Peak 6,642ft P300
Cisco Butte 2x

Apr 10, 2023

With: Don Brunnett

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Cisco Butte previously climbed Apr 9, 2007

It had been a few years since I last went snowshoeing, and it seemed time to give it a go once again. I had been waiting for this year's huge snowpack to settle down and consolidate some, but there had hardly been a string of four days in the last month without some precipitation. A short warming trend with no new snow gave me some hope. I hadn't seen my cousin in a while, so I texted to see if he'd be interested in joining for a day trip. He responded in the first text with "... I love snowshoeing." and in the very next one with "I know nothing about snow shoes." I thought it both odd and amusing. Turns out he had done it once in Yosemite on a guided outing which pretty much explained it. I had a second pair and told him he just needed bring poles. He would forget the poles, but I couldn't give him a hard time - that was the only thing he forgot, while I forgot to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and any sort of liquid to drink. We would make it work despite our shortcomings.

I picked him up at his home in Pleasanton at 7a, we then stopped by the nearest Starbucks before heading off on a 2hr45min drive across the Central Valley, through Sacramento and some miles up Interstate 80. We found plenty of snow above the 5,000-foot level, eventually getting off the highway at the Crystal Lake exit just before Cisco Grove. I had in mind a 6mi loop on the south side of the highway, a route I had gotten from Clement Guillaume off PB. It would turn out to be more ambitious than we could manage. The main problem was that the snow had not frozen over the previous night, so it was harder snowshoeing than I had anticipated/hoped for. We started out at 10a and it was already warm, so tshirts would suffice. We followed a snow-covered road for a short distance before turning up a drainage that we could follow under a Union Pacific bridge, continuing up to a frozen, unnamed lake. The edges of the lake were starting to melt, but there were still sufficient snow bridges connecting the lake to the surrounding terrain. Don wasn't very trusting when I told him we'd go across the lake, but after I went first and jumped up and down on it, he was adequately convinced. At the south end of the lake, we turned southeast and began climbing up towards Peak 6,642ft, approaching it from the north. It was a steep climb, but the snow was in excellent conditions for good footing - there was no chance of avalanche and no chance that we could slide down out of control. The slope was exposed to the sun with only a few trees. I would wait under the shade of one of these for Don to catch up before going higher. Don was feeling the altitude and slowing down now. As we neared the summit, the wind began to pick up, chilling us some.

We reached the summit about an hour and a half after starting out, having gone less than 2mi. It was not looking like we would make the full loop. While we rested on the side of a summit boulder to get out of the wind, I suggested a few options to the original plan. We decided to skip the loop, instead heading up to Cisco Butte before returning. This was an easier effort, taking about 30min. We passed by a private cabin half-buried by the snow near the saddle between the two peaks. There are some telecom installations on the south side of Cisco Butte, but the summit is unadorned. Ahead of Don, I went up to the summit rocks at the north end of the ridge, took a few pics and headed back. Don didn't really care to take off his snowshoes just to scramble up a few feet of rock, clearly not as obsessed as myself. We descended off the southwest side of Cisco Butte, steep but not as steep as the north side which I knew had some minor cliff issues. Our route was all-snow back down to the lake, after which we simply followed our tracks back to highway. It was less than 3.5hrs for the whole outing, but a good enough reintroduction. Don seemed to enjoy the outing enough to agree we should come back again in a few weeks...

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This page last updated: Tue Apr 11 15:08:50 2023
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