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

Jun 1, 2013 - Signal Peak


Partners: Kyle Breen

Distance: 10.34 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,866 feet

Trip Time: 5:38

Trip Report  |  Trip Photos  |  GPX: (1)
Summitpost | Bob Burd's TR
Maps and Stats:
With only one month to go until our big hike to Mt. Whitney, Kyle and I decided we needed to start getting in some Sierra hiking as we need to start acclimating to the thinner air. After looking at some maps of OGUL peaks we decided to try either a combination of Signal Peak and Old Man Mountain or Black Butte and Old Man Mountain. The combination with Signal Peak would be about 16 miles while the Black Butte trip would have been closer to 20 miles.

After I took my dogs on their morning 5 mile walk, we arranged to meet at the Fry's in Roseville as is the norm but the day got off to an inauspicious start as road work shut down one of the 2 lanes on the freeway causing me to be 15 minutes late. Upon meeting up I suggested we try the Signal Peak/Old Man combo and Kyle agreed that was best. We made our way towards what looked on the satellite map as an open parking area, however, upon our arrival we saw that it was actually a campground with access restricted to those who were guests. After discussing our options with an employee at the campground we realized we had missed a secondary entry point and wound up driving about 1/4 mile back to the other side of the freeway and parking at a gas station. Finally able to get going, we hit the trail up to Signal Peak at about 10:30.

We immediately were disappointed with the trail. This was a poorly maintained road, allowing access (and fun I suppose) for a multitude of off-road vehicles that would drive past us during our time on the road. We followed the rough road for 3 miles before it finally occurred to me that we should have been getting near the summit by now, based on my research from the night before. So why were we 2,000 feet below the summit? I pulled out my GPS and realized that somehow we missed a turn a mile back which led up the steep hillside. Dismayed that this meant even more time on this road, we turned around and headed back down, looking for the correct trail. Sure enough, 1 mile later I recognized the obvious cairn marking the trail turnoff and felt especially dumb when I remembered seeing it on the way up and laughing that the road we were on did not require such markings. Oops.

At this point the real hiking began. The trail rapidly ascends the peak, gaining over 2,000 feet in something like 2 miles. While decidedly steep, the total ascent up Signal Peak is only about 2600 feet, which is tame by our standards. But something was not right with me. Before long we both noticed the uncomfortable heat, and soon after my stomache became twisted and nauseated. I had never experienced this on a hike before, although Kyle did on one of our first hikes. Although not hungry, I figured I needed some energy (I realized I had only eaten about 200 calories by this point of the day and it was past noon) but that didn't really help. We kept going, with me falling behind as I started having minor dizziness. I found myself stopping to take lots of pictures as a way to try to feel better. The views were amazing - Devil's Peak in the distance and the surrounding wilderness areas but I could not go more than a couple of minutes up the steep hillside without pausing.

As we ascended futher my legs became very fatigued - the last month has seen me take on the highest level of hiking/walking/treadmill/elliptical that I have ever done, and looking back I think this was actually the root of the problem. I was not consuming enough energy to recover and I hit the proverbial wall. Fatigue and dizziness (the feeling of sickness did go away) stayed with me as we approched the final bit of hiking to the summit of Signal Peak. There was one more steep rocky section that had to be ascended before we found ourself on top of a long ridge - with some sort of hut on the lower end of the ridge and radio towers on the true summit.

I was happy to set down my pack on the summit, and enjoyed the fine views. In each direction there was something to enjoy - a lake, the snowy high country, and one of our previous ascents - Devil's Peak. From this vantagepoint I calculated what would be required to ascend Old Man Mountain and realized it would not be possible given my current condition. We were looking at a 2,000 foot drop down to the gorge, then a 2,000 climb back up to Old Man Mtn. Then to return we couldn't see a realistic way to avoid that same 2,000 foot descent and re-ascent to get back to the car. No way could I put myself on the trail for another 4,000 feet of elevation gain. Given our mistakes in the early route finding and in parking it was probably a bit too late in the day to commit to so much anyway.

Rather than immediately descend, Kyle started checking out the hut and I followed, finding the views offered from its balcony to be especially enjoyable. While I was checking out the inside, Kyle decided to pull of some class three climbing by ascending to the top of the hut. I soon joined him although of course my legs started cramping as I tried to manuever them up the hut. Eventually though I made it up and we took some fun shots from on top. After a while we climbed down and set in for the return trip down. The hikers trail was fun but soon we were back on the off vehicle road, subjected to the dust clouds that would erupt each time someone drove by. After a total of 5.5 hours of hiking/messing around on the summit we were back at the gas station where a stranded motorist decided Kyle could help her fix her car. I quickly made my way to the car to avoid having to pretend to help. I have no mechanical skills so I would only get in the way. Besides, this was a gas station, why didn't she ask the attendant? After a minute Kyle returned and we set off back down Hwy 80 toward his car at Frys. I think I will take next weekend off from hiking to try to recover.

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