Tallac Hiking and Cathedral Camping

Mount Tallac, South Lake Tahoe
Peak elevation 9,738
Desolation Wilderness
38.9060° N, 120.0988° W
It was definitely time for a weekend adventure. We wanted to do a quick overnighter and landed on Mount Tallac as the destination. We decided on Cathedral Lake in Zone 30 of desolation wilderness as our overnight spot and quickly made plans. We normally spend a little more time prepping meals, dehydrating food, route planning, etc.... Not on this trip. It was a quick one with very little planning, except a few checks of the weather to be sure we had time to get in and back out before the storm moved in. Then to make the weekend even more fun, I found out last minute that my friend Brent would be in SLT (South Lake Tahoe). He had a cabin with an extra room and reservations for dinner at Cafe Fiore for Friday night. I'm not one to miss out on spending some time with a good friend and having fantastic food at Cafe Fiore! Yes, please!! Only drawback, even less planning... Meh. We'll be fine. 

Chris is in the middle of a move, so hiking gear is here and there and everywhere.... Thankfully even in the middle of a move, he's quite organized and quickly rounded up the necessary equipment to make it happen. We also had to make a quick trip to REI for some crampons. After my quick trip up Ralston this week with trail spikes, I knew we needed a little more than that to climb Tallac. They were hard to come by as it's June and REI has moved on to summer activities. It's understandable as it is June, but we are headed to the SLT and well, there's going to be snow until next winter! Soooooo glad we found some, they were essential in dealing with the snow that was either slushy or icy at times. Sliding down the mountain really isn't in my playbook. Although we also picked up ice axes... Glissading may be in our future after all...  It's so hard to get out of REI without at least finding one, two or ten things that wasn't on your list. We showed restraint and stayed pretty close. Now it's time to get back to packing!!

I had no time to pack so I threw all of my gear into a HUGE Marmot duffel bag, took an empty pack and off to SLT we went! We had an incredible dinner of Filetto Al Barolo (Filet Mignon in a wine sauce - AMAZING), Pollo Alla Sonoma (Chicken sautéed with wild mushrooms, artichoke hearts and tomatoes; served with a Sonoma chardonnay cream - delish!) and Cappellini Bocconcini (Meatballs lightly breaded and fried then tossed with a fresh tomato, basil and marinara sauce; served over cappellini - OMG, yummy!). Topped off with house made white chocolate ice cream over a flourless chocolate cake and a slice of Tiramisu. Drool.....
We were all so full we practically rolled like barrels back to the cabin. 

Bedtime couldn't come soon enough. Food coma here we come! We'll put our packs together in the morning... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

We were up early and Brent whipped up a Bacon, egg and hash brown scramble for breakfast. Seriously, we need to do some hiking now or we'll be so round we won't fit in our sleeping bags. ha!! 

Somehow we snapped out of our breakfast food coma and got our packs together. 

 This cabin is adorable and the idea is now in our minds to rent something like this for another adventure. It was cute and cozy and a great place for a small group of friends. We left the cabin by 9:30 and headed for the Tallac Trailhead. 

Baby it's cold outside....
The forecast. Looks like it's going to be cold and windy...

Just past Camp Richardson on Hwy 50 is the turnoff for the Tallac Trailhead

We are getting so excited. What a beautiful day!

Parking at the trailhead is limited. Get there early or you're walking from the Sno-Park down the road. 

Trailhead marker and where you can pickup a day permit. We have an overnight permit, so that trumps the day pass.   :-) 

Trailfie! And we are off!!

The trail is mostly gravel for the first .5 mile and relatively flat. As the trail turns, you start to get your first glimpse of Fallen Leaf and Lake Tahoe. 

And there she is... Mount Tallac. 

Climbing a little higher, still a nice gradual incline and a gorgeous June day. 
Sure doesn't feel like Junuary...

Gorgeous views of South Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake from the Mount Tallac Trail. 

Small gravel turns to larger rocks on the trail. I see quite a few people wearing tennis shoes and trail runners on the trail. I would imagine the bottom of my feet would be sore if I had those on. I definitely feel like hiking boots are the best footwear for this type of trail. 

1 mile from the trailhead lies my favorite sign... 
You are now entering Desolation Wilderness.... 
Time to play!

The first lake that you come to on the trail is Floating Island Lake

Wind ripples. The wind is picking up. 

I call this the Tallac River. It's actually part of Cathedral Creek, but it's flowing very heavy right now from all of the snow melt. 
TONS of water.

And the rocks on the trail start getting larger. We are also starting to see patches of snow. 

1.5 miles, first signs that we are about to be hiking in the snow from here on out. And there goes the trail... We were on/on, then off/off many times. More off than on from here to Cathedral Lake... Good thing we had a large breakfast to work off. We added about a mile to the length of this section with wandering through wooded areas up and over some hills and trying to find ways to cross the creeks (small rivers). 

Water crossings were getting a little scary. 

