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Backkpacking Raymond Peak | High Sierra Backpacker

Hiking Eastern flank Raymond Peak, Mokelumne Wilderness on the Pacific Crest Trail

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 25 September 2010

Hiking the Eastern flank of Raymond Peak in the Mokelumne Wilderness on the Pacific Crest Trail 

Trail Guide Page
Mokelumne Wilderness Boundary to Raymond Lake Junction

Trail and Terrain

View of Raymond-Reynolds Massif looking off South flank of the Nipple.
Looking Southeast at Rayond-Reynolds Massif from South flank of the Nipple. Silver and Highland Peaks beyond, with Ebbetts Pass in-between.

Departing the rolling stretch of forest between The Nipple and Raymond Peak we climb up onto our exposed traverse of the Northern flank of Raymond Peak. Approaching Raymond Peak we get a few close-up glimpses of the fantasitc volcanic features that characterize this area through the tree cover.

The volcanic nubs of The Nipple and Jeb Davis Peak almost give us a "Southwestern" desert-like feel, but we've been keeping our eyes on the unique burnt red massif of unique volcanic formations rising to our Southeast.  

Jeff Davis Peak, Mokelumne Wilderness.

This massif is composed of Raymond and Reyonolds Peaks, as well as "the Cylinder" along with a series of uniquely shaped volcanic plugs and strangly eroded features rising here and there.

"The Cyliner"

Great views to the Northeast open up as we climb onto Raymond Peak's North flank, dominated by Peak 8636's raw Southern flank composing the North wall of Pleasant Valley.

Pleasant Valley viewed off North flank of Raymond Peak.

A significant part of the trail along the Eastern flank of Raymond Peak is cut through unconsolidated volcanic debris that are actively eroding off of Raymond Peak.

We have seen  amazing interface zones between volcanic lava and lahar zones and Sierra Granite on our way South down the Pacific Crest Trail route from Echo Summit. North of there the Desolation Wilderness represents a great island of granite above most of the surrounding volcanic material.
The volcanic terrain we have been crossing since exiting the Tahoe Basin was produced by the massive eruption of ancient volcanoes, about 10,000 years ago, that coincided with the end of the ice age that was cutting the granites. It must have been a real mess back then!

The Pacific Crest Trail across Raymond Peak cuts through an unconsolidated volcanic debris eroding off the ancient hard lavas projecting out of their own eroded tailings.

 For the contemporary backpacker this type of volcanic terrain translates into land that moves every year. As with any unconsolidated eroded materials, rain, snow, and Spring runoff just cut right through it every Winter-Spring. When fully saturated this type of terrain can actually flow down the mountain.

  This type of unconsolidated volcanic material is not uncommon on the flanks of volcanic peaks along the Northern Sierra Trails. Sonora Peak presents much the same conditions as the Eastern flank of Raymond Peak. The volcanic soils around Sonora Peak have a redder hue, showing the differences between various volcanic brews.

Trail Conditions

The annual movement of this unconsolidated volcanic material is a real challenge for trail crews. I figure that a trail cut deeply across this type of material on a steep mountainside should last about three years, before the trail is once again almost tilted off at the angle of the mountain.

Well, that may slow down with the slowdown in Winter rains and snows.

When I went through here in September of 2009 there were parts of this section of trail across the Eastern Flank that had fallen away, and were at the angle of repose. Crossing these sections made me nervous, but it was easily do-able.

   How long these trails last depends on the intensity of the Spring rains and runoff, how much rain falls in Fall before the snows begin, and the intensity of Winter avalanche activity. Some sections of trail must cross locations that are hard to maintain, while other sections are more stable.

The Trail Crews are generally up to date on trail maintenance, but it is not uncommon to have to cross sections of deteriorated trail on the flanks of volcanic peaks. Be very careful!

More Information, pictures, videos, and Trail Guide:

Trail Guide
Molkelumne Wilderness Boundary to Raymond Lake

Blue Lakes to Upper Sunset Lake

Miles and Elevations
Raymond Lake Junction from Carson Pass


Problem Trail-Conditions Reports
East Flank Raymond Peak


Post your observations, experiences, comments or questions about this section of the Pacific Crest Trail through the comments link below. Register to post your own pages about your hikes on the trails between Carson and Ebbetts Pass.


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