Round Top, Freel Peak, Pyramid Peak #2
Labor Day 1999
By: Dan Richter
I had two things in mind when I put this trip together. First I wanted to help Asher get his SPS Senior Emblem and secondly I wanted to have a weekend marked with indolence and pleasure. I am glad to say both goals were achieved.
We met at the summit of Carson Pass at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. John Dodds recently over knee surgery, Susan Loftus soon to be married, Paul Graff, Steve Erskine, Karen Raasch, myself and of course Asher. Asher had climbed Granite Chief and Tinker Knob the day before to dispatch his penultimate Senior Emblem requirements.
Setting a leisurely pace we followed the PCT to where it leaves the Winnemucca Lake trail, past Winnemucca Lake and on up to the north west side of Round Top. A small 3rd class move was encountered leading up to the summit at which point a rope was proffered for some of the party.
We followed Asher to the summit where it was my honor to pin the Senior Emblem on his shirt. Over the past nine years I have climbed more peaks with Asher than anyone else. I can't imagine climbing without him to get me both in and out of trouble.
The return was as done as leisurely as the assent. Once back at Carson Pass Asher bid us all goodbye and headed south. John Dodds who had pushed his rebuilt knee to its limits also said goodbye and headed back to Sacramento.
We quickly reassembled and hurried to meet Pete Yamagata who was waiting for us just before Luther Pass at the turn off for the dirt road "05 1 The road had recently been improved and goes toward Horse Meadows on the south side of Freel. Pete had been waiting patiently and soon we were driving to the parking area for the new trail that leads to Armstrong Pass. Karen decided to devote her time to Harry Potter while the rest of us climbed from the cars on the trail over Armstrong Pass. The trail then traversed north and then north-northeast to the saddle just northwest of the summit. A slog for a little over a thousand feet on sandy scree brought us to the summit where we relaxed, ate, and took pictures. We descended directly down sandy southern slopes and with an angle to the right (west) we soon picked up "015" and Karen.
Saying goodbye to Pete we caravaned to Markleeville where we spent a ridiculously long time soaking at Grover's hot spring, followed by an tasty dinner at the Alpine Restaurant. We had delicious Cornish game hens that had begun their lives as chickens. A convenient trailhead between Grover's and the village provided an excellent camping spot.
In the morning Susan, who was 5 days away from her wedding day and missing her fiance, decided to return home. The rest of us drove over to Strawberry under Lover's Leap and while Karen returned to Harry Potter, Steve, Paul and I found the old Rocky Canyon Trail. We picked it up a hundred feet above where the Rocky Canyon creek crosses highway 50 on the right (east) side of the creek. While the trail is no longer maintained it goes very well and we found we were able to take it almost to the base of Pyramid at 8,300' or more. Pete's guide has it ending in an Aspen Grove at 7400', but we found that if you cross to the left (west) side of Rocky Creek at that point it continues on up. We got up to Pyramid much faster than we had planned Being way ahead of schedule we spent over an hour taking to other climbers and practicing our required indolence. (Note: locals we met on top said they prefer to climb the maintained Horse Tail Falls trail and contour north west to Pyramid and sometimes use the old Rocky Creek trail as a decent route walking the mile back on highway 50 to the Horse Tail Falls trail head.)
Needless to say Paul, Karen, and I returned to Grover's for another soak. Steve decided to say ,goodbye and went down highway 50 to visit his brother.
That night we found a ' magnificent restaurant called Villa Gigli on a hillside between Markleeville and Grover's. Outside was a sian "Pasta and Art".
Above was a great wooden deck with tables and very contented looking patrons eating. As we walked in I stuck my head inside the kitchen and asked if they had a table for us. A flamboyant Italian gentleman in shorts answered; "Do you have a reservation? I have nothing left." I immediately used my halting Italian and warming he announced, "Sit down I will find you something."
Ruggero Gigh, who is the Grandson of the great Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli, has been in Markleeville for 27 years. He and his wife Gina have a gallery and restaurant that he has built himself with his own hands. Gina displays her prints, paintings, papier-michd masks, and upscale wine labels while Ruggero creates his culinary masterpieces. Sitting on the Giglis' deck as the sun set, fresh out of Grover's, and with Ruggero's magnificent pasta in front of us, Paul and Karen and I agreed that we had indeed fulfilled the trip's second goal of indolence and pleasure and probably bit more.
We slept in on Monday and then drove leisurely back to L.A. stopping for lunch in Bishop with Paul's parents.
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