Fun With Dick & Jack

February 23-24, 2002

'Awesome snow. Majestic mountains. World-class resorts. Breathtaking views. Dazzling casinos...' That's the two-page ad for 'Ski Lake Tahoe' in the front pages of numerous ski magazines. The illustration? A grand vista of the highest peaks of Desolation Wilderness, Jack's Peak and Dick's Peak here in the middle, with a stunning mountain valley sweeping down into Crystal Lake. Hey, I'm sold, let's go there!

  Phil Esra
Phil Esra ascends Jack's Peak
And so we drove up to South Lake Friday night. Menno had some friends with a cabin where we could stay. And a fun bunch of friends they were. Unfortunately, we arrived just as the keg got drained, though they were quick to thrust beers from the fridge into our hands. Definitely a great party, but ya know, I had this picture torn from a magazine ad in my pocket, reminding me that sleep was a wise idea. So Phil & I snow-camped at the trailhead, leaving Menno to consume beer and blender drinks before crashing out in the living room at 5AM.

Next morning it seemed surprisingly cold. We had a stiff headwind skiing across Echo Lake. Below freezing all day and windy all day. Adding to the mountain excitement were numerous displays of recent avalanche activity from the previous weekend's storm. Not that we'd have any unstable snow. 'We should be so lucky!' With one icy traverse above Heather Lake, we reached a campspot with the shelter of some trees and a view of Lake Aloha.

We awoke to blue skies and calm conditions. I peeked out of my bivy bag to see the east face of the Pyramid Peak - Mt. Price ridgeline (including a slide path extending all the way down to lake level) with the pink glow of early sunlight, the color spectrum quickly filling in while I was fumbling for my camera.

  Dick's Peak
Menno in front of a slide, northeast face of Dick's Peak.
After breakfast, we climbed the remaining 1500' to the top of Jack's Peak. The snow was crust; not breakable crust though, you couldn't break it with a sledgehammer. Still, Menno was able to coax some tele turns on the descent to the saddle where we left our packs. I did some loud parallel turns, and Phil, having left his skis at the saddle, did an interesting sitting glissade.

From there we plotted our ascent of the somewhat higher Dick's Peak. The top section had spotty coverage, so we'd leave our skis on the ridge and scramble the last few hundred feet. Which is how it happened. And, as it turned out, the south-facing bowl that we descended had probably the nicest snow of the day; jump-teles brought us to the base quickly where we saw... some other guys randonnee skiing an even better line right from the summit.

We soon found that the nice snow would only be found on south-facing slopes. Which meant that all of our remaining ascent sections were on nice soft smooth snow. But all of our remaining descents were north-facing. Hard, crusty, and worse yet, variable. At one point, I left an imprint of my face in the hard snowpack, not long before Phil took an impressive tumble. Menno, well, he acknowledged that there was one spot where his form wavered a little.

Descending to below 7000' near Crystal Lake, we post-holed and hiked a brief south-facing section, and then proceeded on skis to the Emerald Bay 'Inspiration Point' overlook, not far from our shuttle car. Overall a good trip. But, with a total of 5 people putting lines down Dick's Peak, I can't help thinking that maybe what this place needs is a better magazine ad campaign.

-Bob Akka, 2/25/02

Route info, and one other photo from this trip, on the Trans-Desolation main page

Another trip (with photos) to the same area in 1997