Saturday, August 30, 2014

Between the Five Lakes basin and Twin Peaks: Sierra crest's Ward Peak

Lichen-interspersed rock-wall edge of the Sierra crest north of Ward Peak
Top of Ward Peak with antennae installations
Ward Peak is located at the top of Alpine Meadows, south of Squaw Peak and the Five Lakes basin, and north of Twin Peaks. Ward Peak's top is settled with communications antennae. A ski lift of the Alpine Meadows Ski Area brings winter athletes up there during the snow season. The ski runs are on the east side of Ward Peak. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) traverses the west-side flank of Ward Peak, alongside which warning signs mark the ski area boundary and discourage skiers to proceed farther into the Granite Chief Wilderness.

Ward Peak belongs to the north-south trending Sierra crest northeast of Lake Tahoe. Over certain sections, the ridgecrest exhibits sharp, wall-like rock formations, which are covered with lichen and fight erosion. The PCT stretches alongside these edges. Hikers on the crest trail always—assuming good weather conditions—admire the panoramic grand vistas of the western Sierra Nevada mountain ranges and canyons reaching for Central Valley. Certain points of the PCT also offer eastward views down onto Alpine Meadows and over Lake Tahoe with the Carson Range at the horizon.

To explore this fascinating section of the Pacific Crest, take Five Lakes Trail to the lake basin. From there, the Five Lakes Trail continues towards a T-junction with the PCT (see map). Turn left at this junction. The southbound PCT soon crosses Five Lakes Creek between alders. Then, climb the steep forested hillside via an array of switchbacks. After this two-mile ascend, the PCT continues across open slopes with occasional, low-growing pines. If you pause to look back, you will see Squaw Peak, Squaw Valley High Camp and KT-22 to the north. Walking southbound, you will see Ward Peak with its installations. Eventually, Twin Peaks will also come into view. And on a blue-sky day, hiking along the “crest of the crest” shall inspire you to find your balance between Heaven and Earth.

Twin Peaks seen in the south from the PCT west of Ward Peak

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