PCT – Donner Pass to Tinker Knob

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Since I started hiking in the Lake Tahoe area I’ve been fascinated by Tinker Knob, a peak along the Pacific Crest Trail that seems to be about a 7 or 8 mile hike from everywhere, with at least 2500 feet of elevation gain.  Maybe part of the fascination is the remoteness and the resulting effort needed to get there.  In any case, I had to miss a group point-to-point hike opportunity but decided to try an out-and-back version a few days later.  The trail report from the group hike leader included mention of two snow fields: “nothing you couldn’t find your way across; having a pole was helpful”.  So I planned for a long day and included some extra safety gear like headlamp, flashlight, regular glasses (to replace sunglasses), and extra jacket in case I was late finishing.  My regular gear includes a pair of hiking poles.

All in all it was a great hike.  The fantastic scenery and profusion of wildflowers certainly made the effort worthwhile.  However, I did have a few “adventures” along the way, and I was unable to fulfill the “pack it in, pack it out” philosophy of trail hiking on this occasion.  By the end of the day I had left a map, water bottle, and the case containing my regular glasses in different locations along the trail.  This was due to pilot error, a slide down one of the snow fields, and a quirk of my daypack.  The circumstances of these deposits were such that I was unable to recover any of the items.  I am grateful that I finished safely and in daylight.

GPS track

GPS track

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

From Donner Pass the trail climbs quickly toward Mount Judah via Roller Pass, which has an interesting place in the history of the westward migration in the late 1840’s.  The trail is near the periphery of the Sugar Bowl ski area for about 3 miles, until passing Mount Lincoln.  The first, smaller snow field was on the back side of Mt. Lincoln and was fairly straightforward to cross – though in some ways it was surprising to encounter so much snow in mid-August.  After leaving behind the signs of civilization the high-country was simply stunning.

image of high-country panorama

High-country panorama

As I’ve mentioned in other postings, the Sierra wildflowers were exceptional this year, due to the abundant snowfall of last winter.  There was an amazing variety and profusion of wildflowers, which to some observers were the best in years – and we’d thought 2010 was a good year!

image of wildflowers in profusion

Wildflowers in profusion

On the north flank of Anderson Peak there is a hut that can be used for camping, reached by a spur trail.  The junction was not signed well, and this is where I opened a compartment in my day pack to take out a map, then decided to refer to another map in my waist pack, and most likely forgot to re-zip the compartment closed, resulting in loss of the map some time later (and discovery another hour or so after that).  It’s also probably when the main compartment of my day pack came partly unzipped, which I consider to be an annoying quirk.  Although the open compartment was pointed out to me a mile or so later by hikers taking a break trail-side, and I immediately zipped it back up, I didn’t realize that my glasses were gone until I arrived back at my car at the end of the afternoon.  I like the day pack, so I continue to use it, but now keep the compartment closed with the help of a carabiner.

The back side of Anderson Peak was also the location of the second, more challenging, snow field.  This one had more snow and was on a slope, so hiking poles were especially useful for maintaining footing.   Once past this area, the trail continued across the high country toward Tinker Knob.  In some places the trail simply cuts across a slope – a spectacular setting, but it’s highly recommended to stop to enjoy the views and pay attention to the trail while walking.

image of Yes, there’s really a trail across the hillside!

Yes, there’s really a trail across the hillside!

The PCT skirts Tinker Knob and continues south.  Just east of the peak, near the top end of the Coldstream Trail, Lake Tahoe can be seen in the distance.

image of Lake Tahoe in the background

Lake Tahoe in the background

I did continue about 0.6 mile past the Coldstream Trail junction before turning around.  I had considered continuing to the next junction, with the Painted Rock Trail, but decided I didn’t have enough time or energy.  I also started to climb to the top of Tinker Knob but decided against trying to summit, since I still had a long hike back to my car.

image of PCT continuation past Tinker Knob

PCT continuation past Tinker Knob

On the return trip across the Anderson Peak snow field I managed to fall and slide down the snow.  I was able to stop my slide by digging in my feet, but I’m pretty sure this is where the water bottle popped out of the outside pocket of my day pack.  I discovered this loss shortly afterwards: once I had exited the snow field and continued a short way along the trail I reached for the bottle and found it was gone.  I decided it was simply too dangerous to go back onto the snow field a third time to look for the bottle.  Notably it still had about 10 oz of water, so my supply for the remaining 5 miles of the hike was short.  I was able to ration myself, but I was definitely thirsty and was glad I had another bottle waiting for me.  For long hikes I always pack an extra bottle that I keep in the car, pre-chilled, for the end of the hike.  This time it was especially welcome.

This entry was posted in North Tahoe, Pacific Crest Trail, Tahoe National Forest, West Shore and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to PCT – Donner Pass to Tinker Knob

  1. Pingback: Granite Chief Trail and Pacific Crest Trail almost to Granite Chief | trailhiker

  2. Pingback: PCT from Ward Peak to Tevis Trail | trailhiker

  3. Pingback: Cross-country skiing at Tahoe Donner XC to Drifter Hut | trailhiker

  4. Pingback: Tahoe Donner snowshoe hike to Hawk’s Peak | trailhiker

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