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Dicks Peak Ski Mountaineering

What:  A long trip into the heart of the Desolation Wilderness to climb one of the highest peaks in the area.

When:  Given the length and higher commitment of this trip, look for a period of good weather.  Because this tour passes through some serious avalanche terrain, wait for conditions to stabilize before tackling this trip.


Overview

Dicks Peak sits smack dab in the middle of the beautiful Desolation Wilderness.  As a result, getting to Dicks is a bit of a chore, but well worth the journey.  While a day trip is certainly possible, plan on an overnight trip (or more) unless you are an extremely fit skier.  An overnight trip also gives you more time to enjoy the scenery en route.

There are several ways to get to Dicks Peak.  The shortest routes originate on Lake Tahoe's southwest shore and involve some strenuous climbing to get out of the lake basin.  These routes (via Tallac's north shoulder, and from Emerald Bay via Maggies Peaks) are discussed below.  Dicks can also be climbed from the Desolation Valley as part of a multi-day ski trip originating from Echo Lakes or Glen Alpine/Fallen Leaf Lake.  The latter routes are excellent tours in their own right, but they are much longer and therefore are not recommended if your goal is simply to climb and ski Dicks Peak.

Note:  This tour covers some advanced terrain and crosses some steep, avalanche prone slopes.  For example, I've seen huge slides on the north shoulder of Tallac and in the north bowl of Dicks Peak.  Use your head, choose a good route and be avy-wise.

Click here for an annotated route map.

 


 

Route #1 -- Via Tallac's North Shoulder:

 

Stats:

Distance:  Around 4.8 miles to the summit

One Way Elevation Gain/Loss:  +4,479'/-1,110'

Mt. Tallac Trailhead:  6,520'

Dicks Peak:  9,974'

This route is the most direct, but because it essentially travels over the summit ridge of Mount Tallac, it involves the most climbing and is more difficult than the other two routes.  To start, follow the NE Ridge route on Mount Tallac until you reach the small saddle between Tallac's summit and the small 9,240'+ peaklet just to the north (photo:  approaching the saddle).  From here, you will see the Kalmia Ridge -- a long corniced ridge heading due west -- and Dicks Peak beyond it (see photo).  The ridge is deceptive -- not as flat as it initially appears -- and has many little ups and downs to slow your progress.

From the saddle, climb up towards Tallac's summit.  When you get past the cliffs on the west side of this ridge, descend slightly towards Gilmore Lake, staying well above the lake's north shore, and gain the Kalmia Ridge heading west.   Follow the ridge towards Dicks Pass, climbing over or around three two peaklets on the ridge.  The second of these may require some fancy footwork with your skis or board on your pack.  The views down the Cascade Creek canyon to Lake Tahoe are stupendous and make the time pass as you slog westward along the ridge.  At Dicks Pass, the route is obvious -- descend slightly to the saddle at 9,180' ("Dicks Pass" is actually a high ridge crossing above this saddle), then climb up the NE ridge of Dicks Peak, skirting the subsidiary peak to the east on skiers left.  Ice axe and crampons may be required for the ridge climb.


 

Route #2 -- From Emerald Bay via Maggies Peaks:

 

Stats:

Distance:  Around 5.9 miles to the summit

One Way Elevation Gain/Loss:  +3,750'/-670'

Emerald Bay Trailhead:  6,840'

Dicks Peak:  9,974'

 

Start at the summer Bayview Trailhead/Campground at Emerald Bay.  Follow the summer trail as it switchbacks up the ridge above Cascade Lake.  After about 1/2 mile of steep climbing, you will come to an overlook with views out over Emerald Bay and Eagle Falls Canyon.  From here, head west up to Granite Lake.  Don't stop here.  Rather, keep climbing above the west shore of the lake, aiming for the saddle in between North and South Maggies Peaks.  From the saddle, ski southwest below the summit of South Maggies (a quick and easy diversion from the main route) and continue in this direction along the broad ridge that separates Azure Lake from the Eagle Creek drainage to the north.  Ski around the base of Peak 9,190' and climb up into the cirque that houses Dicks Lake (8,420').

 

From Dicks Lake, the beautiful north bowl of Dicks is right in front of you.  To bag the summit, gain the subsidiary ridge that stands above the west shore of Dicks Lake.  Follow this ridge up to the higher of two saddles along the NE ridge of Dicks Peak.  The lower saddle is very steep and may be heavily corniced.  The upper saddle has a far more gentle entrance.  After gaining the ridge, the route is fairly obvious -- ascent the NE ridge of Dicks Peak to the summit.  Note that this route may require crampons and ice axe, particularly for the initial steep climb up from the upper saddle.

 


 

Getting Down:

After you enjoy the incredible views of Desolation Valley, the Crystal Range and Lake Tahoe, you'll of course want to have fun on the way down.  The north face of the peak is a huge steep bowl that offers a challenging descent down to Dicks Lake.  There are some rock bands near the top that must be negotiated, but if snow conditions are good, this can be done without a problem by advanced skiers.  The southwest face down to Half Moon Lake is a gem of a corn run in springtime when the snowpack is consolidated.  Other good ski options are the chutes and bowls on the north side of Kalmia Ridge, the north and east slopes of Peak 9,190', and the perfect lines off the north side of Peak 9,579' just above Dicks Pass.  The name "Janine Peak" has been given to Peak 9,579', after a local woman who passed away.  (see photo:  north face of Janine Peak, with Dicks Peak in background

While it might be tempting to ski out via Cascade Creek after dropping the Kalmia Ridge, be forewarned that this can be a wet, sticky slog through dense forest and brush.  The wiser choice is to return the way you came. 


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