Begin at the Chapin Pass Trailhead, on Old Fall River Road (see "Getting There" section on main page). Follow signs toward Ypsilon Mountain (or "All Summits"). You will be able to see Desolation the entire time you are above treeline. Keep going about 1.5 miles past Ypsilon Mountain until you reach the base of West Desolation.
It is as simple as it sounds.
Once you are at the base of West Desolation, it starts to get a little tricky.
There is no trail, and I only happened to see five cairns (no rhyme or reason to their placement), so good route finding skills are a must. I told myself that if I found I good route, I would build some cairns on the way back. This wasn't the case. My route was fine, but there are other (maybe better) options. This is very rugged terrain which consists of talus and loose boulders clinging to steep, broken, cliff edges. Take your time in finding the best route...this is no place to be in a hurry. This ridge is littered with rotten, loose, unstable rock. It is a mess!
Once you get to the "saddle" between the East and West summits, it gets a bit better. The loose rock isn't as bad, it just gets a lot steeper. Again, pick the route you feel most cofortable with. There are many ways to the final summit block.
Once you get to the final push, find a good crack, and make your way up. I took a straight forward approach and went right up the West side. But it looked like there would be some alternate routes on the North and East sides as well (looked a little less exposed)....whatever you feel more comfortable with. These would all be class 4.
I would recommend bringing your typical long-day hike gear (good boots, layers, rain gear, plenty of food, water, etc...). There is no water along the trail, so make sure your containers are full.
In the winter, you will need an axe and crampons. The loose rock is difficult enough, with snow, winter climbing gear would be a must.
Don't forget the camera!!
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