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Jack’s Peak

Location: Desolation Wilderness
Elevation: 9,856′
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 from Jack’s of the Crystal Range is really sweet and shows some seriously beautiful and easy 2000′ peaks to climb above Aloha like Pyramid, Agassiz, and Price. You’ll also wonder why your 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, which I haven’t tried yet. It sure is filled in well to ski that wall right now though, maybe I’ll go next week finally! There is a short window where this amazing looking steep terrain above Half Moon Lake is filled in enough to ski in late March / early April.  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.
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 there worth skiing. It’s just 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 lightweight ski gear. Your going to be carrying it, and you are not likely to ski anything steep and scary in the Crystal Range. However if you think you might drop Crystal Crag, Halls or Angel Couloirs on the north side of Echo Peak as a bonus run, then maybe I understand your mid weight AT gear. The glide back to the car at Glen Alpine Trailhead from Susie Lake would be impossible on a snowboard. Your going to skin and walk a lot, so better to aim for deep snow at the car or commit to a multi day split fest at Aloha. I’ve come back both along the summer trail route and also hugging the south side of the valley to avoid all the wetlands. The later is definitely better, but stay clear of the runout path of all the afternoon wet slides below the steep slopes you see. 
Call USFS and ask/thank them for opening the gate asap in the spring so we can access the heart of Desolation Wilderness please! This 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. Starting maybe 10 years ago, USFS kept the gate locked winter and spring until the official Glen Alpine trailhead  is finally melted fully. I get it why they might wait….as there is no other official parking. Ask them why isn’t there any parking by the way! The fire station back there is not used in the winter yet they plow that parking lot. And there is plenty of room just behind it if they would plow just a little more for a few hardcore local ski touring folks. I’m not suggesting building a huge thing or advertising to the world. Just let us ski back there for a few prime weeks when skier access makes sense. By the time the true trailhead parking lot is accessible, you are in for a 90 minute walk to snow. 
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 Maggie’s. Then skiing Janine’s behind Maggies. Finally you’ll ski Dick’s behind both of those. Go the long low angle easy way, and come back skiing the NE side of these peaks. Ok, got that? THEN…instead of skiing Dick’s, wrap around the south side of it from Dick’s Col (not Dick’s Pass),  and resist the temptation to drop perfect corn snow down to Half Moon Lake from Dick’s. Climb maybe 10 minutes up to Jack’s Peak next door to tag that summit and get a better view of Aloha and the Crystals. Now drop to Half Moon Lake and schlog back towards your car over Janine and Maggies. If you run out of steam you could skip going over Maggie’s at the end of the day and just try to glide right out Cascade Drainage and hold your elevation to wrap around back to the car like you see the summer trail does on the map. Another variation I haven’t tried would be to ski Jack’s east side down to Half Moon Lake, and then skin up to Tallac for a descent down the steep north treed slopes and join the same Cascade Creek Trail which leads to your car at Bayview Trailhead. Choosing north facing terrain to ski later in the day is your best chance for quality skiing and no wet slides. 
I’ve skied out there from Tallac, as the West Ridge goes all the way out to Dick’s Col and Jack’s Peak. It’s all the same no matter how you get to Jack’s Peak. Start early, go light, don’t bring lots of people or newer split boarders, and I predict you’ll make it back to the car before dark. I usually start at 6:30am and get back to the car by maybe 2pm from any of these trailheads. That’s going solo at a casual pace. I did bring a friend or two out there. They don’t call me to ski anymore.



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