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

Mar 22, 2014 - Snow Mountain / Devil's Peak

 

Partners: Kyle Breen

Distance: 15.75 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,337 feet

Trip Time: 8:31

Maps and Stats:
My favorite peak so far is Devils Peak, which is only a few miles from Highway 80 and has nicely graded, packed trails which make for excellent snowshoeing conditions. The peak itself provides for a fun 150 feet of vertical class 3 climbing, followed by a knife-edge ridgeline traverse. It's just a lot of fun to go climb that thing. I'd visited this area several times in the past, having climbed Devils Peak three times and once combining it with the much more distant Snow Mountain, which is about 7 1/2 miles one-way from Highway 80. Doing both in the deep snows is an extremely difficult task, and so with the lack of winter snows I felt that the conditions would be ideal for another visit.

Kyle had summitted Devils Peak with me once last year as well, but he had never been to Snow Mountain. Both are on the OGUL Peak list, so although this repeat would not add to my list of peaks, Snow Mountain would give Kyle another OGUL Peak. We met up at the Fry's in Rancho Cordova at about 8:45, and arrived at the Troy Road underpass a little after 10:00. There was very little snow on the ground on the drive to Troy Road, however, the trail leading up from Troy Road was mostly covered in snow. There were a few other parties at the start, and several were packing as heavily as we were, with snowshoes and large packs. We wondered if they were maybe going to Devils Peak as well, although we didn't bother asking. We didn't put on our snowshoes, as the snow was shallow and hard and there was no problem with postholing. For some reason, the other parties all wore snowshoes, which as we went up, really seemed odd as some sections of the trail were completely snow free.

Anyway, we made our way up to the historic transcontinental railroad, and, having accidentally taken the steep way up which dumped us to the southwest rather than the correct southeast route, and we had to walk maybe a quarter mile down the tracks in Stand By Me fashion in order to pick up the trail as it went through the forest towards the Royal Gorge cross country ski area. Once we were back on track, we found an intermittent mix of melting snow and deeper snow which was still deep enough to nearly cover the gate bordering the Royal Gorge. Within an hour, we had our first views of the towering Devils Peak through the forest. But our primary objective on the day was Snow Mountain, and so that was to be our first destination. As such, we went by the side of Devils Peak, and continued along the patchy snow as the trail wound around a frozen lake. We paused at this lake, and were a bit surprised that with the snow melting the lake would still be in this condition. Kyle ventured out on to the lake and threw a giant rock, wanting to test the strength of the ice. The rock landed with the sound of a gunshot, echoing in the mountains and not damaging the frozen ice in the least. Kyle continued walking around, and I circled to get a shot of him with Devils Peak in the background. When I got back home, I also found a shot that I had taken from my previous visit which makes for a nice comparison shot between winter and summer.

Shortly after resuming our trek, we had our first good views of Snow Mountain, still a couple of miles ahead. The trail led us down and through a stream before winding around a lake with a nice vacation home next to it. I hadn't immediately noticed it, but Kyle pointed out that there was someone on the balcony at the house and so we kept moving, unsure if we were actually trespassing or not. Right around this point the identifiable trail ended, and the cross country portion of the the trip began. I had mapped out the route on my GPS, and so there actually was a trail around here somewhere, but from here until our arrival at Devils Peak the snow cover would be much too deep to be able to reliably follow the true trail again. On the way up we did find encouraging signs that we were in the right area, but for all intents and purposes we just went uphill towards the ridgeline in the best manner would could see. Once we hit the main ridgeline, it was only another 600 feet uphill to get to Snow Mountain, although it looked much further.

At this point I noticed that Kyle was trailing me, rather than taking the lead as is the norm. He was feeling the impacts from the warm temperatures and his warm attire wasn't helping. I didn't mind leading, as the snow was nicely consolidated and we never did need to take out our snowshoes (another reason we were tired - lugging those things up the mountain was tiring). We made the final climb up the snow slope and arrived on top of the broad summit of Snow Mountain a few minutes after 2 PM. There are a few points vying for the title of the highpoint. I knew from my last visit that the western summit was the most spectacular, although a few feet short of the true high point. I took a few shots from this summit before making my way over to the true high point about a quarter mile away. The views from the summit are quite nice, looking back towards the western summit, over to Devils Peak (and our route to come) and towards the high Sierra off to the southeast. I got my summit photo, and off we went towards Devils Peak.

We took a slightly different route down, opting for a steeper route which is always more fun on descent. The good thing about the fresh snow was that our tracks were the only ones, and we soon found our tracks from the ascent. We followed those along the ridgeline, and we could see Devils Peak way off in the distance, still many miles away. The plan was to stay along the ridgeline or near it as much as possible, rather than dropping back down to the trail and then having to climb back up to get up to Devils Peak. As we made the trek, we enjoyed the views of that vacation house by the lake, this time from a safe distance. Although we couldn't see the trail that winds along near the top of the ridgeline, we knew we were on it because of the wide stretch of treeless snow in front of us. We followed that for the majority of the way to Devils Peak, leaving us about 1 mile to do off trail. That mile was somewhat challenging, as the slope steepened and we made our way towards what the magnificent looking peak. When we emerged from the forest the snow cover nearly disappeared, and we were left facing the intimidating cliffs of Devils Peak.

We set our packs down and made our way up to the base of the cliffs and got started on the fun stuff. Kyle led the way up and after about 5 minutes of really enjoyable class 3 climbing we emerged on the lower south summit. From there, we had the familiar ridgeline traverse in front of us. This part of the climb looks quite scary, but in reality is not all that bad. I don't think you could call it any more than tough class 2 along the whole ridgeline, although with fantastic drops on on all sides. Kyle was first to the summit, and I took my turn on top. The views from Devils Peak are also great, looking back toward Snow Mountain, and down both sides of the peak. Kyle took his turn on the summit, and we then got started on the return traverse back over to the lower north summit, and then back down the class 3 rock. Once down the peak, we had some steep snow to descend, but that is always good for some fun.

Once back down on flatter ground, we easily located the trail and started on the hour long trip back down, passing over the railroad and this time descending down the correct path and getting back to the car at about 6:45. The trip up Devils Peak is going to have to be an annual winter climb, as the day's trip cemented it as an all-time favorite!

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