Skiing (and hiking) Dicks Peak in late June

This TMS Adventure of the Week comes from our hard goods manager, Kevin, an accomplished athlete whose achievements include the Pain McSlonkey Classic and now this Dick’s Peak epic.

WHO: Myself, Eric Yates, Nathan Corona

WHAT: Grueling 15 miles of hiking, along with a few miles of skiing

WHEN: June 26, 2011

WHERE: Dick’s Peak, Desolation Wilderness, California

WHY: Because Eric suggested it, and I said “sure.”

HOW LONG: Over 11 ½ hours

WHAT I LEARNED: I am breakable, and I should bring shoes next time I decide to hike all day for snow in the spring.

GEAR: DaKine Sequence Pack, Contour 1080p helmet camera, Mountain Hardwear Canyon Shirt, K2 Sidestash skis (yes, I took the Sidestash), 22Designs Axl binding, Smartwool Microweight Tee, Black Diamond Arc Gloves, Kuhl Renegade shorts, Deuter Streamer reservoir, Steri Pen

Death marches are not something that I am unfamiliar with. I have spent entire days hiking and scrambling 20-plus miles, logging 5,000 vertical feet, multiple blisters, testing my emotional and physical endurance, all for the sake of a broke-down hiker. Or just for the sake of seeing “what’s over there.” I’ve never done it in ski boots, however.

Upon leaving the Eagle Falls parking lot at 9am with my fellow crucible-enthusiasts, I decided to leave my hiking shoes, long sleeve, and extra jacket with the car. We were going to be doing most of our hiking on snow, and the temperature was forcasted for about 70F. We finally reached consistent snow about 2 miles in, making the hiking in boots much more comfortable. Three hours in, and after a short break we began ascending from Dick’s Lake to the summit. Somehow it took the one snowboarder in our trio one hour to summit, beating both telemarkers by a whole hour.

At the summit of Dick’s Peak, we were all blown away by the amount of snow blanketing the peaks that surrounded us. It is still January up there, when you look south. There’s still lots and lots of water yet to melt into our lakes! After admiring the view, and having a snack of salmon, cheese and the celebratory PBR, we began the decent. The snow was spectacular. Soft spring corn. The best part was our ability to ski from the peak, all the way to the lake’s edge, with consistent snow through the entire decent.

On the return hike, we decided to bag another, shorter peak that was along the way. The steep, south-facing granite slab that extends to the top of this peak made for a difficult ascent in ski boots, and carbide-tipped ski poles proved to be difficult to use. The snow on the other side was well worth the climb, aside from some watermelon sized sun-cups at the bottom.

On our decent out of Desolation, we ended up descending a bit too far, towards Eagle Lake. The quickest option back to the trail seemed to be a climb, straight up a 400-500 foot rocky, dirty, slope. This required deliberate movements, frequent mode switching, between ski poles and bare hands, as well as figuring out how to use the duckbills on my tele boots in the same fashion I would use the points on the ends of my climbing shoes. After already muscling through a long day, I was tired, losing patience, and pretty much lost it when I smacked my head into my skis, leaving a knot. I also left my friends with a bad impression of their backcountry partner, after letting more expletives loose at my skis, than Ike would throw at Tina. Their silence alluded to this.

After a quick snack and a break I was feeling more in control, and within minutes we were back on the trail. Unfortunately this detour added nearly two hours onto our trip, and more miles onto my boot-beaten feet. We still had a long decent out of Eagle Falls. The worst part was possibly the last mile of gigantic steps, and downhill trail. I had not factored this in when I left my shoes in the car, and at that point we all would have given anything for our tennies, or Chacos, or flips. Around 8:30pm we arrived back at the car to warm beer, and an open roadside parking lot, that made the world’s best substitute for a carpeted floor.

By the way, the Tahoe City McDonalds is NOT open until 10pm on a Sunday in the off-season.

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk (or hike, surf, climb or Desolation Wilderness ski) in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

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