FKT: Brannon Forrester - Desolation 7 Summits (CA) - 2022-01-24

Route variation
Winter - open course
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
14h 48m 28s

So psyched to give this a go!

We had a great high pressure weather window in California, with several weeks of warm sunshine during the day and cold nighttime temps allowing for spring-like snow consolidation in the high country.  This suits my style, turning the route into more of a mountaineering objective rather than a ski tour, since I can't ski!

I started predawn and ended well after dark; almost 15 hours on the go.  My watch was almost dead by Mt. Tellac, so i started recording on my phone, and then ended my watch segment.  The overlap was pretty exact, so i just added both elapsed times for the total.

Frozen windslab made for a spicy exit on the the North face of Pyramid, with the main crux of the route involving crossing the ridge to the West side just North of Pyramid (front pointing up a snow slope, and transitioning onto class 3 rock in crampons).  The West slope was a hike (at least in crampons! worth their weight in gold), with a class 3 rock and snow scramble up to the summit of Agassiz.  Mt. Price was an easy hike, and then i backtracked to a cornice-free snow chute i felt comfortable downclimbing onto the slopes below (the 2nd main crux).

Jack's Peak was mellow, but the descent involved down climbing steep snow of varying quality and type to reach the col between Jack's and Dick's Peaks.  A dry rocky class 2 scramble up to Dick's Peak brought me back to putting on the crampons to exit the other side of the peak.  I ended up dropping onto the North slope to avoid icy rock.  The rest of route is just hiking and navigating the drainages (i recommend the Gaia GPS app).

Water is hard to come by on the route in the winter.  I brought a 1.5L hydration reservoir and 2 1L water bottles, all with Tailwind mix.  I added some snow to my hydration pack just before starting the climb to Jack's Peak, but found a melted out pool at the outlet of Gilmore Lake just before Tellac, and there refilled my now drained reservoir, as well as another bottle.  Lots of snacks rounded out the day!

I was planning on cutting back to my ascent route from Ralston, but ended up doing my last summit in the dark (the sunset was amazing!).  Down to my last bar, and unfamiliar with the drainage i was going to have to navigate in the dark, i opted instead to descend directly from Ralston to highway 50 (again using the Gaia GPS app), and jogging back to my car.  For the record, i 10/10 recommend NOT running Highway 50 in the dark!  A bit of a crappy end to an otherwise stellar day, it will nonetheless go down as a shining backcountry memory!