Hiking up to Avalanche Lake

Saturday having past reminded me of the adventure from last Saturday; I decided to go hiking with a group of people. The guy who invited me along on this trip occasionally writes for this blog, namely lilb612. He is a big buff on these outdoor activities with aspirations to climb the Half Dome in Yosemite, which I think is a crazy goal.

We started the day early around 8am. Yes. 8am. On a weekend. That’s crazy talk!

I rode with another buddy up to the starting point. His AC was on the fritz which was not so bad early in the morning, but something I would suffer through on the way back. Our destination was the southern part of Lake Tahoe off the I50. The difficulty of the hiking trip was supposedly easy to moderate. I had no idea what that meant. I expected to be walking trails that bicycles would have an easy time to travel over.

After a short pit stop at the restrooms which surprisingly were really clean, we walked about half-mile where the landscape started getting bleaker and bleaker.

Here is a shot of us at the base of the climb. Our goal is the top of the waterfall in the background. The waterfall is called Horsetail Falls and the lake above the fall is named Avalanche Lake. Neither of the names inspire a feeling of confidence.

Past the grove of trees, we came upon a signboard with accompanying ranger. The ranger had us fill out a waiver before continuing onwards into the Desolation Wilderness. Again, the waiver and the name of what was ahead did not boost my confidence.

Soon, we came upon rocks reaching mid-thigh which began the toughest climb of my life.

A third of the way up the mountain, I regretted my decision to wear shorts and a t-shirt. My legs were getting shredded by the prickly branches and the rocks were quite sharp.

There were a number of instances on the way up the mountain where my heart beat a little bit faster and the adrenaline flowed a little bit easier. About half-way to the top, we encountered an impasse.

There was a pretty high rock in our path and a stiff drop to the right. On the left was an old log leaning inside a crevice. There was a pile of rocks near the log marking the spot as the correct way to go. The log felt sturdy, but nothing was holding it up besides the pressure in the crevice. That was a good six, seven foot climb.

The fun did not end at the log. Further up, the path ended at a steep drop. The only option was to hold on to the top of a boulder and tiptoe on a ledge half a foot wide. Any slip up and it would have been quite a fall. Nothing gets the blood pumping like imminent death.

Reaching the top was well worth the hardship though. The water was crystal clear, nothing like the slop that is in the San Francisco bay. Soaking my tired feet in the cold water was refreshing and relaxing. I tried dunking my head into the water and was only able to last for a few seconds, felt like a brain freeze.

The trip up the mountain took four hours, most of time was spent waiting for me as I had a tough time going ten steps without huffing and puffing. Going down the mountain should have been a piece of cake in my mind. Things did not turn out how I imagined.

I have a little bit of a phobia in regards to heights. Looking down the side of the mountain here gave me the willies.

I really wished I had taken the time to snap some more photos. The picture above was actually at a point where I slipped and slid down three feet before I was caught.

There were no marked paths to descend. We reached a fork in the road you can say with two choices–scale around a boulder or slide down the hill for about thirty feet. As the less daring member of the group I chose the familiar boulder scaling, the more adventurous (crazy) group no doubt ripped the bottom of their pants sliding down the mountain.

Another awesome yet dangerous experience included a little bit of rock climbing half way down the mountain. We arrived at a point where there was a fifteen foot drop or a ten foot drop. Of course, as we have done the entire day, we chose the fifteen foot drop. So, I am clinging to the face of the rock with my right foot wedged into a crack and one of my friends stuck out his knee indicating that I could land on his thigh. Naturally, I let go and jumped onto his thigh and felt his leg cave! Luckily, someone else was there to grab me before I fell the rest of the way.

All in all, the trip was a once in a lifetime experience. I hope to never have to experience it again. I was quite sore for the next five days and my legs looked like someone beat them with a bat. I also bruised my toes quite badly due to my inexperience with stopping my momentum on the descent.

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