Hiking Stats as of 11/19/2019
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Dec 18, 2012 - Nonsummit - Devils Peak


Partners: (None)

Distance: 8.10 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,229 feet

Trip Time: 4:19

Trip Report  |  Trip Photos  |  GPX: (1)
USDA Forest Service | Wikipedia
Maps and Stats:
With two weeks off from work I figured it was prime time to try out my new winter gear I've been accumulating over the past two months. New showshoes, ice axe, backpack and winter clothing all ready to be broken in. I have yet to summit anything in snowy weather, having been turned around on Pyramid Peak last month as the deep snow was too much for me armed with only hiking boots. The plan was to leave the house by 5:30 which would put me at the trailhead for Snow Mountain and Devil's Peak in the Tahoe National Forest by 8:00. With darkness setting in by 5:00 I figured 9 hours to cover the 15 miles would be sufficient, but just in case I brought my headlamp and extra batteries too.

I got on the road about 5:45, and beat the traffic through Sacramento and headed east on I-80. There have been several days of snow recently, with light snowfall overnight. Well, this caused some problems on the road, with chain requirements being in effect. This caused traffic to come to a standstill, as everyone had to merge to one lane to be checked for chains. I had chains with me, but had to stop to put them on. I sat there for a minute trying to remember my practice session from the day before, when to my surprise, a CalTrans Chain Installer pulled up and offered to put on my chains. Since time was wasting and it took me a half hour to do one tire the day before I was grateful for the offer. The worker asked me if I had front or rear wheel drive. I told him rear, so he started to put the chains on the back but then he knocked on the window and said I had front wheel drive. I told him I didn't think so, but he was sure so he took the chains up to the front and put them on there. Of course after he put them on he realized that he was wrong, and had to take them back off. By this time, the chain requirement had been lifted, so he told me I could just go on my way. The remaining 15 miles to the exit were painfully slow, taking about 1 hour to complete.

So I get to the turnoff, already very late and worried about time, and followed a frontage road for about 1 mile to the trailhead. But of course, the final road I needed to turn on was not plowed and I had to go all the way back to my original exit and park at a gas station, then walk the mile back to the trailhead just to get started on the trip. At this point, I knew my goal of summiting Snow Mountain was impossible, being that it was already 10AM. I wasn't going to let that get me down though, as I figured I could still get in some practice and training on snowshoeing and maybe some lighter climbing.

The journey followed a series of wide, easy to follow trails which appear to be used by some sort of private club. There must have been 4 or 5 warnings spaced out every mile or so. At first there is a nice small stream (of course marked with a Private property sign) but the trail quickly turns and heads upward through the wooded hillsides. There were dozens of tracks I saw throughout the day on the fresh snow, but nothing that looked like it might belong to something bigger than me so I wasn't worried.

After several miles the views started to open up behind me, but I had not yet seen the day's original objectives - Devil's Peak and Snow Mountain. The snow really started getting deeper and I made the switch from hiking boots to snowshoes around 6500 feet. I was really excited to try them out but was trying to balance that against the knowledge that I would not be able to go as fast in the snowshoes as I could in boots. At least the trail back would be easy to follow! I climbed up one last ridge as the clouds started coming in and then was hit with a stunning vista of Devil's Peak. Was I really thinking of climbing this on my first winter hike?

The combination of the oncoming clouds and the sheer steepness of this thing made for some amazing shots. I knew right away that I would not attempt this today. Not without any winter climbing experience in a remote location with potentially bad weather coming in. But I could still head towards it and see it up close.

I was heading south, and made my way up and around the west side of the Peak, noting that the climb would have to be done from the north ridge, which was the only side that looked reasonably safe to ascend. While making that trek I came across a small hut that pulled my attention in the other direction. It turns out that the company that owns this land installed this in case someone was stuck out in a storm. After poking around inside and noting that the structure apparently has a heater and stove, I made my way back towards Devil's Peak and what looked like a growing storm. I was able to pick out Snow Mountain, yet several miles away, set against an ominous sky. I was just about ready to turn around, and when I looked back towards the direction I had come things looked a little hectic and it was time to go.

The return trip was largely uneventful. The growing clouds never seemed to turn into the storm I was worried about, and I found I was quickly learning how to move rapidly on my snowshoes. The way back was very easy to follow and I found myself back at my car, with its dangling icicles by 2:30 PM as light snow flurries started falling - a frustrating but still fun half day of snowshoeing in the Sierra.

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