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Much of the route lies on private property, if not owned by the Royal Gorge ski area, then by the Louisiana/Pacific Railroad, or a private timber interest. There were plenty of signs indicating all this, but I conveniently chose to be distracted by the beautiful, snowy scenery rather than take note of a such signs tacked to the trees. As luck would have it, there were lots of snowmobilers out this past weekend who also chose to ignore the signs. Even the one that said "NO SNOWMOBILES", possibly the only sign I didn't disobey. This made for a nicely packed route all the way to Snow Mtn and along the ridge between Snow Mtn and Devils Peak. It would have taken hours longer otherwise. And since it was a weekday, I didn't have to share the route with anyone else. It was all very idyllic with tons of snow, wonderful views and great weather.
Snow Mtn is the higher of the two, but fairly tame. It's really just a walk up (or drive up if you have a snowmobile), but it has great views looking over the North Fork of the American River, and much of the high country west of the Sierra crest between I-80 and Desolation Wilderness. It was clear enough to see north to English Mtn, Sierra Buttes, and even Mt. Lassen just barely visible 100mi away. There are three summits close to each other vying for the highpoint. There were small cairns on two of them, but after visiting all three I believe the westernmost is the highpoint. I found no benchmarks or register, but either could have easily been hidden under the snow.
Devils Peak is advertised as a class 3-4 scramble and it didn't disappoint. Additional snowmobile tracks had packed a route along the entire crest between the two peaks. After reaching the base of Devils Peak I packed up the snowshoes and went up the class 3ish South Ridge where there was little snow. The route was steep but with excellent holds which made me rate it class 3 and not class 4. I then struggled a bit to cross the summit ridge to reach the highpoint further north. This short stretch is close to a knife-edge in places and the snow made things a bit spicier.
The weather continued to be beautiful, no wind and good visibility, so I stayed at the summit some 20 minutes to take it all in and relax a bit. I contemplated continuing north along the summit ridge, but that first step off the summit was a doozey. A steep arete dropping off the west side looked like it might afford a way around this step in dry conditions, but there was too much snow on the north side of this arete to do so safely. Instead, I downclimbed the upper part of the West Face on more class 3 to reach the steep snow slopes below that were only just beginning to consolidate. They probably would have still had avalanche danger a few days earlier. Once I had managed to gingerly downclimb the steepest parts of the snow slope, I turned to face downhill and trounce my way down to the snowmobile tracks below.
This was not the same set of tracks I had followed on the way in (those were further west), but they led back in the same general direction. I missed a turn at one point by following a wayward snowmobile track that eventually turned to head east rather than northwest as I needed. I spent the last half hour wallowing a bit in the heavy afternoon snow to get back to I-80, but it wasn't very hard and all good fun in the end.
The whole outing took about 7hrs and I managed to drive home to the Bay Area just at sunset. It was so much fun I decided to go back up again after the weekend, before the next storm was due to arrive.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Snow Mountain - Devils Peak
This page last updated: Tue Feb 3 19:43:24 2009
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