RALSTON PEAK 25X November 4, 2007

Getting a phone call at about 11 p.m., the night before, I was so pleased that a person I had already met wanted to climb a peak. I had been looking at maps, planning a fall road trip, but with gas locally at 3.139, and the distance I would have to drive just for some relatively remote, less spectacular peaks, sticking about home and carpooling sounded better.

I set my alarm and woke up at 6 a.m., then motored over to pick up this local hiker. We agreed on a peak, along or past U.S. 50. A couple weeks before, we had already sought to climb Ralston Peak together. But, with my irregular sleeping, I had to cancel.

So, by about 7:40 a.m., we were zooming eastward on the freeway. I stopped for a break in Placerville, then we shortly arrived to the trailhead near Camp Sacramento. I had needed to check out Freel Peak's new trail, but was worried that the approach road might be gated closed. No way to ask the USFS with so little notice.

We started our peak hike at 9:37 a.m., myself amazed at the mild conditions. I was prepared for wind and cold. I had to strip off a couple layers, and soon was hiking up in two light layers. It was totally calm. The snow fall from a few weeks ago had mostly vanished. It was nicer than a summer climb, here. I like cooler temperatures, but I had to consider my new partner. This was a checkout hike, and a bad, freak accident would result in a freezing cold night out, before any rescue.

Two hikers were descending already, and I wasn't doing really well. It's been three months, for me, since being at any altitude, and flat river walks don't help much for gain.

My partner followed nicely, as he was fairly new to this area. I offered to let him go up faster, but he said my pace was O.K. I did carry a heavy day pack, and had gained weight, and was used to sleeping late. It was an effort, but we topped out in three hours, with another couple already enjoying the never failing view.

The summit scene was with very little snow, overall. The shorter days made the hiking less pleasant, for me. It gets dark by about 5 p.m., and while I carry two headlamps, it can be serious in the night. I began snapping scores of photos, and we chatted with the others. They also were contributors to SummitPost--it's a small world.

We stayed on top till 2 p.m., with such nice conditions. I had put on one more layer, and could have stayed up there for another hour. So nice!

On the way down, we ran into a solo hiker who said he had finished the three major national trails--PCT, CDT, and the AT. What a marvel to run into such a person!

We chatted a bit more, then the two of us arrived back at the cars at 3:33 p.m. The solo hiker asked for a ride back to his car further down the highway, and I obliged. My partner nodded off (3 hours sleep) on our way home, and I drove past my usual stop, and on to Forni Road Exit to let him doze. We had burgers, and our drive home went uneventfully. Nice sunset, though.

We hiked about 8 miles, with 2,800' gain. I shot about 165 images, mostly from the top. I spent about seven dollars and used about a half tank of gas.

I worked quickly to post my report here to advise hikers of the still excellent conditions for fall hiking all about Lake Tahoe. If I had a good companion, I'd hike every day of this coming week! Most years, we'd have rain and snow, with the trails near impassable. I do hope, though, that this does not presage another drought year!