Snow Camp!

Devil’s Slide Trail to San Jacinto Peak Loop
(22 miles, +5,700/-5,700 feet).

My friends BarnFinder and Karpo and I have been enrolled in the Sierra Club’s Wilderness Basics Course this spring.  It’s very thorough, and I can see how it would have been super useful a year ago when I was backpacking for the first time.  But we all felt like we had enough experience that we were not getting much out of the course.

The highlight of the course is a final trip to camp on snow.  But because the instructors are dealing with a lot of people with little experience, the trips offered were quite short (they used the tram from Palm Springs to get up to the snow) and they had tons of rules about what to bring.  So we decided to make our own snow camp instead.

Starting in Idyllwild from Humber Park at 6,480 feel above sea level, we took the Devil’s Slide Trail up to the Pacific Crest Trail, which forms a nice lollipop loop with trails connecting San Jacinto Peak.

At around 8,500 feet we started to get nice views of the snow covered mountains.

Snowy peaks

Soon, we were walking on snow ourselves.  We stopped to put on our microspikes (this is the first time I’ve ever used them) and then continued up the trail.

This is fun!
Karpo strikes a pose

We met up with the trail coming from the tram, but we did not see too many people, maybe because of the snow.

Trail junction

One thing I enjoyed about hiking on snow was the route finding.  Sometimes it was easy to follow the footprints, but other times they disappeared and we had to find a bearing and just head for it.

Find the route!

On south facing slopes, the snow would disappear, and we would have to decide whether to take the microspikes off, depending on how far it was until the next snowfield.

Microspikes off
Karpo enjoys the view
Barnfinder points to the tram
More snow ahead!
Microspikes back on

We made the summit around 12:30pm and enjoyed lunch and a much needed break.  It definitely takes longer to hike on snow.

Summit selfie
Snow summit panorama

After the summit, we made our way down to Little Round Valley where we planned to camp for the evening.

Snow camp at Little Round Valley

There were actually enough bare patches that we could have avoided camping on the snow.  However, that would have missed the whole point of this trip!

Karpo finds a spot to do some yoga

There was no water at the camp (well, at least not the unfrozen kind) so we had to hike down a mile to Bed Springs Crossing and break through the snow above a small stream.

A water breakthrough

When we got back to camp we hung out, had dinner, and hit the hay relatively early.

BarnFinder chills

The next morning we were up nice and early to get back down.  We got lost a few times on this less popular side of the mountain.  There were fewer footprints, and the ones that were there were left by other people who (we would learn) were lost as well!  But we kept to our maps and were never off trail for more than half an hour or so.

Ready for the descent

We spent most of the day on the PCT and we eventually met back up with the Devil’s Slide Trail.  We met some thru-hikers at the trail junction and wished them good luck on their journey.


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