Palmer dials up Pyramid Peak

14 Jan 1996 - by Arun Mahajan

On the weekend of 13/14th Jan 96, seven PCS'ers climbed Pyramid Peak (9983 ft) in the Desolation Wilderness in the western Sierra and following is the trip report and summit photo.

Trip Leader: Palmer Dyal, Co-leader: Chris Kramer. Trip members: Aaron Schuman, Arun Mahajan, Scott Krieder, George Van Gordon, and Richard Verrow.

Most of us drove from the Bay Area in the wee hours of Saturday morning to meet at 9 am at the parking lot for the Horse Tail Falls on the north side of Hway 50 past Twin Bridges. Aaron and George were to go on George's trip to Roundtop the same weekend, but decided to join us instead.

We started off at 9.15 am, there was almost no snow on the earlier portion of the trail, which was just as good. The terrain was rocky, but not slippery, and after a strenous section, we hit a lot of brush. There we got our first snow, I figure it was about 7000 ft elevation then. The sparse snow did not cover the dense manzanita brush cover (and some other unknown thorny brush type), so we had a hard time negotiating our way thru it.

We had great views of the Horsetail Falls to our right. Using his really fancy GPS, Palmer steered us in the right direction thru the brush. We crossed a small forest, and then all the terrain was snow covered. It must have been 7500 ft then.

The snow was not really soft, so we could manage without snow-shoes. We had initially planned to camp at the banks of a pond at about 8100 ft, but since trudging thru the snow with heavy packs was hard business, we decided to camp a mile before that spot.

Meanwhile Aaron and Palmer kept us all in thrall with their knowledge of the workings of the GPS, the general theory of relativity and other such weighty matters afflicting the world of physics till we reached our modified camp site. This place was in a flattish section and in the trees, so we did have some protection from the wind. The snow was packed enough to obviate the need to make snow caves, so we just flattened the snow and pitched tents. Chris was brave enough to plan to sleep in his super-duper sleeping bag and not get a tent. It was about 3 pm then, we strolled around, Aaron and Chris made a small trip to a hill in the foreground. Pyramid Peak was in full view. The discussions on Relativity continued thru dusk, but by 7 pm everybody was back in their tents and silence had softly surged back.

The next day we started for the summit in a severely-non-Alpine-style, i.e at 8.20 am! George led the push. This time we were in snow shoes. We had a break a mile later after some steep climbing. We then started for the final ridge, but soon discovered that snowshoes were not enough. It was steep and hard, little icy in spots, so we switched to crampons. Ice axes were not really necessary, ski poles were enough. George and Rich got to the summit first and soon the rest made it. We had glorious views all around and we did the usual summit photo thing, but after about 30 mins or so, the cold winds drove us down. It had taken us 2 hrs and 40 mins to get to the summit from the camp site. It took us 1 hr 25 mins to get back to the tents. We packed up and started descending at 2 pm. We were apprehensive about the manzinata brush slowing us down, but despite that, we were back to the cars in just about 1.5 hrs, at 3.30. 2 people went home directly, the rest gathered for a filling dinner at the Buttercup Pantry, a pleasantly non-fat-free name as any, in Placerville.

All in all, it was a very nice trip, especially for some of us who were being introduced to winter climbing and camping. We couldnt have had better weather, a better group, a better conversation nor better leadership.

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