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Hiking Stats as of 11/14/2018
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 325
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

May 25, 2013 - Snow Mountain / Devil's Peak

 

Partners: (None)

Distance: 15.86 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,331 feet

Trip Time: 7:53

Maps and Stats:
Memorial Day weekend marks the time when local hiking becomes much more difficult with the summer heat sapping any enjoyment from being on the trail. At the same time, the high Sierra is still snow-covered, so I woke on on Saturday not really knowing where I was going to go. I figured I would get up early, walk the dogs and see if any urges hit me. On that walk I got the urge to finally claim Snow Mountain, which had eluded me multiple times during the winter months.

Snow Mountain is not a difficult climb, however, it is something like 7 miles one way from the Highway, a distance which proved to be too great to cover during all of my previous visits which were snowshoe treks. On two of those visits, however, I was able to ascend the majestic Devil's Peak, which has become one of my favorite peaks. The goal for today was to complete a loop hike, first to Snow Mountain then to Devil's Peak which would result in about 15 miles for the day. I got off to a late start, and didn't arrive to the trailhead until close to noon. With daylight lasting until past 8 PM, however, I was confident I had plenty of time to complete my objectives.

I wasn't sure if there would be any snow on this hike, but figured that whatever was out there would not warrant bringing along snowshoes. I was correct, and for the first time saw the service road that served as the trail. Although I had been on this road before, everything was much different looking now. Where snow once piled up now were streams and lakes. The area is not exactly open to the public, with some of the land being owned by the Royal Gorge ski resort and other parts by some other entity. There are numerous gates and signs designed to scare people from enjoying the area but given the remoteness of the area I had no concern at all.

Being able to walk on solid ground greatly improved my speed, and in less than an hour I could already see Devil's Peak not too far ahead. But that would be the second objective today, first I wanted to make sure I got to Snow Mountain. Off to the side of Devil's Peak I noticed what a giant field of bright green plants - their sheer numbers making it look almost like somebody planted them there. Although this area is fantastic in winter, it is equally as stunning without snow. The trail wound around a large lake, offering just sensational views of Devil's Peak reflecting in the water. About a mile past Devil's Peak I got my first look at Snow Mountain, which clearly still did have some snow on it. It didn't look like it was much more than snow patches however, so I was unconcerned. As I got closer to Snow Mtn I wound up getting a bit off trail and coming across some lucky person's vacation house. How cool would it be to be able to come here for a weekend? Although I don't know how the heck they access the property, there were no roads to be seen in the area.

After some more cross country travel I was finally close enough to Snow Mountain to see that although snow covered the slopes, it clearly would not be too difficult to work around it. Not like some of the other high peaks of the Sierra, which looked quite forboding in the distance. I started up the rocky slope of Snow Mountain, working around the snow where I could. Eventually I came across a section completely covered in snow, and the warm temperatures made crossing the snow a bit tricky due to the icy conditions. The section quickly gave way to more rock and only patchy snow again, as I approached the top.

Once I crested on top of Snow Mountain I could see maybe 4 potential high points. The summit area is about as long as a football field, with several rock piles teasing me as the potential true summit. No matter, I would just climb all of them to be sure. I started on the far western side, which offered the best views of the Royal Gorge below. I took most of my summit shots from this location, including fine views of the high Sierra. I also took my personal summit photo from this location as well, set against the fantastic westward views. I then made my way over to the other rock piles and started climbing them one by one. It was enjoyable, although none of them were very difficult and obviously didn't offer any different views. I finally came across the true summit, capped by the Snow Mountain summit marker. From here I did have a fine view of Devil's Peak and the cross country route that would take me there.

The plan was to descend Snow Mountain to the ridgeline, and then follow the ridgeline over to the rocky slopes of Devil's Peak. I had fun on the descent, taking advantage of the snow fields to slide part way down As I worked my way towards the ridgeline, I found myself back in the forest where I came across a poor tree in distress. The poor little pine was no more than 2 feet tall, and had the misfortune of being in the way of a fallen tree which broke off one of its branches and had it bending at near a 90 degree angle. I tried to move the downed tree, but it was about 25 feet in length and I could not do anything more than lift it up about a foot before having to put it back down. I was able to free the little tree however, giving it a much better shot at survival. Once I reached the ridgeline I could see Devil's Peak poking its head way off in the distance and I was happy to find a trail that took me a portion of the way there. The trail would have been impassable until very recently, as the snow melted just enough to allow me to pass.

The trek over to Devil's Peak offered intermittant views of the peak as I got closer. Eventually I arrived at the base and climbed up the fun class 3 rock to arrive at the lower north summit. The higher south summit is at the end of a knife-edge ridge, offering up some spicy climbing although nothing too difficult. From the top of the true summit I was able to capture Snow Mountain and most of the route over to Devil's Peak, including the knife-edge traverse in this one shot. I quickly made my descent, and with only a couple of miles to go to get back to the car figured that the excitement of the day was over. I was wrong, however, as I saw my first bear off in the dense vegetation. It was brown, and looked to be eating some vegetation. He saw me first, so unfortunatly I didn't see him until he started running away into the forest. I quickly pulled out my camera but was not able to get a shot of him. I waited around for about 15 minutes hoping maybe he would give me a chance to get a picture but I never saw him again. I finally made my way back towards the car as the sun began to set. I arrived back at the car with about a half hour of daylight left and set in for the two hour drive back home.

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