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

Dec 28, 2012 - Nonsummit - Devils Peak


Partners: (None)

Distance: 4.83 miles

Elevation Gain: 885 feet

Trip Time: 3:41

Trip Report  |  Trip Photos  |  GPX: (1)
USDA Forest Service | Wikipedia
Maps and Stats:
Having had two consecutive failures in snowy conditions in the Sierra I set out on a return trip to try for Devil's Peak in the Sierra National Forest. There had been a lot of winter weather over the preceding week and reports from Yosemite were that 50 inches of snow was now on the ground. My last trip failed only because I had attempted to reach the trailhead in less than ideal conditions, so this time I waited for 2 straight days of sun and then set off.

It was very cold when I arrived at the trailhead at about 9:30. Unlike last time, I had no trouble getting to the trailhead, and the turnout was actually plowed, allowing me to park right next to the start. Things were definitely looking good for finally reaching a Sierra summit in winter conditions. The only potential problem looked to be that this time the depth of the snow looked to be much deeper than my previous visit. No worry though, I figured that's what my snowshoes were for. Last time they allowed me to move quickly, sinking only a few inches into the snow, so why would it be different now?

The first half mile had been plowed, making for relatively smooth snowshoeing conditions. I didn't bother checking my GPS, and instead just followed the plowed area. It seemingly didn't make any sense to break my own trail given the great one I had in front of me. I eventually came up to the railroad tracks, but this happened much sooner than it should have. I certainly didn't recognize the area from my last visit. A quick check of the GPS showed that I was about a half mile off course. No worry though, as the tracks provided a very easy path to simply follow until I could get back on course. This setback was nothing that concerned me.

Once on the other side of the tracks the conditions became more difficult. A narrow path had been cut in the snow, but it was too narrow for me to walk in. The going was tough, but still not bad enough to make me think I wouldn't reach my destination. Each step would see me sink 9-12 inches, but I started catching on to ways to stay mostly in the narrow path. It took extra effort, however, and I thought maybe my snowshoes weren't really helping all that much and maybe if I removed the excess weight and bulk of the snowshoes I could more nimbly stay in the small track. So I took off one of my snowshoes to see if I could gain some sort of advantage, however, I sank about 30 inches and gave up on that idea very quickly. One step was enough.

After reattaching the snowshoe and setting back out, nice views began to present themselves, and I found myself needing to rest quite a bit which gave me a chance to enjoy the scenery. Unfortunately, the trail I had been following suddenly ended in the middle of the mountainside, at which point I had to fully break my own trail in this really soft and deep snow pack. I felt up to the task, and broke trail up the mountain. This soon proved to be extremely tiring, and my frequency of needed to rest increased dramatically.

I soon came across some perfectly preserved animal tracks which gave me an excuse to take yet another break. The going was just so incredibly tough, tougher than any slope or scrambling I have ever done. It wasn't that steep, but the continued sinking, then lifting each foot ever higher to get over the snow, while carrying heavy snowshoes covered with a few pounds of snow made each step feel like I was going up at a much more difficult angle. Having done Half Dome twice, I would say the effort of each step here was tougher than what is experienced on the cables at the final ascent on Half Dome. There was no danger of falling here, just continued exertion for minor gains.

I turned around not too much later, as my last mile had taken me 72 minutes to complete. There was once again no chance of reaching the summit, so I elected to turn around, and figure out a better strategy for tacking these winter outings. I've got to figure out when a good time to visit the snow would be. On the way down I came across someone snowplowing the area that was already snowplowed, and htold me that if the weather would just warm up for a few days the snow would become much more firm. In any event, having frustratingly only completed a bit less than 5 miles on the day, I knew I'd be doing something else very soon...

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