NEEDLE PEAK (8,971') 4X AND GRANITE CHIEF (9,006') 6X

September 14, 2003

Feeling like doing some peaks with this fine, late summer weather, I woke up early again. Headed up Interstate 80 in the pre-dawn night, I stopped for breakfast in Truckee, CA.

My mind was to bag three peaks this day. I needed Needle Peak for my 4X "Ogul" list completion, and I haven't climbed Granite Chief for many years. I figured to make a long day by also bagging Tinker Knob, another three miles each way, from the south.

Starting from the Squaw Valley ski resort parking lot at 6:55 a.m., I went past the fire station to find the trail. It climbs nicely up the slope of the valley, with lots of greenery, and a few small creeks to cross. Some details have changed, so I will update my peaks guide.

I stopped for a rest higher up, as it was getting warmer. I brought three liters of water, but that wasn't enough today. I came to the PCT, and headed left to climb and drop along this trail. The view of the peak from the lower meadow was pleasant.

Atop the main crest, I saw red heather grew prominently on the northwest slopes of Squaw Peak. This is a colorful harbinger of Fall.

And also on reaching the Sierra Crest, I found that the use trail to the top of Granite Chief was not signed. I had to look somewhat, but remembered about where it ran, and soon was heading on steep, sandy trail, for the top. I chose to climb Needle Peak first. A route downward over large boulders heads toward the ridge that connects these two peaks. I knew to look for a use trail, and found it quickly. It was looking good for this day.

A small rounded bump needs to be circumvented, and I didn't find any use trail, here, to make the walking easier. I came to the ridge saddle, and looked down to the north at Needle Lake. I recall an overnight trip I made here once, where a Club group camped together, in better times, for me and the local chapter.

The route gets brushy, then the sidehilling gets steep and rough. Past the interesting cliffs on the south side of the peak, I headed up to catch the high class 2 gully up the far side of the summit mass. Only my knowledge, of how short the climbing and scrambling really is, kept me going.

I topped out at 11:17 a.m. It had been slow. I had carried up my tripod to use for a good set of photos to stitch together and make a panorama. It was breezy, and I had problems with my hair getting blown about. I placed a small register, and savored my ability to again confidently climb solo. This is not an easy climb, with many places to possibly get hurt.

After snapping more photos, I left the top at Noon. The warmer temps had caused the use of two liters of water, already. As I scrambled along the peak cliffs, I figured to slow down and be safer. My idea to go over and bag Tinker Knob started to look like a distant thought.

I passed the smaller bump enroute, and navigated well to climb back to the top of Granite Chief. I got there at 1:39 p.m.

Again, I used my tripod to shoot photos for a panorama, and drank some water. Two hikers came up to chat, and for pictures. I read the summit register, and saw some County Highpointers had made it here. This was once thought to be the highpoint of Placer County. The SPS group I had tried to join last week was signed in.

I finally started down at 2:53 p.m. I was able to follow the whole use trail downward, and noted its start for my guide. The PCT dips some 100 or so feet while traversing over to the trail junction, going back to Squaw Valley. I enjoyed my time, and took a rest at an overlook of the resort.

Other hikers appeared, and I slowed down, perhaps for a magic hour photo shoot somewhere. There were no clouds, so no great sunset. I started to hear cars, and came back to my parking spot by 5:54 p.m. I snapped photos of the resort buildings. I have never lift-skied here, and hoped to do so sometime. But the high lift ticket prices, with my frugality, prompts me to keep doing backcountry skiing.

Drinking my cold sodas, I motored off, and used I-80 to get home quickly.

I had hiked some 12 miles with 3,700' gain, round trip. I shot almost 300 digital images and movie clips. I spent the usual small amount for fast food and drink.

I wore just a polyester T and jeans most of the morning. I stripped down to shorts on my way down. I picked up two bites somehow, but saw no mosquitoes. A pullover helped with the gusting summit winds.

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