Meeks Traverse Day 1: Meeks Trailhead to Haakens Peak

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April 4, 2015
After spending Friday night under the stars at Meeks Trailhead (6,250 ft), the three of us packed our bags around dawn and headed out shortly before sunrise. The approach to the start of the ridge was trivial. We walked south along the main road (CA-89/Emerald Bay Rd) for roughly a quarter mile, then branched off to the right onto a smaller paved road, the start of which was marked by a red gift-shop-looking building. As that road turned to dirt 0.1 miles later, we veered south onto the ridge and began traversing along it.

It was a very pleasant sunny morning with temperatures in the mid 30s. The ridge started out gently sloping, and the terrain was pretty easy going. At around 7,600 ft, we hit the first snow, which greatly increased afterward. At around 8,200 ft, the ridge became increasingly rocky and somewhat tedious, but only class 2.

first view of Lake Tahoe shortly after getting on the ridge

more views from ascent

From below, the summit block of our first peak (Rubicon) looked sharp and imposing. Upon reaching it, we were able to climb up it via one of several class 2-3 routes on its west side. At the summit, we were treated to an expansive view of Lake Tahoe, with its vast waters glinting below us. The wind was howling in from the southwest, to the point that it was slightly difficult to stand up on the summit. We snapped a few pictures, and proceeded southward along the traverse.

climbing Rubicon's summit block

view south from Rubicon Peak




Getting down Rubicon's south ridge involved some trickier negation. When the crest itself turned to class 5, we would traverse along the ridge's west side on class 3 rock. After roughly 15 minutes of this, the rock vanished and we walked down gentle sandy slopes before ascending Stoney Ridge Peak's northwest ridge, which was straightforward class 1-2 walking on snow. We donned crampons for roughly a tenth of a mile section of ridge, but took them off upon seeing the dry class 3 summit block up ahead.

descending Rubicon's south ridge

random glimpse of the lake

Stoney Ridge Peak's summit block was a fun 25 ft feature. We were able to surmount it by climbing up to a notch on its immediate left side, then heading around the backside of the block before ascending the last few feet. 

view west-southwest from Stoney Ridge Peak





Getting down the south ridge of Stoney Ridge Peak turned out to be somewhat tedious, with the ridge crest composed of large slabs and blocks of granite. We were once again weaving back and forth along the ridge on mostly class 2 and ocassional class 3 terrain. As we approached a large bump on the ridge shortly before Jakes Peak (see map), the terrain eased up and became nice snowy slopes.

On the topo itself, Jakes Peak was nothing significant. The one interesting thing about this peak was its summit block: a 30 ft high breast-shaped monolith rising out of an otherwise boring snowfield. The summit block itself was undoubtedly class 5. I was able to ascend the block via a large crack on its northeast side (class 5.3) and descend its east side (class 5.4), utilizing several tiny holes in the rock. The rock itself was somewhat flaky and gritty.  

views between Stoney Ridge & Jakes

Jakes Peak summit block

view northwest from Jakes Peak



The ridge after Jakes Peak was a straightforward series of small rocky bumps which we climbed up and over, none of which exceeded class 2. As we reached began ascending the short northeast ridge of the next peak (Emerald Point), the slope increased to 25-30 degrees and we donned crampons for the remaining distance to the summit.

Emerald Point's summit contained spectacular views southwards towards Emerald Bay and its surrounding peaks. We only spent a few minutes at the summit due to the wind which was now roaring at 50-60mph. 

views between Jakes Peak & Emerald Point

views from Emerald Point

Emerald Point (9,195 ft) marked the southern end of the eastern ridge. It was now time to transfer onto the western ridge. An unnamed pass (which I dubbed "Rubicon Pass") located just south of Rubicon Lake marked the highest point (8,355 ft) between the two ridges. To get there, we first descended the northwestern slope of Emerald Point, then angled west down some steepening slopes until we hit the pass. It was somewhat tricky to navigate by sight due to tree coverage, but the topography was obvious. Once we hit the gully at the base of Emerald Point's northwest slope, we headed up a broad ridge to the west and dropped down the other side to Rubicon Pass.

looking northwest at our route from the summit of Emerald Point

views while descending Emerald Point

From Rubicon Pass (8,355 ft), we picked up a well defined trail which headed southwest for roughly a mile to Phipps Pass (8,770 ft). Even with large patches of snow covering up chunks of the trail, it was still fairly easy to follow since it was cut into the surrounding cliffs and there were not too many other options to go. The sky quickly clouded up as we ascended, and had become completely overcast by the time we had reached Phipps Pass. It was getting cold, and the wind was picking up again.

Our next peak, Phipps Peak, was located about half a mile southwest of Phipps Pass. We dropped our packs at Phipps Pass and followed the ridge to the southwest. At one point, the slope became icier and steeped to almost 30 degrees, which was somewhat icky since we had left our crampons back at the packs. Just before the highpoint, the ridge flattened into a large plateau, with the obvious summit blocks sticking out on the western side of the plateau.

Phipps Peak summit blocks

view south from Phipps Peak


view southwest while descending Phipps

We headed back to our packs, sat down for a few moments to eat, and proceeded north along the ridge on very easy class 1 terrain which was pretty much flat. It was only when we reached the southeast slope of Haakens Peak that the ground began rising again. After ascending the slope for less than 10 minutes, we found one of several gently sloped spots under a stand of trees, and decided to camp there for the night. The wind was blowing at a steady 10-15 mph which was luxury compared to the wind we had encountered earlier. I melted some snow for water, stuffed down a few pieces of bread, and dozed off for the night.

go to Day 2

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