Look out for the Signal

30 Oct 2004 - by Ted Lenzie

On 10/30/04, co-leader Dave W, Rick S, Kay M, Cara L, Russ C, Eric L, Russ G, Hima R, Andrew W, Piero V and myself headed up the ridge line toward Signal Peak, also known as Red Mountain. We started from Highway 80 at 8:30 am. The Cisco Grove campground will charge $10 per vehicle to park before the November 1st Snow Park permit kicks in, so we just drove down the road a little and found a legal place to park.

Since we had the unusual snow fall this season we tried to stay on the wind swept south facing ridge line. We first crossed over Rattlesnake Peak as a warm up. Once we shedded the usual clothing it was up the main ridge line. From here it was a series of small peak after peak climbs. With of course plenty of saddles between. We did this several times before making the summit. There was anywhere from two to three feet of snow on the route, but also plenty of rocks and rock ridge lines protruding above the surface. It was a real mixed bag. The soft snow was easy to punch through at the 5,900 foot base elevation. While higher up it would hold our weight unless we were in direct sun or on a snow drift. So we attempted to stay on the rocks and in the harder snow under the tree's shade when possible. Each of the smaller peaks made for great spots to allow our group of 11 to catch up with each other. The climb itself was fairly straight forward except for the snow conditions. We stayed true to the ridge line and summitted the 7,841 foot peak in 3 hours and 15 minutes at an overall gain of over 2,400 feet.

At the top there is an old concrete and rock fire look out. It has a corrugated roof still intact. The building made for a good wind break as we sunned ourselves during lunch. We had views of the Sacramento Valley, Castle and Basin Peaks as well as Devil's Peak. After lunch we went up to the real summit and the microwave towers.

A south facing road to the top had been groomed by a snow cat for snow mobiles. But we took the more direct cross country descent off the southeast face. We dropped off into some pretty soft wet snow for 1,600 feet until the groomed road was reached again. It was a wrestling match with the snow mush, but it was also a lot of fun after several months without the white stuff. There was plenty of post holeing and glissading on the slope. Once on the groomed road we followed it down to our vehicles. We were back no later than 2:30 PM which I would have to say was my shortest organized hike ever. A good one if you need to be back home soon.

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