I noticed that they had crampons and axes and realized that they were indeed more prepared than I for such conditions -- apparently they've been doing laps on the trail every day to try to help it melt out! What heroes!
We met up at our designated tree which had just enough shade for the four of us. We put our skins out in the sun to dry as much as possible and had a pleasant lunch, enjoying the fine spring weather. All across Lake Aloha, small teardrops of brilliant azure snowmelt accumulated in various low spots.
Now that we were out of the chute it was apparent that whatever few rocks we had hit on the exit were nothing compared to what was in store for us. We spent a few minutes picking our way through the rocky snowfield (or perhaps snowy rockfield?) and near the bottom I found room to link a few turns but was again punished by the rocks just before we made it to the clear.
To follow a long day of hiking with mediocre skiing, I wanted to give Zach a more standard Tahoe backcountry experience: good snow, challenging terrain, and exceptional views!
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.
I gained another 50 feet and the flapping of my hood against my helmet was deafening. I saw a rocky outcrop above me and climbed toward it to take shelter in its lee and formulate a plan. As I rounded the outcropping on the windward side, the intensifying wind pushed me against the rock and I tried to regain my footing but found that I was utterly pinned.
After thirty feet the couloir widened, but the snow covered granite wall still towered above on either side. Below me gleamed Lake Tahoe and the north end of Fallen Leaf Lake. There can't be many ski descents in the world to equal this!
The top of the peak appeared as if cast from a single piece of granite, with wonderfully bubbly and creative shapes.
Underwear notwithstanding, the view from Flagpole Peak is quite spectacular. Not only does the peak tower above Lower Echo Lake, but it also soars high above the north side of Echo Pass.