Hiking Stats as of 11/12/2019
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Apr 27, 2013 - Donner Peak / Judah, Mount / Lincoln, Mount


Partners: Kyle Breen

Distance: 8.25 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,597 feet

Trip Time: 6:45

Maps and Stats:
For a few weeks Kyle and I have talked about dayhiking the full Ohlone Trail - a 29 mile march that includes over 7,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. Unfortunately (or fortunately for the sane) we have been hit with quite a spell of warm weather, and mid 80's temperatures were enough to scare us from the heat of lowlands and off to pursuits in the Sierra. Kyle still doesn't have snowshoes, so I looked around for something that would be likely to offer nothing more than moderate snow . I came up with the idea to try for Tinker Knob, a peak which appeared to have access via a scramble from the Pacific Crest Trail after a 7 mile approach.

We met at our now usual meeting place at the Fry's in Roseville, with Kyle coming in from Vallejo and I from Tracy. From there we carpooled up Highway 80 to the Old Donner Road adjacent to the Sugar Bowl Ski Resort. We parked and found the PCT trail head by 11:30 AM - a late start but with the daylight lasting until near 8 PM still plenty of time to meet our objectives. We immediately had some issues with snow - the trail was largely covered in snow, with the only breaks being brought on by running streams of snow melt. We went about a quarter mile, then turned back and decided to try something else. If we couldn't follow the PCT we knew we couldn't get Tinker Knob, but there would still be plenty of things we could do. So we decided to just start climbing up the mountain, attempting to climb on rocks wherever possible to avoid the snow. We both agreed that this part was thoroughly enjoyable, setting our own route and scrambling up class 2 and some fun class 3 rocks along with a mixture of snow fields on our way up the mountain.

We finally reached the top of the steep rocky section and for the first time could see what peaks might be available to climb. Until this point we just climbed up, hoping to find the PCT up higher and still thinking maybe we could head over to Tinker Knob. Well, we didn't find a trail, but we did see two distinct peaks, although we did not know what they were called (or if they had names). We decided it would be fun to climb both, so we aimed for the saddle between the two peaks, at which point we could then decide in which order to climb them. This part of the climb was largely on moderate snow slopes, although the snow was in extremely fine condition - nice and soft which provided good footholds, and yet not so soft as to cause us to posthole too often. Once we gained the saddle it became obvious that the peak to our left was lower, and thus should be climbed first in order to allow us to opt to continue on to other peaks from a higher elevation after the second peak was climbed. We later found out that this first peak was Donner Peak. The final climb up to the summit of Donner Peak was a fun class 2 scramble where we found the summit marker (and found out where we were).

The views from the top of high Sierra peaks never disappoint. The views towards Donner Lake were particularly breathtaking. After taking summit photos of myself and Kyle we made our way back down to the saddle and then begain the journey up towards the second summit of the day. Unlike Donner Peak, this summit had no rocks to aid in the ascent, instead, we had to kickstep our way up the steep snow slope. After topping out we found ourselves at the top of a ski lift. Imagine being able to just sit down on a ski lift and get up here with no effort. What's the fun of that? We could tell that we weren't actually on the tippy top of the mountain, as a bump on the ridge about a quarter mile away seemed to be higher. We quickly made our way over to the highpoint of what we found out to be Mt. Judah. The summit of Judah is entirely unspectacular. No large boulders to scale, not sharp drop-offs. Not even any snow due to the angle of the ridge. Just a gravelly landscape is all this summit offers. From here we could see that there was yet another worthy mountain to climb if we pressed on, this one offering an even higher elevation still. We both decided that had to be our next objective.

Before heading starting on the trek to Mt. Lincoln, we found a rather large rock outcropping right off the summit of Mt. Judah and paused to climb it. Kyle went up first and then I took my turn on top. This side climb just highlighted the fun of the day - no set path or trail to follow, we simply climbed up peaks. Ironically, as we descended Mt. Judah we found a trail (which happened to the long-lost PCT as I found out after I consulted Google Maps after getting home!)and followed it until it became lost to the snow at the saddle between Mt. Judah and Mt. Lincoln. Climbing Mt. Lincoln required the ascent of yet another steep snow slope followed by the discovery of another ski lift. At the summit we learned that we had just ascended the highest of the Sugar Bowl peaks. From the top we were treated to views of Snow Mountain and the previously climbed Devil's Peak. We also enjoyed the views of the snowy high Sierra in all directions.

At this point it was a little past 3:30, and although we could see additional peaks that we wanted to climb we were concerned that such an endeavor would force us to descend near twilight in unfamiliar territory. We decided to call it a 3 Peak day, and set towards descent. The descent of the steep snow slope was great fun, as Kyle got a huge lead on me before I flew past him on a glissade. After making quick work of the snow slope we climbed back up and over Mt. Judah. From the top of Mt. Judah we encountered the other steep snow slope, and again took advantage of the great fun that sliding down the mountain can offer. On the way down we of course looked for such sliding opportunities. This took us slightly off our course, as on the way up we naturally tried to avoid steep snow slopes. Eventually we came across the steep rock bands that led down to the PCT at the bottom and had some trouble finding a reasonable route. We eventually descended a class 3/4 section . I went down first, accidentally kicking some large rocks that crashed to the snow below. Concerned that Kyle might send deadly debris on top of my head as I descended, he agreed to wait on top until I could get safely away from any potential debris fields. Once Kyle descended it was a easy treak back to the trailhead where we arrived a little past 6PM which concluded yet another fine outing in the Sierra.

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