The views in all directions were spectacular and for the first time, I was able to identify all of the major summits (as well as a few minor summits in the Cathedral Crest)!
As I exited the couloir, I made a hard right to try to get as close to the PCT as possible, but the combination of large suncups and embedded rocks made for difficult skiing. Linking turns was difficult because I never knew when the next suncup might be five feet deep or have a rock in the bottom of it!
We were all transfixed by a pillar near the top of the ridge. Kristine seems to have a deep seated desire to climb all things thumb shaped and this appeared to fit the bill. Chris and I were also intrigued by the pillar and we unanimously agreed to head there and climb it if possible.
I don’t even recall meeting a significant stream crossing when I’d taken the trail in October. Now, it seemed like at least two feet of water buried a fifteen foot stretch of trail.
We summited unceremoniously and I regretted having told Zach that Freel had “the best view in Tahoe.” At the moment, we could hardly see a hundred feet.
Eventually the rock became loose enough that we could plunge step, but this also meant that it was loose enough to pick up momentum. I was fortunate to happen to look back up the slope just as the rock was starting to slide on its own and shouted to Rafee to take cover. We managed to jump to the side as several soccer ball sized rocks came hurtling past.
Although I didn’t recognize many peaks in the Carson Iceberg Wilderness, I spied The Three Chimneys and Granite Dome in Emigrant Wilderness as well as now familiar Tower Peak, far south in Yosemite. I also spied a distant peak between Sonora and Stanislaus Peaks and was amazed to later identify it as Mt Lyell, 60 miles distant on the far side of Yosemite!
We arrived at the crux of the climb where I had read that the standard route ran up the gut of this gully and was called “The Staircase.” I could indeed see the large 3-5 foot ledges and agreed that this was probably the easiest way up, normally. At that moment, however, the steps were buried in 3 to 12 inches of snow.
The conglomerate was contorted into all sorts of interesting and unusual shapes and it reminded me of Kirkwood. Suddenly I was dreaming of returning back to this area when it would be buried under several feet of snow.
This is far and away both the largest and the most experienced group of people I’ve ever hiked with. I don’t imagine I will have to worry about the group slowing me down much during this trip!