Around 9 AM the 4 of us headed down the Lower Echo Lake Resort access road reaching the lake in about three quarters of a mile traveling over hard crusted snow. After crossing the lakes dam, we joined up with the Pacific Crest Trail, which traverses west above the lakes North shore and private lakeshore summer homes. Nearing Upper Echo Lake we lost the trail under the snow, but our intended route was fairly easy to find. With clear blue skies and no wind, it was a beautiful day so we traveled slowly taking frequent breaks to enjoy the scenery. After a long break near Tamarack Lake we strapped on our snowshoes (Charles had already been traveling used skies) to ease travel in the quickly softening snow. After a short climb to Haypress Meadows we topped a ridge and gained our first views of our goal Pyramid Peak rising over Desolation Valley. Everything was cloaked in a smooth white blanket of snow including the valley lakes which were completely frozen over. A steep descent down to the north shore of the Lake of the Woods completed our first days travel, where we set up camp.
From our camp we had a clear view southwest over the frozen lake towards Pyramid Peak. Here we discussed tomorrows climb, and the enjoyed the usual chatter about our past and future climbing trips and gear. We marveled over the fact that we had not seen a single person that day. Seeing that the north end of the lake was under 3 feet of drift snow and ice, we discussed whether anyone had ever slept overnight on a frozen lake. After an unspectacular sunset, Bob S. surprised us by heading out onto the lake with his gear to spend the night ON the lake!
At 7:45 AM Sunday, under a cloudless sky, we headed out towards Pyramid Peak. With snowshoes & skis we safely crossed the frozen surface of the Lake of the Woods and headed southwest towards Desolation Lake. Crossing it, we turned west and worked our way slowly in and out of small gullies to the base of a small cliff south of Pyramid Lake. We worked our way up a small chute to the top and continued west up the increasing slope. Not seeing any avalanche danger we decided to take the peak head on up the east slope instead of the south ridge as originally planned. Bob E. lead the way kicking steps in the softening snow. Some of us wore crampons (which were not really necessary) and we each used either ski poles or ice axes during the assent up the 40-degree slope. We reached the top around 1:00 PM, well behind our intended schedule. The clear skies provided good views all around, from Round Top to the south, all the way to Mt Rose in the northeast. While on top we were greeted by a lone dog and moments later her owner coming up the south ridge. After a brief chat, Bob E. and Charles headed down the south ridge. With ice axes, Bob S. and I had a thrilling, albeit quick, 1100 ft glissaded down the east slope. After joining up, we decided to try a more direct route back to avoid the many gullies we encountered earlier. Heading to Pyramid Lake, we crossed its southern shore and took a northeast route up an open slope to a low point on the ridge, southwest of Channel Lake. Working our way down, we then headed east back to the Lake of the Woods and across it to camp. This proved to be easier than our route that morning.
After a quick repacking, we donned our backpacks at 4 PM and headed out. We met a lone skier near Haypress Meadows. He was only the second person we met all weekend, although we did see a climbing party headed for Pyramid Peaks south ridge while on top. We crossed Lower Echo Lakes dam just after sunset and made it back to our vehicles just as darkness fell upon us. It turned out to be a far longer day than we had anticipated. But great weather, an uncrowded, beautiful snow covered location and good traveling companions made the long weekend worth it.
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