Jack's Peak: No Luau at Lake Aloha

12 Jun 1995 - by Aaron Schuman

We crossed seven different kinds of snow, beginning when we entered the Desolation Wilderness at the Echo Lakes snow park, and continuing almost until we left the wilderness at Fallen Leaf Lake.

Everything in informal Desolation is known by first names (Dick's Peak, Suzie's Lake), so in keeping with this tradition, I'll just identify us as Ted, Noreen, Bob, Milush, John, trip leader Kelly, and yours truly, Aaron.

Early along, we saw how harsh the winter was in Desolation, as I discovered a frozen porcupine. We collected a few quills for show and tell, but we decided to leave the porcupine jerky for you to enjoy when you're next in the area.

We surmounted 2635 meter Keith's Dome on our way to our campsite beside the frozen Lake Aloha. This lake is famous for its hundreds of lovely islands, but the snow lay so deep atop the ice that we couldn't see any islands at all. Where snow had melted near a boulder on the shore, we could see that the depth was about 5 meters. In spite of the beauty of the lake and the nearby peaks enshrouded in smooth whiteness, we huddled in our tents seeking refuge from the fierce wind.

Sunday morning we kicked steps up the long ramp to the south ridge of Jack's Peak, then walked the talus, swept clean of snow by the gales, to the 3004 meter summit. The first 400 meters of our descent were a thrilling, earpopping, sitting glissade.

With temperatures were above 10 degrees Celsius, there was tremendous melting taking place, the creeks were very high, and the waterfalls were stunning. In our downclimb, we needed to cross a swollen drainage with only a partial log jam for a bridge. A couple crossed, but it looked like it would be difficult for the others. Kelly earned the leader of the month award by wading in the freezing runoff to help the others over the river.

The final kilometer of our journey should have been a gentle stroll on an unpaved road, but the massive meltoff had flooded the area, and we completed that leg of the trip calf deep in water.

Because the conditions in Desolation were so wintery, even at such a low elevation, in mid June, we can expect to find significant snow in any Sierra destination, particularly in the high country, all season. Take heed: plan to pack snow travel equipment such as waterproof boots and gaiters for every trip you go on in 1995.

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