Steady now... 

These look like ski tracks, but they are from people sliding down the snow covered hills. We saw lots of areas of sliding tracks. Hmmm, slippery snow? Yep. As the day warmed up, it got more and more slippery. 

Um, we were a little bit off trail today.... We had some technical issues with this app, but were just winging it. We knew the general direction we needed to go and had to deal with some water crossings, so all in all, it was an adventure, but we made the best of it!

We made it!!
Cathedral Lake, covered in snow. Gorgeous!

Coordinates and elevation at the lake.

Hmmm, this is looking like a prospective site to call home.

Yep. It's home for the night. Just a stones throw from Cathedral Lake. 

And you can't beat the views...  (Mount Tallac)

Great place for lunch! 
We brought in deli sandwiches and after setting up camp, it was time to relax and eat a bit.

Shortly after lunch, we set out to tackle Mount Tallac.

It didn't take long before it was time to don the crampon!! Although you could try to hike this in snowshoes or trail spikes, the crampons really made for a much easier hike. We saw several people coming down that really stressed the need for crampons. There were slipping all around and I could see the potential for injury. Glad we had them!

Crampon hiking! The snow was getting mushy this time of the day and very slippery. No way could we have done this without something to give us some traction. The wind was picking up and we had moments where we were almost blown over from a gust! Hang on!

View Ranger app showing some of the nearby mountain, lakes, and trails. 

Cathedral Peak and a glimpse of the incline we are hiking on. 

Nice view of Freel Peak from Tallac. That one may have to happen again soon. The sandy peak seems to be shining in the sun, summoning us to come and climb it! It's also showing us that we may not have to deal with snow at the very top. Nice!

Yep, I'm a tree hugger!

I'm climbing rocks, very slowly. This really isn't my favorite activity. I like my feet on the ground and these rocks move. I think we could have just stayed on the snow and would have been better off. I'm still adjusting to crampons, so this of course is in hindsight. At the time, I was feeling very apprehensive about proceeding higher. Not so much about the climbing up, I really enjoy that part. I was more worried about the descent. The warm weather was really causing the snow to become mushy and VERY slick. Now that we are back down, I TOTALLY know we could have made it to the top and back down just fine. I just have to trust the process... and the crampons. 

Scrambling up the rocks on Tallac

Yes, those big rocks do move!! 

Crampon removal station. We didn't make it all the way to the peak, but pretty far.  I wished now that we had played around with the crampons somewhere else, I think we would have been able to make it up and back down in plenty of time. At least now I know that crampons are my friend. They make a HUGE difference. Just more preparation and things to know before we set our for Mount Whitney in September. 

The extent of our camp kitchen. Jet boil and a cup on a rock... 
It's all we needed for a hot dinner and some tea. 

What does a quick trip with no planning get you? Lentils over rice. 
Hey, at least it's warm! 

Because I needed something warm. Had a whole Flask full of hot vanilla tea too. Mmmmm

Our "campfire" which is technically a stove, so it's allowed. Camping just isn't the same without a little bit of fire. It was a great day. We stayed out of the tent to enjoy this little bit of warmth and some hot tea, then settled in for the evening to get out of the elements. We stayed up talking and looking at pics from our adventures of the day until about 10pm. The wind was really whipping. Glad we were in the tent. 

We had a pretty comfortable night considering it was in the low 30's and huge wind gusts. But by morning, the weather had really changed. Wind had picked up and it was very cold! Chris went off to get the bear bag when I filmed this. Not 5 minutes later..... SNOW!! 
We broke camp in a flash! Packed our packs from inside the tent, broke down the tent and were out! The snow stopped, but the wind continued. The snow was very frozen and slippery. Took about 5 steps to quickly realize we were hiking out with crampons. 

Beginning to get the hang of hiking in crampons. Easy peasy. 

Chris is making quick work of the trail as well. Amazing how fast we can break camp and get on the trail when the weather turns. 

And cue the snow. Junuary isn't messing around. 

This is just about where the snow ends and the trail begins. We are back "On/On"!! Woohoo!! 

Snow on June 11, 2017! I heard on the news after we got back the people were referring to this storm as a "Junuary" storm. It's June, but feels like January!! 

We made quick time getting out. We stayed ahead of the weather and by the time we made it to the trailhead, the sky was blue. But turn around and the skies are dark and angry. It ended up snowing all afternoon with several inches of accumulation. 

This picture was posted on Facebook later that day in Incline Village. 
Whew. Just in time. Sometimes playing in crazy weather is totally what we are game for and sometimes it's not. This was a trip where we were trying to avoid it. Time to get back home for a shnap! (A shower, then a nap)

Now that we've had some time to be home and shnap, then talk about the trip, I think we will venture back up soon to get all the way to the top. We need to leave earlier in the day, so we have more time and now that I'm more comfortable with the crampons, I'm not so apprehensive about the descent. Sounds like another GottaGetGone adventure soon!