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2018-06-29  
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Horsetail Falls - Pyramid Peak, CA
mini location map2018-06-29
29 by photographer avatarchumley
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Horsetail Falls - Pyramid Peak, CA 
Horsetail Falls - Pyramid Peak, CA
 
Hiking avatar Jun 29 2018
chumley
Hiking16.28 Miles 3,975 AEG
Hiking16.28 Miles   8 Hrs   47 Mns   2.01 mph
3,975 ft AEG      41 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
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John9L
While camping at Lake Aloha, we decided to spend the day exploring the Desolation Valley. We started by heading south along the shore before taking the trail toward Lake of the Woods. LOTW is a managed area where camping is limited to specific sites. It's a beautiful lake and we saw two groups camped along the shore as we made our way around.

The trail drops to Ropi Lake in a more exposed granite landscape and the tread became difficult to follow, though the destination was obvious. The trail ends at Ropi, but we continued downstream along the stunning Pyramid Creek as it drops through multiple sets of cascades and placid pools and the scenic Pitt and Avalanche lakes. This creek drops about 400 feet in the mile below Ropi Lake before reaching the top of the main drop of Horsetail Falls. There is a popular hiking trail from the highway below to the bottom of the falls, and I've read that you can hike from top to bottom, but it would be a steep decent for sure! We took a break and decided to head back upstream.

Next up on the plan for the day was Pyramid Peak, the high point of the Desolation Wilderness and the snowcapped Crystal Range that rises above Lake Aloha. It would be 2600 feet to ascend, with no trail, but generally easily traversed granite. Our route took us by Osma, Toem, and Gefo Lakes (among a bunch of other smaller unnamed lakes) as we crossed the southern part of the Desolation Valley.

West of Pyramid Lake we made a steady ascent toward the southern ridge which required a number of zig zags and a little bit of route-finding fun to traverse various levels and little geologic obstacles along the way. The entire ridge was protected by the remains of the winter cornice, so we took a route around the snow before climbing straight up the ridge to the peak. A bunch of cairns show that people visit, but no defined route was found, nor was it needed. The final push to the summit is steep and consists of large granite boulders.

At the summit, the register shows this peak to be popular. About 50 names per week were signed in. And we encountered 3-4 others in the upper stretches too. The views from here are as good as they get. Despite being so far west, Pyramid is high enough to provide a view of Lake Tahoe, but it's the view down on Lake Aloha that makes this such a winner. To the north, Agassiz Peak is a dramatic peak on the ridge between Pyramid and Price.

After a short break we descended by the same general route we had ascended, returning to near Pyramid Lake. From here we headed north to Waca Lake and split ways with 9L opting to head back to camp around the south side of Aloha, while I decided to add 5 miles and make the full loop around the west and north side.

Most of the west side of the lake was wonderful hiking along sloped granite, crossing creeks and waterfalls draining snowmelt from above. Upon reaching the northwest corner however, the terrain presented a half mile of huge boulders that drop steeply into the lake. This was very slow going for me, especially after all the mileage covered so far. There were a few sketchy snow fields I had to negotiate among the boulders before finally returning to a trail below Mosquito Pass where I was able to cruise back to camp. Looping the lake is a great option, but definitely a workout, especially with the steep boulder section in the northwest corner.

All in all though, an outstanding day in what used to be called "Devils Basin" :)
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