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General Information: Round Top Mountain towers above Lake Winnemucca in the Carson Wilderness near Highway 88's Carson Pass. It is a classic glacially carved peak with a steep cirque on its northwest face. Unlike many of the peaks in the Tahoe area which have steep north faces, but fairly gentle south and west slopes, Round Top's faces drop steeply away from every side, making this one of the more technically challenging peaks in the Tahoe area. From the summit, one can see far into the pristine wilderness which surrounds the mountain, broken only by the Kirkwood ski lifts to the southwest and Caples Lake Resort to the west. This peak is a delight in both summer and winter, involving 3rd and 4th class scrambling in the summer and requiring advanced to expert skiing ability in the winter.

 

Where To Start: The trail to Lake Winnemucca starts at the parking area (Sno-Park) at Carson Pass on Highway 88. From South Lake Tahoe, head out Highway 50 towards Sacramento, taking a left at highway 89 over Luther Pass to Hope Valley. When 89 intersects Highway 88, turn right and head to Carson Pass. The Forest Service has started to charge $3 / vehicle to park in the summer and a Sno-Park Permit is required during the winter. Sno-Park permits should be purchased at the Shell station in Meyers along highway 50 before leaving the basin.

Trail Description: In both winter and summer, the trail to Lake Winnemucca is easily found and followed. The only exception to this would be in winter if you were the first party out after a storm, which is unlikely at this popular area. Follow the trail to Lake Winnemucca making sure to enjoy the beautiful views to the west and south along the way. In the summer, wildflowers along this trail bring flower enthusiasts and photographers from all over Northern California. You will pass small "Frog Lake" then turn south past Elephant's Back (a nice ski descent in winter) and on to Lake Winnemucca. For much of the hike or ski you will be facing the glacial cirque of Round Top. From the Lake, continue on the trail up a short steep section that cuts across the ridge to the south of Lake Winnemucca. Once on top of this ridge, an indistinct trail (in the summer) will head off towards the saddle that separates Round Top from the peak to its south. In the winter, just ski off towards the saddle. From the saddle, the hike gets significantly steeper as the trail meanders through the rock outcroppings. The trail is hard to see, but the route to the summit is fairly obvious...up. There is one point where a deep gully separates you from the summit pinnacle and you must down-climb first into this gully before climbing to the summit. The last part of the climb is class 3+ up a steep gully to the summit. There is a summit register in an ammo box buried beneath some rocks that is fun to look through and sign. In the winter, most mortals ski off the shoulder of the mountain, which is still steep and challenging. For extreme skiers, several couloirs can be skied including the "Moon Couloir" which fall from near the summit down a moon shaped crescent above rock cliffs at 50 - 60 degrees where a missed turn or a fall means serious consequences.

Environmental Concerns: The ground plants in this sub-alpine area are very fragile. Please try to avoid trampling these plants by linking together the many dirt sections between the ridge and the saddle. The water in this area, like that in all the Sierras needs to be treated before drinking.

Advisory: Avalanche danger around Round Top can be extreme at certain times during the winter. Be sure to check the avalanche forecast before attempting a ski ascent/descent. Be sure to carry proper avalanche gear at all times. Also the weather in this area is very changeable, moving in quickly from the west. Be prepared with proper clothing and emergency gear.

 

 

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