Glen Alpine Traverse day 2: Dicks Peak to Fallen Leaf Lake

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April 17, 2016
I woke up roughly 20 minutes before sunrise with half the tent in my face. The wind at my position had been gusting at 45mph for the last several hours, and sleep came in only short bursts as I was periodically jostled awake by violent tent shaking. I was quite glad to see that the long night was over, and staggered over to the summit with the camera to wait for sunrise. Summit winds were in excess of 60mph so I huddled below some rocks, only emerging periodically to snap a few photos and admire the view.

Back at the tent, I quickly packed up, walked back over to the summit, and started down Dick's northeast ridge. Great views followed me all the way down the ridge, which steepened to 45 degrees at some points, complete with icy snow.

looking back up the northeast ridge

I sat down for a quick snack break at Dicks Pass before continuing on to Kalmia Peak. Somewhere around here was the Pacific Crest Trail, but there was too much snow to tell precisely where it was.

The walk up Kalmia's broad west ridge was a straightforward snow walk up a tree-covered slope.

views from Kalmia Peak

The last big peak on the traverse, Mt. Tallac, now loomed over to the east. Tallac was known for being one of the most climbed mountains in the Sierra (not from this direction, of course) and I had known about its existence for a while, but having never climbed it myself, was now taken over by curiosity for the mountain. The traverse to Tallac from Kalima was pretty straightforward. The only small hitch in the ridge that made it anything more than a walk was a series of broken cliffs at the lowpoint between Kalmia and Tallac. This ~500 ft section of cliffs necessitated some light class 3 scrambling, and was probably class 2 without snow. The last 800 ft of gain to Tallac was characterized as a long slog up a slope with trees gradually growing more scarce as I ascended higher.

between Kalmia and Tallac

summit of Tallac

Tallac contained a superb view towards Lake Tahoe as well as the Crystal Range, and I could immediately see why it was a popular peak. With views like this and such easy accessibility with its proximity to Tahoe, it was sure to draw crowds, especially on summer days.

The last peak of the day, Cathedral Peak, did not look too exciting, but it was a named peak so I decided that it might be worth checking out. Cathedral sits roughly 1.6 linear miles SSE of Tallac, on the southern tip of Tallac's giant summit plateau. On the topo, Cathedral has no discernible prominence, appearing as just another part of Tallac's summit plateau. Reaching it involved a long uneventful slog across the plateau, interspersed by a few scenic views towards Tahoe.

views while slogging towards Cathedral

Although the views did somewhat open up on Cathedral, it was not too different than what I had already seen from Tallac. Still, it was a nice perch and I was happy to have tagged it.

views from Cathedral

My next order of business was getting off the Tallac plateau and back down to Fallen Leaf Lake. My plan was to leave the plateau at a trail (or where there should be a trail, under all that snow), 0.5 linear miles northwest of Cathedral Peak. The trail headed northeast, taking me around the western side of Cathedral Lake before dropping east to Fallen Leaf Lake.

Since there was no visible trail, I happily glissaded halfway down to Cathedral Lake before picking up a snowshoe trail and following that northward. After a little while, I realized I was too far north, having overshot the trail that was supposed to drop east. Since I was already halfway down Cathedral Creek, I decided to just follow the creek down the rest of the way and intersect a trail running along the western shore of Fallen Leaf Lake. This turned out to be a bad idea, as the last half mile of Cathedral Creek was choked with 6-8ft tall manzanita, and just progressing a few feet downward was an utter nightmare in some spots. I wrestled with the stuff for almost 30 minutes before emerging at the lakeside trail covered in manzanita. Upon reaching the trail, the remainder was straightforward. I followed the trail south for a mile to where it intersected a paved road at a private parking area, then followed the road to the south side of Fallen Leaf Lake for 0.6 mi where I arrived back at the trailhead to find Mason sitting there reading a book.

where I should've intersected the lakeside trail

west side of Fallen Leaf Lake

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