Mt. Ralston

10 Sep 2006 - by George Sinclair

Five intrepid hikers joined me on this enjoyable late summer jaunt up Ralston peak. Starting from the parking lot at about 9:30am, we followed the Mt. Ralston Trail that begins from Hwy 50 directly across from Camp Sacramento. I am not really sure why the trail sign references Mt. Ralston, while the topo maps identify the mountain as Ralston Peak. In any event, the Mt. Ralston Trail is a good, but rather steep trail that climbs continuously up the south side of the mountain. Much of the trail is heavily forested. Eventually the steepness of the trail eases up and the trail begins an upward traverse towards the west side of the mountain. Wanting to head up to the summit directly, and not being interested in traversing around the west side, we left the trail where it begins the traverse and headed up to the south ridge. Heading off trail here was easy and before long we arrived on the ridge. The actual summit was a short distance beyond. The ridge is spectacular here as it drops off dramatically to the east. When I was here before during a winter trip a few years ago the entire ridge contained impressive snow cornices.

We reached the summit at noon, where we enjoyed an expansive but rather hazy view. The recent fires near Foresthill were responsible for the haze. Ironically, the newspapers were calling the Foresthill blaze the Ralston fire. Nevertheless, haze or no haze, the view was still good, with Pyramid Peak at our backs, Lake Tahoe in the distance, and the Echo Lakes below us. After lunch and photos we headed down. Not wanting to go back on the same trail, we hiked out at Echo Lakes where we had pre-placed a vehicle. Hiking out at Echo Lakes makes the hike a little longer but it is a recommended scenic alternative to just descending back down the trail to Camp Sacramento. Additionally, by hiking out at Echo Lakes one has the option of also bagging both Echo and Flagpole peaks.

We only climbed Ralston that day, but I would recommend an earlier start time of at least 8:00 am if the plan is to include these other peaks.

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