ROUND TOP (10,381') CLASS 3
Location: 2 miles S of Carson Pass
Drive: Take CA Highway 88 to the major, paved trailhead at Carson Pass (elevation 8,574'), which is 9 miles west from Picketts Junction (west junction of Highway 88 and Highway 89) or 5.4 miles east from Kirkwood, CA. A visitor center, information and map board, monument, and stone outhouse are located here. A self-pay parking fee of $5.00 ( The America the Beautiful Interagency annual pass and the Golden Age Pass are still said to suffice, instead of this fee, and there seems to be an annual forest pass available for $20--USFS, July, 2013) is required.
Climb: Locate the well-signed trail which is just to the northwest of the visitor center. Follow the signed PCT south past Frog Lake. Go right at the signed junction where the PCT leaves the Winnemucca Lake Trail. Go past Winnemucca Lake, following the main, obvious trail, and continue up to the next lake, which is Round Top Lake. Use trails heading left (southeast) start from many places to climb up the mostly bare, rubbly, northwest side of the peak. These use trails lead steeply and directly up a class 2, broad, rocky, gully to the first false summit, where many stop. Continue ahead and east on the crest, staying a few to several feet below to the right (south) side. Pass another small highpoint before coming to a deep, 20 foot notch. Either downclimb on class 3 rock directly into the notch, with small holds, and balance moves required, or descend class 2, loose, scree slopes down to the right (south), then left to a point in the gully about 40 feet down from the notch. Climb up the other side, on the right (south) side of the notch and summit mass. An easy, blocky, low class 3 gully, about 30 feet, leads to the class 1 summit area. The obvious highpoint will be several yards up to the right (east). Otherwise, directly from about the notch, climb up awkward, high class 3 rock, directly up the summit mass, to arrive at about the top of the blocky, low class 3 gully.
As an alternate approach to the northwest slopes, one may start from Woods Lake Campground (elevation 8,320+), reached by a signed road, which is 1.8 miles west from Carson Pass, south off Highway 88. Take trails to either Winnemucca Lake or Round Top Lake to join Route A. The lack of a large, clear, parking area generally discourages all but paying campers to go this way.
WINTER SKI ASCENT: A Sno-Park pass is needed for the Carson Pass parking lot. The nearest vendor may be in South Lake Tahoe. Take Route A. An ice axe, and even crampons, may be necessary on the upper part of the mountain. The couloirs on the north side have presumably been skied, let alone climbed. These are not advised, with angles reaching 50 degrees with poor runout.
TRIP STATS: Route A, 1,900' gain, with an additional 100' gain on the return, 4.5 miles one way.
Notes: An old observation building once existed on the summit for surveying purposes.
The approach trails are
good wildflower hikes in the summer. In the winter, these approach
routes are used heavily by nordic skiers, as the terrain is gentle,
and the views scenic.
Many climbers may look at the northern couloirs, but they rarely seem to be ice, if ever, although they may make good practice for steep snow climbing.