RALSTON PEAK 27X August 2, 2008

After a time of frugality, with costs up to 4.659 for a gallon of local, regular gas, the price sank to 3.999 this Saturday morning. Summer was passing by. I was still waiting for a weather window for a trip to the Northern Rockies, but due to my concerns about limiting my driving for global warming and conservation purposes, I ignored one window in the past week. The ten day now showed a near constant chance of rain and lightning out there for the next week, so I began to wonder if I shouldn't save this trip for next summer.

I can quickly make alternate plans, and the idea of day climbs back here in the Northern Sierra didn't sound so bad. I badly wish to lose weight, and I can have my peak fun and burn lots of calories for still fairly cheap. Walking about town on flat sidewalk and bike trail isn't as good as climbing a mountain. As far as road trips, there's a few peaks in Utah and Nevada that I can climb in the fall, too, a favorite time for me.

The number of hits on my website has really fallen, and no one is coming forward to carpool and climb. The economy is not so good, and venues for climbing, now, may sound frivolous to many.

I rapidly packed my gear and prepared to do Pyramid Peak (9,983'), a great workout, with nearly 4,000 feet of gain. Stopping at the USFS ranger station, they told me that cars were being ticketed due to the poor parking situation along U.S. 50. I filled out a wilderness permit, and as I motored past the former, road shoulder, parking op past Strawberry, CA, I decided not to risk a fine. It looked like some pick-up trucks were parked, though, but my usual parking for this use trail was orange coned. I had only seconds to decide as I whizzed by. I'd rather have more peak ascents on Pyramid, a much more worthy peak, but Ralston, again, would have to do, today.

I had a roll of Kodachrome that I wished to finish, so packed my big, heavy film camera. Starting up the Mt. Ralston trail by about 10:15 a.m., I hiked up the initial dirt road. The self service permit station had plenty of blank forms to fill out. On the morning TV news, they had said how the wildfire smoke had all dissipated, and the weather was forecast to be excellent. Indeed, this was as good as it gets, for Northern Sierra summer peak hiking.

I worked up a chat with two other hikers, and didn't snap as many photos as I normally would. My memory cards are now well tested. A month ago, though, one card gave little warning as it failed, and I had to return it to the manufacturer for a replacement. Some of my work was lost forever. At least I got that card for cheap, with a lifetime warranty.

Soon, I rested after feeling the slight altitude, and drank more of my two liters of water. I really need to climb more often, as I get out of shape too fast, now. From the high, 8,440+ foot saddle, I chose to go the longer route by the designated trail, instead of the more direct use trail. I had plenty of time. This longer way is more gradual, and some years, it has a vivid, colorful, wildflower show. Not so much this season, though.

On the top of the ridge, the side trail to the summit was marked by a cairn and stick. In the past, this side summit trail was much less distinct. I waited a bit for the other two hikers, but they went over to see a view, so I left for the top. It had taken me to 1:39 p.m., to finish the hike to the top--pretty slow. But, I was carrying a heavier load, and speaking with the other hikers, had taken my time.

There was a good breeze. I began snapping pictures, with the typical summer vistas. Only a few clouds on the southern horizon. The Sweetwater Mountains along the CA/NV border were clearly seen. I surmised some peaks about Sonora Pass were peeping out from above a ridge. The Crystal Range had some residual snow, with none or very little seen about the other peaks. I could see the boats on the lakes, and cars on the highways.

Other hikers came up, and I rested nicely. Good to be doing this, rather than my usual, flat, city and river walks. I shot more pictures as I wished, then started back down at 3:30 p.m. Some few more hikers were climbing up the trail, and my total round trip time was 7:17.

To a phone, I asked a potential partner, living in Lake Tahoe, to meet me at Echo Summit. It's my policy to meet first before doing any peak together. We chatted by the Echo Lake Chalet as I drank a beverage, and got to know each other better, though I was a bit tired and refused to commit to another peak this weekend. We talked till dark, and I had to leave.

Having a burger in Placerville, I was shortly home, and unloaded my gear, showered, and got to my computer.

The hike entailed about 9 miles with 2,800 feet of gain, round trip. I captured about 230 images, mostly of the sights from the summit. I had spent $20 for gas, and maybe $9 for food and drink.

It was shorts and T-shirt weather, all day. I became a bit dehydrated, but replenished my bodily fluids once back to a store. With a few bugs about, I saw no mosquitoes. I think there is no stagnant water along this trail, right now.

I am prepping this person for a few future peak climbs, as he says he is also interested in climbing peaks in the Coast Range, when it cools down. What my web offers bring to me. The outlook is grim for more travel and such "frivolous" activities, by most people, but I seem to remain the only person from the past, local, peak sections, to keep doing this.