Adams Peak (8,197 feet) is a little known and seldom visited peak in the Diamond Mountains east of Frenchman Lake, a popular fishing location off Highway 70 north of Reno, Nevada and south of Susanville, California. This peak’s primary claim to fame seems to be that it is the northernmost peak on the Sierra Peak Section’s list (SPS List) – but it’s also on at least four other peakbagger-type lists. Since it was on our way home from our hikes around Lake Tahoe, we decided to add it to our itinerary. We found that this is one of those peaks where the drive to the trailhead seems to involve more navigational convolutions than the hike itself.
Mount Elwell (7,818 feet) overlooks Long Lake in the heart of the Lakes Basin Recreation Area in the Tahoe National Forest north of Lake Tahoe. We were attracted to this peak because it provided a reason to visit the Lakes Basin and because of its presence on the Sierra Peak Section’s list (SPS List) – note that we’re not “finishing the list”, only using it for hike ideas. Though it’s an easy hike to the summit, arriving there provides an exceptional view of the Lakes Basin below it, as well as of the Sierra Buttes, Weber Peak, and Sardine Peak to the south and southeast; Mount Lassen can also been seen to the northwest on a clear day (which wasn’t true this day due to forest fire smoke haze). We got to the Lakes Basin trailhead near Elwell Lodge early enough to find only a few cars already in the small parking lot. Unfortunately, the LovedOne discovered a hike-ending equipment shortfall soon after our arrival, but then generously voluntered to wait for me at the trailhead. Sigh. Because of the waiting, I promised to do this loop hike as fast as possible.
The Sierra Buttes (8,591 feet) are a striking geological feature in the Tahoe National Forest near the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. They are composed of highly erosion resistant quartz prophry that exploded from undersea volcanoes about 300 million years ago. We were attracted to them – as are many others – by the unique lookout on their high point, their presence on the Sierra Peak Section’s list (SPS List), and the fact that we hadn’t spent much time in this northern part of the Sierras. Later we would find that this lookout is billed as a major tourist attraction in just about every brochure covering this part of the Sierra Nevada. You can drive – probably not with a 2WD sedan – to within 0.5 miles of the lookout but we opted to hike up from the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) trailhead off Forest Road 93-02 (you can also do a longer hike up by starting at Packer Lake). We got to the trailhead fairly early only to find several cars already there, dirt bikers roaring along the road, and a way station for a mountain bike race that was scheduled to start soon. We would also encounter a lot of people along the trail. Our bad for doing this hike on a weekend!
Granite Chief (9,006 feet) sits on the edge of the Granite Chief Wilderness (details), just west of the Squaw Valley Ski Resort. We chose to approach the peak via the Granite Chief Trail (USFS #15E23) and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), with a little cross-country on a sandy use trail at the end. This peak was attractive both for the view from its summit and for the views that could be had along the Granite Chief Trail and the PCT. If there’s anything tricky about this hike, it’s finding the start of the trail.
Mount Rose, at 10,776 feet, is the highest peak in Nevada’s Tahoe Basin and the 3rd highest mountain in the Lake Tahoe Basin (Freel Peak at 10,881 feet is the highest and Jobs Sister, at 10,823 feet, is the second highest). The very well-used trail to the summit of Mount Rose is typically described as “…the most popular trail in the State of Nevada…” owing to the proximity of all the people in Reno and Lake Tahoe (and probably Sacramento and San Francisco too). This proximity seemingly results in the trailhead parking lot overflowing on summer weekends – which is impressive given that there is space for 50 cars! I figured my chances for a less crowded hike would be best early on a weekday so, after a short drive up from Reno, I left the trailhead at 0630 on a Wednesday, with only six cars ahead of me in the parking lot.
Earlier this year, my brother-in-law (Russ), nephew (Bart), and myself planned a multi-day backpack through California’s John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. I jumped through the permitting hoops for this and we all wrangled with what constituted a bear cannister acceptable to both the Forest Service and the National Park Service. Sadly, neither bureaucracy has officially recognized the UrSack (my preferred food storage container), so we were stuck with those unwieldy and hard-to-pack plastic barrels. But there are good reasons for the permits and the cannisters, so we worked through it all and were ready to go by late July. I spent the night before their arrival (they were flying out from the East Coast) in Bridgeport, California and, early the next morning, drove down to the Virginia Lakes trailhead – one of the gateways to the Hoover Wilderness (details) – to get in a short warmup hike before going on to meet them in Bishop.
After the LovedOne tweaked a disc in her cervical spine our ability to do multi-day backpacks pretty much came to an end (this was before we discovered ME-2 Packs). I despaired at ever being able to share with her the High Sierra – where I had spent almost all of the 1980s backpacking and climbing. Then it dawned on me (duh!) that the Yosemite High Sierra Camps offered us another chance. With these, you carry just your personal gear – which I can do for both of us – and the camps supply tents and food. There are a total of five camps and the ideal trip is to hike them in a continuous loop. But access is limited by a lottery (which this year had 3900 applications for 900 spaces), so we weren’t able to score a loop but did score the highest (Vogelsang), lowest (Merced Lake), and most remote (both) of the five camps. Continue reading →