Location: Desolation Wilderness
Elevation Change: 3,500′
Recommended Map: Desolation Wilderness – Tom Harrison or Lake Tahoe Southwest – Alpine Ski Tours
Jack’s Peak isn’t skied often, which is exactly why you should go do it. You need to ski them all right? Pick a corn snow day and start really early. Go with fast people and ski a few things in a creative loop depending on which trailhead you start from. I’ll explain two variations for one day ski tours I like, but you will definitely want to camp out here after setting foot at Aloha and Half Moon Lakes. The view of the Crystal Range from the summit of Jack’s is really sweet. You’ll see some seriously beautiful and easy 2000′ peaks to climb above Aloha Lake, like Pyramid, Agassiz, and Price. You’ll also wonder why you’re not skiing the south side of Dick’s Peak just a few football fields north of Jack’s summit. And then there is the imposing north facing wall that Jack’s east arm creates, standing strong and imposing above Half Moon Lake. This wall requires late season deep snowpack, and you can see it from anywhere on the ridge between Dick’s and Kalmia Peaks. Most of the pics in this tour description are from a recent day when I skied the south side of Jack’s Peak from the Glen Alpine Trailhead on 4-13-19. I’ll put up some more. I love going out here. It’s pretty far out though, start really early and don’t invite anyone slower than you. I have enjoyed going alone with my dog and headphones after hard night freeze.
Day tour to Jack’s option 1:
Try to find out when the gate is open to drive the 5 miles on Fallen Leaf Lake Rd in South Shore and don’t wait. Carpool! There is no place to park legally or at all back there near the fire station. You really benefit from having snowpack at the car, but I have also walked for hours on dirt to find PLENTY of smooth snow coverage in the mountains back where I want to ski. Low snow depth is very annoying due to a few miles of low angle twisty terrain with multiple creeks to cross. It’s so beautiful back there that It’s worth it no matter what. I suggest really lightweight gear. You want to move fast, and you won’t be skiing anything scary. The glide back to the car at Glen Alpine Trailhead from Susie Lake would be impossible on a snowboard. There is quite a bit of pole pushing and side stepping as a skier. Splitboarders should consider ski touring around Aloha Lake as an overnight mission, and make it worth it by skiing a few peaks. When I go out to Jack’s South side from Glen Alpine, I skin across all the lakes. It’s just incredible. I always wonder where the bad ass skate skiers are, they would love this journey. on the way back however, I’ve found the best route is traverse as high as possible around the south side of all the lakes. I can glide and side-step pretty easily all the way to some old summer cabins near the access road you skin up in the morning.
Call USFS and ask/thank them for opening the gate asap in the spring so we can access the heart of Desolation Wilderness please! in one recent year they opened it at the beginning of April, which was perfect. Maybe I had some influence with my years of begging and complaining. In the 90’s we had year-round access and I doubt there were more than a few skiers on any sunny day trying to park back there. Then USFS switched to a locked winter gate near hwy 89, and we now have to wait until the Glen Alpine Trailhead is fully melted and open. This is usually too late for snow cover in that area, but I still go. It’s worth it. I just wish they would care about skiers accessing our public lands. It’s their job, but they don’t do it anywhere in the Basin. Just a few weeks earlier please! Let the diehard local backcountry skiers do what we do. Why not?
Day tour to Jack’s option 2:
I like skiing the 1700′ East side of Jack’s Peak down to Half Moon Lake, which will involve other peaks to ski around or over to get back to your car at the Bayview Trail. You can do this any day of the winter. It’s a long way out to Jack’s from this trailhead too, but you’ll work your way up to it by first skiing through Maggie’s saddle, or from Eagle Lake Trailhead in deeper snowpack. Follow my Dick’s Peak tour post to the high Col on the Dick’s Peak Ridge. You’ll see Jack’s Peak from there and traverse around to it’s summit pretty easily. If you do this, it will be hard to resist the temptation to drop into a corn snow descent down to Half Moon Lake. If you really want Jack’s Peak, go get it and realize the east facing bowl may be more wind scoured or punchy then the slope you just left behind you. Or maybe you are headed for the ski extreme wall above Half Moon Lake on Jake’s East Arm? Tell us how that goes!
II’ll tell one story here. Somewhere around 2005ish I went to Jack’s Peak from the Bayview Trailhead with Scott Shield and Cliff Lambson. Scott had skis and likes these long schlogs. Cliff is my college fraternity brother who is a good snowboarder and great athlete, but hadn’t done a lot of splitboarding. We were all pretty beat by the time we got to the summit of Jack’s. I think we aimed for Dick’s but snow was so bad, we went over to Jack’s. Or I dragged us over there ,because I hadn’t been on that one yet. At the top I realized I was going to be late for my daughter’s birthday party, which was not okay with Steph. I don’t really remember, but maybe I forgot entirely about it and she called me. The house would be full of Toddlers and she needed my help big time. I hadn’t paid much attention at that point in time to the difference in efficiency of splitboarders vs skiers. So I asked Scott to make sure Cliff survives the terribly long return trip, and skied off back home solo. I’m pretty sure they retraced our steps back over Dick’s Col and out Cascade Drainiage. Halfway to hell on skis, and all the way to hell on a snowboard. Scott didn’t get mad, I apologized a lot, and Cliff I guess didn’t know what it would be like to glide out so he didn’t complain either. It Turns out Cliff had to officiate 3 BASKETBALL GAMES that night. Run up and down the court for 3 hours, after splitboarding to Jack’s Peak. Late at night I noticed a reply to my old ski tour website messageboard from a username “gliderightout”. That was cliff. I told him don’t worry, you’ll glide right out. Um….no way do you glide right out of Dick’s Peak or Jack’s Peak.
Here are some pics from a stellar day Danny and I got to Jack’s South side last spring I think in april 2022. We also skied an east facing bowl beforehand that lies inbetween Price and Pyramid. You can see our tracks behind Danny in one of the pics where we are skinning up Jacks. It’s a narrow window to get Jacks south side in a one day with USFS opening the gate later than skiers want. Pray for a huge winter and get out there!