Location: Desolation Wilderness
Elevation Change: 3500′
Recomended Map: Desolation Wilderness – Tom Harrison
Ski touring to Mt. Price 9975′ and the surrounding peaks of the Crystal Range requires timing and the right partners. This is a lot of low angle mileage and will likely require a lot of transitions. Walk on trail, skis on pack, skin, push without skins, skate ski, skis over shoulder, and so on. This is because USFS Lake Tahoe is not interested in opening the Fallen Leaf Lake Gate Road to the public in time for skinning near the car. Of course in a huge snow year it may happen by accident. This is THE best trailhead to access the most magical part of our local mountains, summer and winter. There is a large paved parking area back there 7 miles from hwy 89, at the Glen Alpine Falls trailhead 6500′. This paved narrow road is in terrible shape, but seems to be fine for hundreds of daily drivers going back to hike into Desolations Wilderness every day from June to October. Backcountry skiers actually used to find an open gate all winter in the 90’s, and I rarely saw another person skiing on the same day as us. There is great ski terrain near the trailhead on the North side of Echo Peak, or the East Facing Cracked Crag couloirs, Jack’s Peak south side, even Mt. Tallac South side. But Aloha Lake is unreal. It feels like you are at higher elevation in the Eastern Sierra when you cross these lakes above treeline and ski a Crystal Range Peak.
The Fallen Leaf Lake cabin owners certainly do not use their homes until long after skiing is over and the kids are out of school. Please join me in trying to influence the USFS Tahoe Basin Forest Service and TRPA to AT LEAST open the gate around April 1 at the latest. At this point in the season the road has been dry and plowed for awhile….yet the snow still reaches this magic and deep trailhead at about 6500′. God forbid land managers actually improve a road or plow just one incredible spot for winter backcountry access to our public lands. Heather, Suzie, and Aloha Lakes offer the most scenic terrain for 100 miles in any direction. Anyway, you are tough if you are reading this post… so go walk out there to the snowline in an hour or two once the road opens! Join the Tahoe Backcountry Alliance and help us advocate for access to backcountry ski. Not everyone wants to go to a crowded and expensive ski area to pound moguls! End rant, sorry!
Most of the pictures in this Mt. Price post are from my day today on 5/2/2018 with Peter Leh. This season has been a low snow year yet we found plenty of snow to make the journey worth it. We walked about 90 minutes in trail shoes from the car to reach snow. We arrived at Aloha Lake in about 3 hours at a steady but easy pace. We found Suzie and Heather Lake frozen and snow covered to skin across, as well as Aloha Lake. We skinned to within 50′ of the ridge just north of the Mt. Price summit, and booted the last bit. Most of the terrain back here is that beautiful wide open 30 degree skiing you love in perfect corn or new winter snow. Getting to the summit of any of the peaks however requires a short, steep and crafty move or two. The easiest way to summit Mt. Price that I have found is to boot up the small couloir in between Mt. Agassiz and Mt. Price, then skin to the top on the west side. Today we went up just right, or north of the summit. This left us with 3rd class and then 50′ of 5th class rock to summit. We didn’t choose that. You can kick steps on a reasonable 35ish degree patch of snow if you wrap around the west side of the summit when approach from the north, but you’ll want an ice axe or crampons…as you are above a cliff. So I recommend the east side mini couloir or “notch” and then approach from the south side of the summit.
You will probably ski back the way you came. Today we skied north in line with Dick’s Peak, as I’ve always admired the aesthetics of this benchy long and mellow route back to little Clyde Lake. We easily skinned about an hour up to Mosquito Pass and skied down to Aloha Lake. Then we skate skied, heel locked in, no skins, across all 3 lakes. We didn’t use skins for the rest of the day, but did walk carrying skis a bunch thanks to fairly firm afternoon snow. You are basically following the summer trail going and coming. You could also easily ski Mt. Agassiz and Mt. Price in the same day. You’ll want to get up early and move fast and get a bonus run if you day ski out to Mt. Price. It’s a long way to go just to make 2000′ of turns beneath this one peak. Your total day will be about 14 miles minimum. Consider a car shuttle and overnight or multi day ski tour in Desolation Wilderness. You will not want to go home right away when you get to the Crystal Range in Desolation Wilderness. Thanks for replying to this post if you go, and upload a few pictures!