other summit by following the sharp ridge between the two peaks (about 1/2 mile).  About halfway along this ridge at its low point, a steep overhanging couloir drops down the east side towards Lake Aloha.  You may not see it unless you are looking for it -- it is guarded by a thick clump of whitebark pine.  The summit of Mt. Price from this direction is easy class 2.  The views from the summit of Mt. Price are spectacular, particularly to the south back to Mt. Agassiz and Pyramid Peak (see photo).

Option #2 -- Twin Lakes Approach:

Mileage:

2.3 miles to Twin Lakes

4.2 miles to Mt. Price

4.7 miles to Mt. Agassiz

 

Elevation:

Trailhead:  6,980'

Mt. Price Summit:  9,975'

Mt. Agassiz Summit:  9,967'

 

Hiking time:  A full day for both summits

Trailhead/Wilderness Permits:  Take Highway 50 to Wrights Lake Road. This road is located about 35 miles east of Placerville (or about 6 miles west of Twin Bridges). Follow the winding Wrights Lake Road for about 9 miles until you reach the Wrights Lake area.  there are a number of turns in the road along the way, but the route to Wrights Lake is well signed.  Head right to the "Twin Lakes & Grouse Lake Trail".  At the trailhead, you can self-issue a required wilderness permit for day hikes (overnight permits are subject to quota and must be issued at the Visitor Center or at Forest Service Ranger Stations -- click here for details).

The Route:   From the permit self issue kiosk, head northwest, contouring along at 7,000'.  After a little less than 1/2 mile, you will reach a trail junction.  Turn right here, heading towards Grouse Lake.  Remember to turn left at this trail junction on the way out, or you will extend your journey unnecessarily.  About 1.3 miles from the trailhead, you will reach another trail junction.  The right fork leads to Grouse and Smith Lakes, while the left fork leads to Twin Lakes.  Follow the left-hand fork to Twin Lakes (about 1.0 miles from the trail junction).  Continue on the trail along the small east shore of East Twin Lake.  Follow the trail for another 0.4 miles, to a point just before Island Lake.  From this point, head cross-country to the SE, climbing up the broad NW face of Mt. Price.  The climb up is straightforward class 2 scrambling, but turns to steep class 3 at the very top near the summit.  The easiest route to Mt. Price's summit is probably to head to climber's right, up to the small saddle that lies between Mt. Price and Peak 9,640'+ to the east.  (photo:  view west from Mt. Price summit towards the saddle, with Twin Lakes basin at right).  From this saddle, easy sandy slopes lead up the backside of Mt. Price to the summit.  If you want to traverse to Mt. Agassiz, see the description above under Option #1.

Option #3 -- East Side from Lake Aloha:

Mileage:

1.5 miles from Mosquito Pass to Mt. Price

2.0 miles to Mt. Agassiz

 

Elevation:

Trailhead (Mosquito Pass):  8,422'

Mt. Price Summit:  9,975'

 

Hiking time:  Multi-day backpack

Trailhead/Wilderness Permits This route assumes you are already in Desolation Valley, having gotten there through one of the many approaches.  Although this hike could be done by a very strong hiker as a day-hike from the Echo Lakes or Pyramid Creek trailheads, I don't recommend it.  It is much better to do this as a day hike from a camp in the Desolation Valley area.  If you do this, you will need a wilderness permit for camping -- click here for details.  Note that this route involves some steep and semi-exposed class 3 scrambling, as well as some tricky routefinding.  If you are not comfortable doing this, try one of the easier routes. 

The Route:   From either the north (Rockbound Valley) or the south (Desolation Valley), follow the Pacific Crest Trail to Mosquito Pass, just north of Lake Aloha.  Head cross-country SW from the pass, climbing up the granite dome that separates Clyde Lake and Lake Aloha.  Drop down slightly from the top of the dome and then continue SW up granite slabs ("the slabs of insanity") that lead to the east face of Mt. Price.  Ascend these slabs, aiming for a notch on the ridge just to the north of Mt. Price's summit.  Note that this notch is not the obvious low point to the north of Mt. Price, but rather a smaller notch just above and to the left of the low point.  This photo, taken from the summit of Jacks Peak, shows the entire route from Mosquito Pass.

The route to the top of the notch is steep and slippery, but really no harder than class 2.  However, climbing to the notch gets you atop a knife-edge ridge that drops off steeply to the east down to Island and Twin Lakes.  The route directly up the ridge to the summit is very steep and exposed and is not recommended without climbing gear.  The easiest route to the summit is to descend slightly to the left, and then contour left over class 3 rock to a point just before the summit.  From here, climb up to the summit.  Some routefinding will be required in this section in order to stay on class 3 terrain.  If you find the going too difficult, retrace your steps and try a different route.  If you want to traverse to Mt. Agassiz, see the description above under Option #1.

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