Went to Dick's yesterday, wed 1/7/09. Kind of wordy here, I'm hoping to motivate some people to get back there if they haven't.
Awsome snow conditions if you time it right out there right now. I skied the south side from the summit down to Half Moon Lake, feeling out the snow and being careful of course...it ain't consolidated corn, but it feels like it on south exposures right now. Basic clues for beginners are:
if you see rollerballs and/or if you can stick your ski pole basket right throught the snow easily, the slope is close to falling apart. Don't get in a wet slide please because you saw this post. A few more skiers and we could have gotten some snow moving perhaps. Wet slides will flush you down the mountain just the same as cold snow slab avalanches.
Then I found some nice powder amazingly on north exposures in spots above 8000'. The melt freeze crust from that warm spell we had apparently wasn't too bad.
Desolation Wilderness is covered well with snow. Certainly enough to go where you want. Stay away from covered boulders and bases of trees, they aren't covered that well and the snow is faceted (sugar snow). Worst case is triggering a slide or getting hurt. Best case is wrecking your skis. Backcountry skiing is really good right now, but be pick your route careful and ski slower than normal.
I went up Cascade Drainage, not sure where I was aiming for yet. I popped up on the ridge inbetween Tallac and Janine's/Dick's in about 2 hours. This is NOT the best way to Dick's, although it seems like it when you do this first half of the route. You are certainly travelling in more seroius avlanche terrain going this way too, compared to the relatively safe Bayview/Eagle Falls Trailhead routes out to Dicks' Peak.
The second half along this long ridge is very inefficient. A jumble of rocky terrain to wreck your skis and frustrate you with post holing. As usual, I dealt with it when I should have just dropped down to Half Moon Lake and climbed up from there. Took me a little over 4 hours to get to Dick's summit. I wasn't racing, but you should expect longer on this route with a group.
Dick's is on the right, Jack's is on the left. This is the south side of Dick's, rarely skiable from the summit due to snow melting and/or blowing off up high.
I didn't skin up the south side fearing wet slide danger, and crossed over to the north side at the gap. Snow was wind hardened over there and booting was easier than skinning. It's not as steep as it looks on the true north side, the east ridge is what is intimidating looking.
Jack's Peak in the forground, Pyramid Peak on the left.
Looking back at the Lake from Dick's Summit. West side of Tallac over on the right. The two little treed bumps left of center is Maggie's Peaks. This is a good way to get to Dicks', threading through them over the actual Bayview summer Trail.
Going back from Dick's can be really good, or a total turnless, schlog if you don't think it through. I usually climb back up to the Janine Ridge and pick out a good ski descent to Azure Lake. From there you can go back up to Maggies if you have water and energy, or schlog out Cascade Drainage. Anyway you cut it, you're gonna be tired, thirsty, and hungry. If you do go out that far, start really early and choose your partners wisely. Nothing new in that advice obviously.
This is the view halfway back, from the summit of Janine's Ridge. Not called that on the map, I just adopted the name in the summit register a hiker called the peak a long time ago, after a friend who passed. No story known. Sounds like a good name to me. There is definately a summit along this ridge worth calling something. Azure Lake is down on the left. This lake is really beautiful the way it's tucked down so deeply with granite cliffs around it. A worthy adventure just to get there via snowshoes or skis.