Description: The ski tour starts beside the ranger station (which
might be buried under snow in a big winter!) and heads south and east
along a trail that is most often already skier-packed. The trail climbs
gently but steadily for one mile up to the tiny Frog Lake. From here,
the trail continues more south with less climbing and expansive views
west as the land falls away to the west towards Caples Lake and Kirkwood
this area, the trail again climbs a bit over a series of ridges with
steep and rugged Round Top Mountain in the background. The contrast
of the snow-draped mountain with dark rock spines falling from the summit
make for some dramatic and photographic scenery. 1.5 miles past Frog
Lake and 2.5 miles from the trail head, you will climb a small ridge
and be rewarded with your first view of Lake Winnemucca. Carved from
stone thousands of years before by glacial activity, Winnemucca is a
stunning example of a high alpine lake, with cliffs plunging directly
into the water on the south side of the lake. Of course, in the winter,
all you see is a flat spot which you assume is the lake!
Top Lake: For those wishing to continue on, the trail crosses the
outlet of Lake Winnemuca and immediately begins to climb more steeply
towards a pass just to the west of Round Top Peak (10,380'). For more
information on climbing this peak, visit our Round
Top Peak page under Peak
Climbs. From the pass, it is a short flat hike to Round Top Lake,
another picturesque glacially formed lake surrounded by cliffs. OVernight
tourers will find plenty of level sites for setting up camp. The ski
from Winnemucca to Round Top Lake adds just 0.5 miles and under 500
feet of climbing.
of July Lake: The trail from Round Top Lake continues south contouring
along the side of Round Top Mountain for perhaps another half mile before
reaching a saddle and then plunging down a steep slope to 4th of July
Lake. From the saddle, the trail loses 1000 feet in less than a mile
of skiing, making for a quick, fun ski down, but a long climb back.
But camping at 4th of July Lake is worth every ounce of effort! The
lake is a natural depression filled with clear Sierra snow melt and
surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs. The fourth side, to the south,
has a precipitous drop of nearly 1000' into Summit City Canyon with
views for miles up the canyon. 4th of July is far enough, that you are
almost guaranteed solitude during the winter.
ski tour is usually done as an out-and-back, but it is possible to make
a loop by descending into Summit City Canyon, heading up canyon, then
heading north to Forestdale pass and back to Red Lake. This is a long,
hard ski tour and should be attempted only by experienced skiers in
Concerns: Pack it in, pack it out!
The weather can change rapidly in the Sierra. In particular, the wind
can go from calm to gale in this area within moments. Be sure to bring
extra clothing and wind gear.