RALSTON PEAK 26X May 22, 2008

Having to finish up driving some miles on my car, I thought to do this standard hike. I woke up early, and saw the TV weather news reported "flurries," but I saw nothing on my Doppler. The forecast was for sun, but isolated T-storms for the holiday weekend. Well, if it were that bad, I could always loop over to Reno and shop.

I left home and motored eastbound up U.S. 50. Low clouds over the mountains ahead. There was some road work going on. They are rebuilding an interchange at the Greenstone Road Exit, and some more work is being done in Placerville, CA. Further along 50, there were a few workman along the freeway. Most of that, though, was finished up on my return.

With sun and clouds, I started my hike in a very light snow flurry at 9:14 a.m. Plenty of blank forms to fill out at the self-serve wilderness permit station. I came to downed trees, then snow, and easily hopped over these obstacles. It was a bit windy above, but I was having a good time. I surprised myself with a good time to my usual break spot, with views across the way of obscured Pyramid Peak. I hoped that the weather would get better.

As I approached the high saddle, two other hikers were coming down. They said the wind on top was some 60 mph. I figured I'd be crawling, and hoped then to just bag the peak. I made some more good time, then took the use trail (photo below) directly to the summit. There had been comparatively very little snow to this point. Only a few small patches to hike over, with good, firm, crunchy snow, for better footing. Nothing too icy or hard frozen. I had my ice ax, and made use of it as a walking stick, mainly.

It began to get gusty as I came up to the summit. The final sections of talus required some agility, and if you were pushed over by the wind, you might entail a severe loss of balance and fall terribly. Potentially very deadly.

Topping out at 11:40 a.m., I began to snap photos. It was hard to hold my camera steady, and I declined better vantage points due to the wind. I managed to snap many photos, hoping they wouldn't be blurred. I tapped the other high rocks, and then the wind stopped for a few brief moments. I used the slack to snap a panorama, making sure I'd get it right. The cloud deck at about 10,000 feet rose slightly, allowing for a few view photos of the other peaks.

Then, it was time to get down out of the wind. I quickly hiked down, and shortly was back to the saddle and regular trail. I drank up a can of diet soda, and relaxed. Another nice peak to bag, again!

It had begun to snow more heavily. I descended successfully, and drank another soda at a lower view point. Another few hikers were coming up. The cloudy sunlight filtered through the forests, making for good photos.

There had been very little water on the trail, usually being that streams would course right down the footpath. Aside from the weather, fallen trees, and the several patches of snow, this would be like a summertime hike.

I made great time back to the car, being one of my shortest, total round trip times, 4:35, as I had spent only 8 minutes on the top. I took only a few short rests.

Glad to have done it, I quickly motored home, and oddly enough, I was using my a/c once back to the Central Valley, then got home early to work on my computer.

I hiked the roughly 9 miles with 2,800' gain, and captured some 130 images. I spent about $10 for iced coffee and a couple food snacks. Using maybe 4.5 gallons of gas, the price that I paid today was 3.979/gal. The drive was some 172 miles round trip.

Wearing a light layer under a moderate layer, then a parka, I had light bottoms under my organic cotton pants. A good warm cap and gloves basically completed my wear. I used my heavy day pack, with two liters of water (only drank from one), and two cans of diet soda.

Unless I get an e-mail from somebody about doing a peak climb, I'll stay about home, for the holiday weekend, and maybe plan to try something afterward. If the weather elsewhere does not allow for that, I guess I'll save the miles on my car. Just no way to drive 1,800 miles, in a few days, for much anything worthwhile, this time of year?