|Length||5.0 miles round trip|
|+2800, -2800 feet|
|Time||Most of a day|
|Season||January through March|
|Snowmobiles Use||Not permitted in Desolation Wilderness and low elsewhere. [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area]|
|USGS Topo||7.5' series, Echo Lake|
|Start||On Highway 50, 1.4 miles east of Twin Bridges at Camp Sacramento. Parking is available on north side of highway.|
The climb to the summit of Ralston Peak is steep but the unparalleled views of Desolation Wilderness from the summit are your reward. You will also be treated to an unforgettable descent should you be lucky enough to encounter excellent snow conditions. But in less than excellent snow conditions the descent takes on the form of survival skiing for all but the best skiers.
The key is to know when to pick this tour and that is dictated by conflicting attributes. The starting elevation is relatively low and the terrain at the lower elevations wooded and brushy. This rules out early and late in the ski season. The entire tour is south facing and new snow turns to mush with the first glimmer of sunlight. Thus finding powder is problematic.
Your best chances for good conditions lie in trying to time good snow depth and corn snow. Look for the first long stretch of warm weather as spring approaches and understand that the snow may be marginal at the base. However, always keep an eye open for those very special times, they only happen once every few years, when a cold storm is followed by cold weather making for a perfect powder day, or when a warm stretch in the middle of February turns the mountain from top to bottom into a spring playground.
Waypoint 1 to 2
Miles: 0.0 - 0.1
Elevation change: +100 feet
From the trailhead (1) ski east on a road for 0.1 mile until the terrain to the north of the road looks passable (2).
Waypoint 2 to 3
Miles: 0.1 - 2.5
Elevation change: +2700 feet
Turn north (left) and climb for 2.4 miles until you reach the summit of Ralston Peak (3). At the beginning of this section it is important to be east of several small gullies. Farther along in this section it is important to be east of the north-south ridge. Although the trees become less dense as you climb, you will not leave them until you are almost at the summit.
Return to trailhead
Miles: 2.5 - 5.0
Elevation change: -2800 feet
Retrace the route for 2.5 miles back to the trailhead (1).