www.MountainHiker.org

Hiking Stats as of 11/21/2018
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 325
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Nov 9, 2013 - Signal Peak

 

Partners: Kyle Breen

Distance: 17.17 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,003 feet

Trip Time: 7:10

Trip Report  |  Trip Photos  |  GPX: (1)
 
Links:
Summitpost | Bob Burd's TR
Maps and Stats:
This weekend Kyle and I were looking to summit a challenging OGUL Peak before the winter snows restricted our targets to those within a few miles of the plowed highways. Today we were looking to attempt Old Man Mountain, a peak which requiress a 7.5 mile hike just to reach the base of the mountain if you don't have a 4x4 vehicle. The trail (actually it is a road for off-road vehicles) can be driven to within about a mile of Old Man Mountain for those with proper transportation. Unfortunately, my vehicle doesn't qualify.

Knowing we had a long day, Kyle and I met at the Fry's in Roseville at 9:15 and 45 minutes later we could see the distinctive dome shape of Old Man as we approached on the Highway. We were going to be on the western side of the Sierra, so our trip up was brief, and we parked at the gas station across the Highway from the TH a bit after 10:20 AM. Kyle and I had been on this trail before - we used it to summit Signal Peak several months ago and came away rather unimpressed with the ambiance. The trail is an off road vehicle paradise, and we would see maybe 10 vehicles coming and going during the day. So much for the wilderness. We passed the hikers trail for Signal Peak at about the 1.5 mile mark, and continued east as the road wound its way towards the ridgeline east of Signal Peak. Old Man Mountain is behind this ridgeline, and there is no easy way to get to it, as the Signal Peak massif blocks all access.

While we were expecting motorized traffic, we were not expecting the wintry mix we found as we got higher up. Conditions on the road got significantly worse, with a mix of snow, sleet, ice and giant frozen puddles. This was no big deal for us to hike through, although we were a bit concerned that we might encounter icy conditions during some of the steeper parts of the approach. After 5.75 miles we reached the high point of the trail, at Fordyce Summit (7100 elevation after starting at 5500 feet), and then began the descent back down to about 6400 elevation on the other side of the ridge. We had tried to research the best approach to get to Old Man ahead of time, and we had read to look for a gap in the the ridge next to the road where a poorly kept trail would take us down to Fordyce creek. With those thoughts in mind, we kept going downhill, and soon saw Fordyce Lake in the distance. We had thought our exit point was near this lake (of course we were wrong, making yet another mistake in navigation that may have cost us the summit). As we made our way down, we passed a campground near the lake, at which point I checked my GPS to see how close we were to our turnoff. Only about 3/4 mile away...back the way we had just come from. Already pressed for time, we turned around and regained the few hundred feet and 3/4 mile back and found the obvious gap in the ridge.

From here we expected to see some sort of trail, but none could be found. This was pretty discouraging, as our time budget just didn't allow for our previous mishap and now having to bushwhack and route find down the mountainside. We had previously set a turnaround time of 3 PM, which in itself would mean a couple of hours by headlamp on the return if we left the summit at that time. As we stared out at Old Man we knew we could never get to down to the creek, which was 500 feet downhill, then up the 1700 foot steep slabs before turn around time. So we decided to turn around, heading back uphill as we looked for the road. It took a while, as the brush and rocky landscape made it very difficult to make any consistent progress, but we we got back up and started making our way back up towards Fordyce Summit. Along the way we talked about taking one of the offshoot roads which led up to the 7840 foot summit of Signal Peak so that we could at least get a summit. Of course we had summited Signal Peak previously, but it is an OGUL peak and so a second ascent would at least be something.

Once we got back to Fordyce Summit, instead of following the road back down and along the southern base of Signal Peak, we took a side road uphill towards Signal Peak. Up here the wintry conditions were at their finest, providing some level of enjoyment after the disappointing failure on Old Man. As we approached Signal Peak the views opened up wonderfully, and we could see several peaks we had climbed previously, including Granite Chief/Needle Peak/Lyons Peak (Devils Peak closer to right), and Anderson Peak/Tinker Knob and Snow Mountain which was living up to its name, or at least the surrounding terrain was. Soon after we were on the summit of Signal Peak, with its views back to Old Man Mountain dominating the scene. The summit of Signal Peak, appropriately enough, lies beneath a bunch of radio towers and a summit building. Last time the gate surrounding the building had been locked, but today it was open, so we quickly climbed up to top of the building to claim the actual summit. We only spent a few minutes on the actual summit, as we knew there was a summit hut just off the top. We made our way over to the hut and of course both climbed to the top of that too, with Kyle posing on the chimney to claim the highpoint of the hut. Getting down from the top of the hut would be class 3 if it were rock, although no serious injury would result if one were to fall.

Having now completed about 14 miles on the day, we set to the task of descending down the hikers trail which would put us back on the main off-road trail about 1.25 miles from the TH. We were racing against the darkness, made worse by the canopy of trees. Had we been even a half hour later this would have required the use of my headlamp, but we made it back to the main road with enough light left to still see. We hurried across the last mile+, emerging at the TH as darkness set in. We walked across the Highway 80 overpass and arrived back at the car at 5:30 PM. We put in over 17 miles and over 4000 feet of elevation gain, yet still didn't come close to reaching Old Man...we will have to come up with a Plan B for next year because we both want a rematch.

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