Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mount Tallac Hike (August 14, 2010)

Elevation:   Trailhead: 6,480'  Summit: 9,735'

Hiking time: about six hours round trip (10 miles) to summit

View from Top of Mt Tallac
(Cascade Lake, Emerald Bay
and Lake Tahoe in back)
We had postponed this hike few times, as the trail still had a lot of snow earlier. And one of the main reasons we wanted to do this hike before Mt Whitney was to get used to high altitude. As usual, we depended on Chetan’s vast and detailed knowledge about the hikes. However, for certain urgency, he had to pull out at last moment. He still did the legwork and provided us with excellent directions. After looking at directions, it was clear that the trailhead was easy to reach and trail itself was easy to follow.

I reached Nitin’s place in Fremont at 3:10 AM, and we started in the rental Nissan Cube (the car was really the box) at 3:20 AM. Nitin was driving; and mentioned that he had a relatively rough night and was feeling sleepy. Prasad was sitting next to Nitin, sleeping and I was with Nitin’s dad in the back. We talked for few minutes about the Half Dome hike which Nitin and Prasad had done few weeks back. Prasad did not do the cable part and mentioned that long drive before the hike tired him out and he was simply exhausted. So he decided not to drive at all this time. After 30 minutes of driving, we reached a place on 680 where it was windy, and car started swerving by itself. Nitin was yawning big time, and I had to take driving controls. Roads were empty and it was pleasant to drive. Route was very easy, that I did not have to look for map.
Just before Cathedral lake

After reaching Tahoe, we took a coffee break at Starbucks. When I opened up vegetarian sandwiches (on whole grain, with spring green, tomatoes and Humus) packed by Promila in the morning (I mean at around 3 AM); they were still warm. Noise of oomph from Nitin confirmed that he liked it very much. Nitin’s Dad also praised the sandwiches. We dropped Nitin’s dad at BlueGo main station. For $2.50, he can hop on and off and visit various points on South Lake Tahoe. It was really good to see that at his age he could venture out alone and enjoy himself.

The trailhead was easy to reach and trail was well marked. Whenever I go for a hike, I always try to gauge whether to bring Prem on this hike or not. I used to think about Promila before, not now; I think she is strong enough now to do almost every hike which I could do. Before going on this hike, I thought this would be perfect next step for Prem after Nevada fall hike as distance and elevation gain was slightly more. Besides this hike affords the beautiful view of Fallen Leaf lake, Cathedral Lake, Cascade Lake and Emerald Bay while hiking.

Fallen Leaf Lake on left goes parallel
to trail for first half mile
Lose rocks on trail. Nitin and Prasad
on right bottom side
First part of hike gradually goes up, along with Fallen Leaf lake on your left side, very pleasant. It remains gradual and pleasant hike till Cathedral lake (around 1.7 miles). After that it starts climbing up. Climb rate itself is not that bad; however, you are climbing on lose rocks. Soon I realized not to step on big rocks, as they are loose and turn; almost twisting my ankle. I slipped couple of times, however, hiking pole helped regaining the balance. Well, rest 2/3rd of the hike had similar rocks. It was challenging. Though Nitin was more balanced than me because his center of gravity was closer to ground (euphemism for shorty); he slipped couple of times on this lose rocky gravel. Though hiking pole saved his ass, literally, but it got bent during one of such ordeal. Prasad was able to keep up for first 3 miles, and then got slower towards end. Going up, since I was leading, I missed one turn, and came to just big loose rocks. I knew I took a wrong turn, and to go back to the trail, I just followed small gravel. That did the trick and soon I saw the other hikers.

As expected view from top was spectacular, and peak was getting crowded. We took pictures all around the cliff and came to know that Mt Tallac is not the highest peak in Lake Tahoe region; Freel Peak is the highest (10881 ft). It was good to know that there is another peak to hike which is in near vicinity. Nitin and I were hungry, I finished my sandwiches. Nitin was getting concerned about Prasad, so we called him up; he was on his way; showed up 45 minutes later.
View from top - 9975'
We picked Nitin’s dad; and then started hunting for a small brewery. Thanks to ubiquitous Smart phones, Nitin found Mt Tallac Brewery, within 0.2 miles; with an impressive Yelp rating of 4.5. We kept moving around in circles to find the brewery, but could not. Prasad was enthusiastically repeating (euphemism for yelling) the directions looking at the GPS on the Smart phone. Finally Nitin spotted a very small sign on a rundown building. We thought we were on the back of the building. He asked for the entrance from a guy who was standing at what appear to be back side of the building. There were two menacing dogs tied up with huge rope to the door. He answered back that yes this was the entrance.

It was hot and most of the doors and window of the building were open, it was obvious that it was not air-conditioned. We walked in and found out, it was the brewery, and there were couple of people eating burger and fries on a 6 feet long bar bench, and there was no other seating. Still perplexed, as what to do, we asked the owner if they serve beer and food. He told us that he was happy to let us taste the beer but could not share his food. Apparently, this was just a brewery and people, who were eating, were employees. He told us a nearby Thai Orchid place where we can get his beer on tap.

View from Top of Mt Tallac
By now, most of us dehydrated from the hike, out in a hot building for 10 minutes, sweating, especially Prasad, as he mentioned his feet were hurting and chilled beer from the tap might just take his mind off. While we were heading to get our fill, Prasad received a call from his wife. And he told her that they just finished the hike and now were going to a place for a bite to eat (not DRINK) before heading back. And we were all laughing soon. Well, it made total sense to drink a beer from Mt Tallac Brewing company, after hiking Mt Tallac. We deserved it. Well, we ordered beer and food. We toasted for many more hikes in future together. Ummmm…chilled cold beer ! Very Complex ! Interesting !; besides these comments, nobody venture to praise it more. We did not order a second round, it was apparent nobody liked it. Food was ok.

Cathedral Lake
It took us 7 hours to do the hike, however, I think it could have been finished in 5 hours, including 30 minutes at top. Though the elevation gain for the hike and distance was manageable, I found this hike hard; mainly because of lose rocks; coming down was slow and tricky. I think Prem has to wait 1 or 2 years before I get him up here.

Logistics - Directions   Trail Map

What’s next -- Mt Whitney in two weeks; that will be the toughest hike for me so far; both physically and mentally. 22 miles, 14505 ft elevation with the gain of 6100 ft; and terrain is lose rocks just like Mt Tallac. Mt Whitney is the highest peak in contiguous US. I will need all the good wishes to complete that hike in a day.