Sunday, June 8, 2014

Trip Report: Mt. Tallac via Gilmore Lake in the Desolation Wilderness

(Writing this blog post on 6/21 about a trip that happened two weeks ago...  better late than never!)

Continuing west, we decided to swing by Lake Tahoe on a whim after a suggestion from our SLC hosts.  Sunset from the eastern shore of the lake was beautiful.

The not-so-glamorous parts of life in The Matrix:  the mosquitoes were so bad that they were landing on, and attempting to bite, our dinner sausages (gross).  You can only imagine what they were doing to us!
cooking dinner at spooner summit in serious clouds of mosquitoes
 At this point, we had been on the road for a week, and we hadn't really "done" anything except drive.  I was itching to get away from cars, roads, and people.

We decided on a simple overnight trip from Fallen Leaf Lake/ Glen Alpine trailhead (6,540') up to Gilmore Lake (8,350'), then on to Mt. Tallac (9,500').  More time to acclimatize and another chance to test my DIY gear before my Yosemite solo.

relief map of our trip
The hike up the Glen Alpine trail was really beautiful.  I enjoyed the wildflowers, giant trees, and the moderate trail.  There was one very confusing trail junction (see beta below), but otherwise, the walk was pretty easy.

The shady shores of Gilmore Lake still had some snow piles in early June.  Not a lot, but enough for a snowball or three!

incoming! duck!
After making camp, we started up the trail toward Mt. Tallac.  Very soon we found ourselves WAY OFF TRAIL and bushwhacking up the mountain.  From the cairns and occasional bootprints, it was clear that we weren't the first to make this mistake.

bushwhacking :-/
By following the contour lines on the map, we were able to meet up with the summit trail.  A little rocky scrambling, and we were at the top!

looking toward the california sierra - one of those "once in a lifetime" shots - butterfly flies through the frame!
awesome views of lake tahoe (left) and fallen leaf lake (right)
gilmore lake, where we camped, in the distance
The weather was perfect for relaxing on the summit.  After so many miserable Adirondack summits, I can see why Californians like their weather!

Back at camp...
tarptent for dave; hammock with net for me
...the mosquitoes were swarming SO THICKLY it was impossible to leave any skin uncovered.  I was told that the mozzies do this for a few weeks each year, and we managed to arrive right in the middle of their annual block party.
fully covered and still hiding in the tent
dawn from the hammock. safe from the mosquitoes!
On the return walk to the trailhead, mosquitoes were biting through my long-sleeved shirt while I was walking.  Pretty intense...  but the wildflowers were still so pretty!

more wildflowers
I would recommend this trip as an easy-moderate overnight to escape the Lake Tahoe crowds.  But!  You should take some trail beta with you, because there were a few times that Dave and I found ourselves mighty confused, even with a map and compass.

Trail Beta

First, shortly after you pass the old Glen Alpine camp, you will see what appears to be a trail junction marker.  Just kidding!  It's not.  Both arrows for Susie Lake AND Grass Lake are pointing in the same direction - up the trail.  Keep going and don't bear right (north).

Second, there is a tricky turn on the established trail from Gilmore Lake to Mt. Tallac.  As you walk up the gentle slope leading away from the lake, you will pass a large downed tree before coming upon the first rocky slide.
pay attention for this tree!
It appears that the main trail goes left - but you want to go RIGHT, where you see Dave standing in that photo.  Continue for a few seconds to the base of the rocky hillside, and BEAR RIGHT again, a >90 degree turn right around the trees shown in this photo.  You will ascend the hillside on the right side of the rocks, looking for cairns before finding a herd path.
go right, again, around the trees in the center of the photo
It seems that folks who go off-trail traverse farther and lower down around the lake, then climb the col on the western side of the mountain, then traverse again around to the bottom.  The established (shorter) trail takes a more gentle climb up toward Mt. Tallac, veering away from the lake earlier and not heading directly toward the col.

Hope that helps!

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