Climbing Mt. Rose via the Southeast Ridge

26 September 2014

I originally saw this possibility while reading up on how tough of a hike Mount Rose might be. It's listed on Summit Post (number 3) as one of the main routes up to the top. The description there is basically exactly as I've been describing it to people I talk with, so I won't go into all the detail here. I particularly hoped to get above the smoke from the King Fire burning to the southwest of Lake Tahoe. As it was, there wasn't too much smoke on this morning, but I did get to see some hanging in the valleys.

That first mile is a good one. You're shaded and the trail is obvious. And there is no one there. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether you like that or not. After about 3/4 of that first mile, it flattens out and can pick up speed. Then, you hit the wall.

The middle mile is straight up. The description on the above link says it all. Find the most direct route you can. It's a 1,500 foot vertical climb in that mile. I found a dry creek bed and tried my hand at that after a few minutes following what seems to be a trail. That trail fizzled out and I had to look around. I realized why I will never be a mountain biker on this upward trudge. I can't go at a slower-than-necessary pace for long periods. I go up and over things and stop all the time. I need that rest for 10 seconds. On a mountain bike, that would kill me on a climb. So there's my reason. There are plenty of places to sit down and rest in the shade, which is what I did in order to get some food down. Bring lots of water, even in the cooler temps, as you'll be working hard.

Once you reach the top here, all doubt about what you decided to do on this day will subside. The view of Mount Rose is a good one and you see that you're close to finished. You can see down to what must have been Church's Pond and several other spots that you could climb on a different trip. The Church's Pond route (number 4 at the link) is another that I want to make a run at sometime. The Southeast Ridge route is mostly flat right here and I rested for a few minutes, took my small pack off and explored a bit. There is an obvious trail from here toward the mountain, so I tried to backtrack that and see if I had been missing anything. The trail does start down the hill so I decided to make sure to stay with it on the way down.

It was mostly a decent walk the rest of the way. The trail disappears in a few spots, but picks back up a couple of times. It's all rock--somewhat loose--in this area after an initial steeper climb for a couple hundred feet. I reached the summit in about 2.5 hours total, which wasn't a horrible time, considering how slow I was during that second mile. There were a couple other groups of people and one guy noticed me coming and asked how I had gotten there. They seemed intrigued about the possibility, but I would warn that it's not a hike like the main trail is. This one is a real workout. I wondered a couple of times whether the next steps up and over a rock outcropping would put me in danger and at what point I should turn around. Being by yourself will do that, I guess, but it ultimately wasn't too long or too difficult. But if you go to try it, be forewarned.

Even in the light smoke, the view is pretty awesome. I stuck around long enough for my journey to be properly fueled. It was windy up there. That started when I reached the top of the second mile. I had brought a pretty great windbreaker so I was in good shape.

I swung over to the east peak right there next to Mount Rose. It has a cool semicircular rock sculpture that could probably fit a one-person tent in it. I imagine some crazy fool bringing a sleeping bag up and staying the night there. On that day, however, the opening is where the wind was coming from, so it wouldn't have been ideal. I tried to follow the same path back down to catch that trail I had scoped out, but from the other angle, it wasn't always exact. I would up higher in parts, but seeing it from above.

I did pick the trail up at the shoulder, though. It wound down the steepest part of the climb for about 200-300 yards, then just kind of went away. So, I made my way down. I kept trying to figure out where I had been on my way up. I was a little crossed up here. I thought I should be moving south to find my upward route, but I was already too far that direction. Eventually, I spotted a place I recognized to the north and found my dry creek bed. My footprints were there as well, so I followed it back. It was a lot faster, but I felt weak. It's apparent that even with the trail running I do, I need to hit the weights because my past two trips have been brutal on the downhills.

This is a path that I think would be a great training device. Getting up and down in faster and faster times would show that you can work through some steep terrain. That might be what I use it for. Now that I know it, it can be a fast enough day to take care of early in the morning and still have the entire day ahead. I don't totally recommend it for someone looking to have a nice hike and take some photos, though. It's hard and probably not worth it. But if you have enough time on a hike up the main Mount Rose Trail, I suggest heading east from the summit to the shoulder. It's a nice view there and an easy walk over and back. Just don't start down that east slope or you're in for it.

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