July 28th, 2002|
2750 vertical feet
Peter and I decided to do a day-hike trip to climb Round top in the Mokelumne Wilderness. We parked in the day use area of Woods Lake Campground, off Highway 88 (between Kirkwood and Carson Pass). From the day use parking area, we just walked to the campground and found site 13. The trailhead is opposite to this site and it's marked with a sign saying "Lost Cabin Trailhead - Use This Road."
The trail ascends on a dirt road that turns into a trail at the entrance of
the Mokelumne Wilderness. Numerous signs warn you that west of the trail
there is an active mining area and that you shouldn't leave the trail.
Farther up, next to the trail, there is a wreck of a car and some abandoned mining equipment.
After reaching a ridge, the trail goes through a beautiful meadow surrounded by The Sisters (above, right) and Round Top (left). At this moment, we decided that The Sisters looked so inviting that we should climb them in addition to Round Top.
Round Top lake greets you at the end of the meadow. Round Top Lake is quite shallow so it may be a nice swimming spot late in the summer. From Round Top Lake, the trail ascend moderately to the saddle between The Sisters and Round Top. There are many use trails in this area, the one closest to the ridge offering more solid footing.
A nice break from the trail is the creek flowing from the snowfield in the bowl under The Sisters.
After gaining the saddle, it is a rocky scramble up to the false summit above. There are many routes, but we found that the easiest way is to stay relatively high and to climb on rocks, rather than on the loose sand. Most people that believe to have climbed Round Top, actually have only reached this false summit.
From the false summit, a steep sandy descent (about 50 feet) takes you to the base of the real Round Top Peak. I think this is the hardest part of the climb as the rocks are very loose and the runoff doesn't look very nice.
At the bottom of the gully separating the false summit from the real summit, a short traverse take you to the rocky summit pinnacle. Climbing the summit pinnacle is an an easy and short Class 3 scramble to the top (seen in the picture during the descend).
At the top, we took the obligatory summit pictures and talked to 5-year
old girl and her mother. The little girl did this class 3 climb with no
problems! This little girl was quite an athlete and her mother told us
that she ski 40 days a year, swims 1 hour a day, and plays tennis 2 hours
The views from the top of Round Top are extremely good. Despite being a little bit hazy, we could see 12 lakes from the top (from the huge Caples Lake to a partially-frozen alpine lake in the north face of Round Top). In addition, several summits were visible: Pyramid Peak, Pinoli Peak, Markleville Peak, Mt. Tallac, and many others.
Arturo next to the summit marker with the register. Booklets in the register went back to 1994. We specially enjoyed the entry on December 31st, 1999 (the guy wasn't so sure, there was going to be a 2000).
After climbing Round Top, we headed back to the false summit and down to the saddle. From the saddle it is an easy class 1 walk to the top of The Sisters. However, this is not a trivial climb as it requires some route finding and the rock is very loose.
From The Sisters, we once again descended to the Saddle and headed to Round Top lake. Before getting to the lake, we turn North and hike cross country to Winnemucca Lake. This is a jewel of a lake with Round Top at the back. To the East, a beautiful high ridge that resembles the Sierra crest flanks the lake.
We were surprised by the number of families with children that we found on the trail... but we believe that this is because the loop between Woods Lake, Winemmucca Lake, and Round Top Lake is a wonderful beginners backpacking trip.
From Winemmucca Lake, it is a beautiful hike down to Woods Lake. The trails wanders around the best wildflower fields I've seen in the Sierra. Just before getting back to the parking lot, we found an interesting looking device called the "Trailmaster." Peter memorized the patent number (US51285480) and found out that it was an automatic monitoring and recording device for "large game animals" (and we thought the nearby elephant's back was named because it looks like an elephant).
Woods Lake (at the parking lot) is also quite beautiful and it would make an excellent introduction to the Sierra for somebody who is not inclined to hike much.