Carson Pass to Caples Lake Via Little Round Top

Summary  Link to more information about summary

Difficulty 3 Intermediate
Length 8.4 miles one-way
8550 feet
+1600, -2150 feet
Navigation Map and compass
Time Full day
Season Late-December through mid-April
Snowmobiles Use Not permitted [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area.]
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Carson Pass and Caples Lake
Start Meiss Sno-Park, 0.1 mile west of Carson Pass on Highway 88.

Description   Link to more information about description

This one-way tour, which begins near Carson Pass, takes you along a windswept ridge to Little Round Top before descending a less exposed route to Caples Lake. Although it requires more navigation than simply retracing your tracks from the summit, you will hopefully be rewarded with better snow conditions than returning via the ridge.

Although exposed to the elements, and best left to a calm day, a tour to the top of Little Round Top is well worth the effort. There are few tours in the Sierra that offer this quality of scenery which includes views of the Upper Truckee River drainage with Lake Tahoe in the background, the peaks of Desolation Wilderness also to the north, and the peaks to the south all the way down to Sonora Pass. Of course Round Top on the south side of Highway 88 is near at hand.

Regardless of the current weather, high winds throughout the winter create cornices on the northeast side of the ridge where the drop-off is steep. Be careful and don't ski along that edge. The wind also scours the ridge-top bare in places early and late in the snow season forcing you to take off your skis and walk. Don't let this discourage you. Wind-packed snow is also common.

The descent from the summit of Little Round Top is on a spur that connects with the Carson Pass to Caples Lake Via Showers Lake tour.

Mileage Log   Link to more information about mileage log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Waypoint 1 to 2
Miles: 0.0 - 1.0
Elevation change: +300, -50 feet

From the Meiss Sno-Park (1) work your way west for 0.5 mile while climbing gradually and then ascend northwest for another 0.5 mile until you reach the obvious broad saddle (2). Early and late in the snow season you may find the south-facing slopes leading to the saddle partially barren. Also, take care to avoid the slopes beneath the southwest ridge of Red Lake Peak, which may be avalanche prone.

Waypoint 2 to 3
Miles: 1.0 - 1.6
Elevation change: +300 feet

Ascend northwest for 0.6 mile until you reach 9108 (3) on the topo . This high point can hardly be called a peak.

Waypoint 3 to 4
Miles: 1.6 - 2.5
Elevation change: +350 feet

Continue ascending northwest for 0.9 mile until you reach the next high point (4).

Waypoint 4 to 5
Miles: 2.5 - 3.2
Elevation change: +150, -150 feet

Continue to the northwest, cross a high point, and then ascend for a total of 0.7 mile to Peak 9422 (5).

Waypoint 5 to 6
Miles: 3.2 - 3.9
Elevation change: +200, -300 feet

Continue northwest by descending to a saddle and then climbing for a total of 0.7 miles to Peak 9325 (6).

Waypoint 6 to 7
Miles: 3.9 - 5.0
Elevation change: +300 feet

Continue northwest, at first over fairly level terrain and then climbing for a total of 1.1 miles to the summit of Little Round Top (7).

Waypoint 7 to 8
Miles: 5.0 - 5.6
Elevation change: -550 feet

Descend southwest, eventually finding yourself on the southwest spur of Little Round Top, for 0.6 mile until you reach more level terrain at an elevation of approximately 9000 feet (8). There are two other spurs you can descend from the summit of Little Round Top — the west spur and the north spur. These routes would be slightly longer than the one described here.

Waypoint 8 to 9
Miles: 5.6 - 6.4
Elevation change: -700 feet

Descend southeast for 0.8 mile until you reach Schneider Camp (9). Don't worry if you don't intersect the buildings at Schneider Camp — that is not necessary. However, you should intersect the groomed trail system of the Kirkwood Cross Country & Snowshoe Center in this area. You may ski through their trail system, but not on their trails unless you have a trail pass.

Waypoint 9 to 10
Miles: 6.4 - 8.4
Elevation change: -400 feet

Ski south and then southeast for a total of 2.0 miles until you reach the end point on Highway 88 (10). You will probably see the highway maintenance station before reaching the end point. Continue southeast from here to reach the end. Again, do not ski on the groomed Nordic trails unless you have a trail pass.

Print version of map for tour