RALSTON PEAK (9,235') 21X May 31, 2003

Feeling like a hike for the weekend, I did some chores this Saturday morning, and left home at about 11 a.m. for a hike along U.S. 50. I noted the new development as I passed by Folsom, and traffic was heavier than I would usually remember for a weekend morning.

Stopping at the USFS Information Center on Carson Road Exit, I saw a notice where this facility would be "closed permanently on September 15, 2003." I used the restroom for maybe one final time, and obtained a permit tag for my hike into Desolation Wilderness.

The South Fork of the American River was going well. Plenty of class 4 rapids. I pulled off the highway for a few photos and movie clips. Traffic up here was much lighter. I intended to do an easier hike. Horsetail Falls fit the bill. Coming to the Pyramid Creek Trailhead, I could get no parking spot. They were all full. The self-pay parking fee was now $3, so after a bit of a wait, I chose to motor on.

Coming to the still free, but primitive, parking for Ralston Peak, I decided to hike up this trail to get my exercise. I saw, from about Strawberry, that most of the snow on the south facing slopes was gone. The highest slopes had patchy to solid coverage. I would go as high as I desired.

After filling out my permit, and then depositing the white copy into the iron ranger, I started up the trail at about 1 p.m. I ran into a patch of snow after ten minutes. These were isolated patches, however, lingering in the cool and shadows of the deep forest. Most of the trail wasn't snowy. I thought I was doing poorly. I felt fatigued, and slow. Figured it was my low fat diet, or somehow, altitude. My time seemed so slow!

I came to more snow, and missed my usual break spot, with it's view to Pyramid Peak. Taking a long rest, I drank some water, and then felt better. I had lots of daylight. I figured three hours up, and two down.

Soon, I could see I was closing in on the summit. The snow was good for hiking over, and I was following some footprints. A couple hiked down past me, stating, "Too much snow." I continued, since I have done this peak many times, with more snow than this.

I amazed myself with a good time to the saddle at 8,500' elevation. It was only some 700' to the top. I hiked up the snow. It had been stated to be rotten, but I found my feet sinking in at only a few spots. This was spring snow climbing Heaven! I had no ice axe, but didn't need one.

I climbed up over a rise, and there, the summit rocks loomed, only minutes away. I was now enjoying this! Another couple hiked down with full packs. They were preparing for Mt. Shasta. Cool!

Coming to some small talus fields, I gained the top at 3:25 p.m.

Beautiful! I took off my pack, knowing I would be here for quite awhile. I began snapping many photos. I have two new memory cards to test, having scored quite the bargain on the Internet. I did movie pans of the view, and shot scenes over and over. I now have memory!

I shot pictures of myself, then a cute little chipmunk made a close subject. This was so great! A wind made things more chilly, but I was fine in my polyester T. I sipped more water, and enjoyed this peak as I rarely have. I had done better than a thousand feet per hour, average, so I was in good shape.

Finally getting lonely and bored, I headed down at 4:10 p.m. Plenty of time! I shot movies downward of my plunge-stepping, and the snow footprints passing under my feet. I came back to the 8,500' saddle and partook of many more standing glissades. Excellent!

Back to the dirt trail, I noted the conditions. Water was running down parts of it, with erosion occuring before my very eyes. I snapped a few movie clips for the USFS, maybe, and continued downward. Lower on the mountain, several trees had fallen across the trail. These were easily detoured around, or climbed over. This trail isn't well maintained, with lots of forest debris. You have to keep an eye on the trail, lest you lose it and get lost!

Coming into the deep forest, I heard the cars on the highway, then came to the end of the marked trail. There, two hikers I knew from old Sierra Club trips greeted me. Among other things, we had skied or snowshoe'd (me, then) across backcountry Yosemite together in early April, 1973. Starting in Yosemite Valley, we had backpacked, for eight days, to Mammoth Mountain, via Tuolumne Meadows. Definitely the most strenuous undertaking ever done for the local chapter!

I spent a long time talking with them, and finally got back to my car by 6:20 p.m. My descent travel time without the conversations would have been 1.5 hours. We agreed to meet for a small meal, to remember old times. Many of us old-timers are still around, and still hiking. I seem to be the only one still peak climbing. The two had gone up the trail maybe a thousand feet gain, but chose to turn around.

My stats for the day are about 8 miles with 2,800' gain. I shot 150 MB worth of digital images and movie clips, being some 160 photos and movie clips. I wore just my cap, trusty old Capilene T, with jeans. I had low cut boots, not expecting to snow-hike, but my two heavy socks made sure my feet felt fine. Again, no ice axe, and no gaitors. A good start to the local peaks climbing summer!