Twenty seven miles

The hunt for a 27th birthday challenge

Ryan standing on the ridge line heading east from the summit of Ralston Peak. His newest goal: traverse the full ridge.

A few months ago, Ryan read about the “birthday challenge” — according to the (very old) website, a birthday challenge is “ essentially a goal, generally in the form of physical achievement, to make your birthday more memorable than the last. Usually the number of your years lends itself to the base of your challenge.” For example, climbing 30 pitches to celebrate 30 years, biking 50 miles to honor turning 50 — you get the idea. So to celebrate his 27th birthday, Ryan decided he wanted to spend the weekend in Tahoe and hike 27 miles.

Originally, he had planned to do it in one day with a link up of Freel Peak and Jobs Peak. But then I wanted to come along, so plans had to change. No way was I doing that. Instead, we agreed to do 27 miles over two days. How hard can that be? I thought.

Well, when adding elevation gain into the mix, turns out… pretty hard.

Friday — Mount Tallac Trail

We spent Friday morning climbing a few easy pitches on the newly bolted Meyers Multipitch — a fun little 4-pitch slab climb right off Hwy 50 as you come into South Lake from Echo Pass. By 1pm though, the rock had gotten a little too hot to keep climbing so Ryan suggested we squeeze in a hike and start our 27 mile goal a day early, giving us 3 days to fit it in instead of 2 liked we’d planned.

We packed up the climbing gear, dropped it off at home, packed some lunch and headed toward Camp Richardson. By 3pm we were on the trail.

AllTrails calls Mount Tallac “hard” and I’d have to agree. With 3,500 feet of elevation that seems pretty obvious. But the trail itself is very rocky, and the final mile up to the summit includes quite a bit of scrambling. By the end of the day my ankles and my calves where burning. We needed to keep up a pretty quick pace to make it back down before nightfall, so we didn’t have too much time to celebrate, but the views were pretty incredible!

Elevation gained: 3,400 ft , Miles trekked: 9.8, Miles left: 17.2

Saturday — Ralston Peak Trail

Saturday morning we woke up and my calves were killing me. Despite thinking I was in shape, I’m clearly not, because Ryan was peppy and limber as always.

Saturday’s goal: Ralston Peak. Another epic Tahoe hike. AllTrails calls Ralston Peak Trail “moderate” but with 2,800 feet of elevation it’s not exactly easy. Plus, while the hike to Ralston Peak is shorter than the one to Mount Tallac, it has only slightly less elevation, so certain sections felt steeper than Friday. The best part though: a nice even trail. Almost no rock hopping required and only a tiny bit of scrambling to get to the very top.

On the way up you can see the runs from Sierra-at-Tahoe, which was fun for us as we started dreaming a bit of the upcoming snow season. Then you get to the top and can see over the other side of the mountain, toward Lake Aloha, Lake Tahoe, Tamarack Lake, Ralston Lake, and Fallen Leaf Lake. In terms of view quality, I would say this one was 100. Best views I’ve seen in a while.

Elevation gained: 2,900 ft , Miles trekked: 6.8, Miles left: 10.4

Sunday — Big Meadow to Dardanelles Lake and Round Lake via the Tahoe Rim Trail

Sunday morning we woke up and I was beat. Ryan gave me an out — he could trail run the last ten miles on his own if I needed to rest — but I was determined. Only ten more miles.

To make my life a little easier, Ryan picked out a relatively moderate route that we’d tried to trail run a few weeks earlier but gotten skunked off of when his foot started hurting. We’d travel a few miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail — through Big Meadow to Dardanelles Lake and then do a little back tracking before picking up the trail to Round Lake to get the extra mileage we’d need for 27.

AllTrails calls this route “moderate” but compared to Ralston Peak I’d say it was downright easy. There is one steep section on the way in, but the lakes are in a valley, so a lot of the hike was slightly downhill or mostly level.

My favorite part was Dardanelles Lake — there were some pretty cool looking granite cliffs to one end, mountain ranges in the distance, and the sound of laughter coming from all around the lake. Absolute bliss.

Elevation gained: 2,000 ft , Miles trekked: 10.6, Miles left: 0!

Now, it’s Monday. My back is sore, I have bruises on my thighs from getting a little too close to some tree branches, and my calves burned when walking down to Bart after work, but I’m home after a long day of work and a weekend of complete and utter satisfaction. We did it! (You can check out all the data on Strava if you’re interested.) Maybe it doesn’t seem like much to some people, maybe it seems like awfully too much for others, but to us, life is good. Happy 27th birthday my love!

until next time,

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