Round Top and The Sisters


We’ve had three years of drought in California, and the snowpack is at record lows for late January, but Lance, George, and I were determined to have some mountain fun anyway. We packed our car, filled our mugs with coffee, and headed for the hills. The day’s agenda was fluid, but we had in mind to climb Round Top and the taller of The Sisters depending on snow conditions.

Us At Start

Me, Lance, and George at the start of our hike up Round Top and The Sisters


The icy Winnemucca Lake trailhead

We left the Carson Pass trailhead with just our bare boots. Though the snow was neither soft nor deep, it was slippery, and after a few minutes of sliding around we strapped on our snowshoes. We hiked along the base of Elephants Back, a long plateau that rests about a mile south of Carson Pass. The trail then skirted along the banks of frozen-over Winnemucca Lake. The snow coverage up to this point was fairly light, but from here, it would get deeper, softer, and steeper.

Dry Ground

The snow coverage at the beginning of the hike was patchy at times

Carson Pass area peaks

Carson Pass area peaks

Winnemucca Lake

Frozen Winnemucca Lake

The snowshoe trail makes its way up toward Round Top Lake, but before we reached it, we turned to our left toward the saddle between Round Top and The Sisters. Here, again, the trail steepened as we approached the saddle. We huffed our way up the slope and onto dry ground at the saddle. We took off our snowshoes and began our climb up toward Round Top.

Round Top

Our view of Round Top as we climbed up toward the saddle

Snow Slope

The steepest bit of snow on the way to the saddle between The Sisters and Round Top

Round Top

Round Top’s lower western summit from the saddle

The climb from here starts as a steep scree slog. There is a bit of a use-trail to follow, and so we did most of the time. After a few hundred feet of this, we found ourselves on the Western pinnacle of the peak, though this was not the highpoint. Getting to the Eastern highpoint, the summit, involved a bit of class-3 scrambling over somewhat solid volcanic rock, but we all made it across safely.


George making his way up the western scree slope of Round Top

Summit Block

The taller eastern summit of Round Top


Caples Lake and the Kirkwood area from the summit of Round Top

The summit views, of course, were spectacular. In the Northern distance we could see Lake Tahoe. Further to the East was the Carson Range and Hope Valley. To the South were the snow-dusted peaks of the Ebbetts and Sonora Pass areas. We ate our food, took our pictures, signed our signatures in the register, then made our way back down to the saddle.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe from the summit of Round Top


The view to the east from the summit of Round Top


The view west from the summit of Round Top

Us On Round Top

Lance, me, and George on the summit of Round Top

At this point, George’s summit fever broke, and he decided to start heading down. Lance and I figured we’d make the quick ascent of the taller of The Sisters before calling it. It was but a quick waltz up the scree to the summit. We found a weather-beaten register in a plastic bag, but decided not to sign it. We took a few more pictures, then headed back down.

The Sisters

The taller of The Sisters from the saddle between Round Top and The Sisters

Round Top

Round Top from the summit of The Sisters

Lance and Me

Lance and me on the summit of The Sisters

The hike back down was long. Lance and I were out of gas, and we could see George at times perhaps a half-mile down the trail. We pushed forward and eventually caught up to him, and we all hiked the last mile out together. This last bit was terribly long, and because there were so many sets of tracks leading in different directions, more than once we got off-route.

Round Top

Round Top towering above Winnemucca Lake


It took us a long time, but we caught up to George on the hike out

By the time we made it to the car, we were ready for a feast. We changed clothes and put away our gear, then drove a few miles back down to the Kirkwood Inn. We made it with only twenty minutes of happy hour left. We ordered our beer an tacos, feasted, then drove over Carson Pass, through Hope Valley, and into South Lake Tahoe where we’d stay for the next two nights.

5 thoughts on “Round Top and The Sisters

  1. George

    Your special vacuum coffee and homemade yoghurt with jam started the day off right. Good call going to Kirkwood Inn where I could sit with my back to a wood fire while eating tacos and drinking beers. A day to remember.

  2. Robert Jones

    Looks like a nice trip. I used to take the scouts down this trail to snow camp. Last time we were there, there was 15 feet of snow and it got down to 18 degrees. We made fires by breaking off dead branches half-way up the trees.

  3. Blake

    Nice trip report. My buddy and I climbed Round Top Peak in April of last year with an overnight at Round Top Lake. On that very cold freezing night I woke up at 2:20 in the morning to the sounds of horses hooves on a nearby trail. I can never explain what happened that night for we never found any horses footprint in the snow the following morning.


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