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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

Dec 27, 2014 - Wade BM

 

Partners: Kyle Breen

Distance: 11.72 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,232 feet

Trip Time: 7:35

Maps and Stats:
There had finally been a break in the winter storm pattern that had been in place for the past couple of months, leading to an opportunity to head up to the Sierra for the first snowshoe hike of the season. Today's objective would be Wade Benchmark, a peak standing 9,367 feet tall and on the OGUL list (number 40 for me). Saturday morning Kyle and I met up in Rancho Cordova and carpooled up US 50. Usually the trip to Tahoe takes a little over 2 1/2 hours from my house, but on this day, which was during the holiday season, we wound up stuck in a couple of traffic jams. First at the Sierra at Tahoe ski resort, then another jam up by Adventure Mountain. All told it took us an extra half hour to make the trip, and judging by the line-up of cars trying to leave South Lake Tahoe the delays were just as bad heading in the other direction.

We were heading east on 88/89, just past Sorensens, with our eyes peeled looking for the correct starting location. We wound up driving past it since there weren't any obvious places to park, and I did a U-Turn and wound up parking off the side of the highway just outside where the normal parking lot was covered in snow. There were no signs warning against parking here so I felt pretty safe in doing so. It was 11:15 when we parked right at the trailhead for the Horesethief Canyon Trail. The trail was surprisingly easy to follow as it went steeply up the hillside. The path did not have much in the way of snow cover as it wound up the canyon, owing to its southern exposure, although there was some ice that required caution to avoid slipping. The route follows the Horsethief Canyon Creek uphill, gaining about 750 feet in 3/4 in a mile before leveling off some. At this point the snow cover was consistent, although not yet deep. We were pleased to see that we were following a well defined trail and was easy to follow.

As we got higher up the snow became deeper, but thanks to the defined trail we had no route finding issues and elected to continue hiking in our boots rather than snowshoes. The winter scenery was fantastic, and we were well prepared for the cold temperatures (we had thought it would be much colder and each brought an extra jacket that Kyle only used for the last couple of hours and I didn't use at all). The deeper snow started creating postholing issues, and we stubbornly refused to stop to put on the snowshoes for probably an hour longer than we should have. We finally gave in around 1:30 and put on our snowshoes for the first time this season. Travel became immediately easier, and we laughed at our reluctance to put them on earlier.

At 1:45 we crested on a saddle, and hoped that the trail we continue on to the right and lead us to Wade. There was no such luck, however, as the trail ran up to a sign announcing it was the "end of the maintained trail" at which point it was up to us to go cross country and break trail to the summit. It seemed that the slope was pretty steep, although a large factor in our fatigue was having to break trail. I did the job for the first steep section, and Kyle did for a longer time, although he didn't have as much elevation gain to deal with. Once we reached 9,100 feet we wound up going through a relative flat forest which obscured any hope of actually seeing the summit. I continually checked the GPS to course correct as needed, with no landmarks to follow whatsoever. This part of the day was the most tedius, a very long slog breaking trail through the snow with no ability to actually measure our progress. We finally emerged from the forest at 3:15 and were directly below the slopes of Wade.

The 200 foot climb up Wade was the hardest part of the day. The slope was extremely steep and covered in dense brush. We wanted to take off the snowshoes but the snow was still very deep. But the downside was that the snowshoes would catch in the brush and make passage extremely difficult. We powered through it, and arrived at the final 75 foot section of rock. We should have removed our snowshoes here, but it was getting late and we didn't want to stop. We climbed up the boulders and finally completed the 6 mile trek to the summit at 3:45, much later in the day than we ever imagined it would be. The day was cold to start with, but at the summit the strong winds made it very uncomfortable. Kyle located the summit can and pulled out a register. He noticed that the register was blank, but neither one of us wanted to take the time to dig around in the canister for the active register. Even with gloves on our fingers were so cold that we signed in with the penmanship of a 4 year old. I was sitting (and still in my snowshoes) and didn't even bother to stand to take my summit photos, looking over to Freel Peak and Jobs Peak, down into Nevada, a view of our ascent route through the thick forest, and a picture of Kyle sitting on the summit, no more motivated to stand and pose than I was. There was no benchmark at the summit, but I did see 2 reference markers, although I used the zoom on my camera to view them rather than spend another minute on top in the cold.

We descend a slightly different (and far better) route off Wade, staying more to the south and avoiding most of the thick brush. From there it was easy to hook back up with our tracks coming in through the forest. We had originally planned to do PK 9390, which is actually slightly higher than Wade and would require no more than an extra half mile (round trip) and 200 feet of gain, however, given the late hour we abandoned that idea and set upon trying to get down before darkness set in. We witnessed a spectacular sunset over the distant mountains, although we were able to make it back down to the regular trail before I gave Kyle my headlamp to guide us out of the final 2 miles. The combination of the residual rays from the headlamp and the moon overhead were largely sufficient for me to see well enough to follow Kyle without additional lighting aid, with Kyle turning around to shine the light whenever there was an obstacle to avoid. We made it back to the final mile (the steep section covered more in ice than snow) at 6:15, and we put on our microspikes to help us navigate this tricky area. We arrived back at the car at 6:45, a couple of hours later than I would have thought when we started. We were relieved to find that there was little congestion on the roads on the way back, allowing us to get back at a somewhat reasonable hour.

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