Dubious about Dubois

8-9 May 2010 - by Steve Eckert

All winter I climbed low-lying DPS peaks, finally realizing that I could finish the list this spring. Along with that realization came the thought that I didn't want to brave a winter storm on the high and exposed slopes of Dubois. Hoping for spring conditions and a huge glissade, I was surprised to find less snow mid-May than others have reported in July! Should have gone in March. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Overview Map showing part of the drive, the trailhead (DUB4WD), and the entire climb.

See the trailhead page for how to get to where we started. Most climbers start on the east side, a longer drive requiring 4WD. Larry Tidball published a 1993 trip report documenting a shorter (and steeper) west side approach. That appealed to me, since it would be feasible to leave a passenger car at the pavement and still climb the peak in only 2 or 3 days even in winter. Corrine was the only interested person who didn't cancel, and she had a 4WD that got us to the stream (saving over half the flat-land walking).

I modified the beginning of Tidball's route, following Marble Creek all the way to the base of the climb instead of jogging south to the ridge near Queen Dick Canyon. The road goes higher, the ridge is less steep, and it's a new route (always attractive to me). Corrine worried constantly about doing a heavy steep backpack so early in the season, but was faster than me all the way to the top. It's not a super hard climb because it's so short.

We walked the last half mile of the road to avoid pushing her SUV through bushes at the creek crossing, then scrambled across the brush-choked creek where it appeared a few deer or sheep had beaten a path down the steep banks (waypoint MARBLX). We scrambled up onto the ridge south of Marble Creek, later finding that the footing was better near an extravagant dead tree slightly downstream from the crossing. Look hard for the right place to cross because the gully is impassable elsewhere due to thick brush, thorns, and steep banks. From here to the summit there are no level or downhill sections: it's all uphill on the same ridge until you cut across the final bowl to the summit of Dubois.

GPS waypoints mentioned in this report can be found on the trailhead page.
The red line was our route, the purple line (I believe) represents Larry Tidball's route.
Click below for larger pop-up maps!
Base of the climb.
Where we camped.
Summit area.

The ridge is mostly reasonable walking, with a few rocky sections that require a traverse below the ridgeline on the south side. The main rocky section tops out at 7.9k (waypoint DUBM03), above which is some of the nicest walking of the trip. There are also a few brushy patches, but nothing that tore our clothes or made us crawl under (as I've done on some other DPS peaks). The top of one brush patch is at 9.2k (waypoint DUBM05), the top of the other brush patch is at 9.8k (waypoint DUBM06). It's easy to split up here, and on the way down it would be easy to mistakenly drift off the proper ridge.

The brush really clears as you approach 10k on this route, but don't expect big flat meadows! Tidball's route more or less matches our route above waypoint DUB10K. We found a few narrow campsites in some tall trees (10.4k, waypoint DUBM08) that provides shelter from the growing wind. Bivy bags work better than tents here, since the spots are all just duff that piled up against a tree. We had snow to melt for water, but had climbed almost entirely on dry ground to this elevation. In camp by mid-afternoon with good weather (except the wind), we were ready to hit the sack as soon as the sun went down. We left camp at 640am under cold but clear skies.

The USGS map didn't seem to match the terrain above us as viewed from camp. The ridge is pretty obvious up to about 11k, where the trees end and slightly more level ground might work better for a larger group to camp. It turns out not to matter much, but Corrine kept thinking we needed to be further left (which looks higher while you're climbing) while I was following my pre-entered waypoints into upper Queen Dicks Canyon where the snow was firm and I got to stomp up in crampons without thinking too much.

I took slightly different routes up and down, and I think the best line is to stay on the ridge until just over 11k (waypoint DUBM09), then traverse sharply into the drainage as the ridge melts away (waypoint DUBM10). Avoid the west ridge of Dubois, it's rocky! Stay in the bowl heading east until 13k (waypoint DUBM11), then drift a bit south to the summit itself. There are several candidate summit piles since the area is fairly flat.

We arrived at the summit before 1030am. It seems that less than 10 people per year climb this peak, and we were the first ones for 2010. While it was warmer and still sunny, clouds were appearing from out of nowhere and the wind had shifted from the west to the south. All morning there had been clouds over the Sierra Nevada, now those clouds were growing rapidly and (further north) chunks were starting to tear off and drift to the east.

The ridge we climbed (bottom center) above the valley we drove across, from Upper Queen Dick Canyon:

We headed down around 11am, as the horizon around us became obscured with clouds. Corrine didn't have glissade gear, so she went down the rocks while I traversed out into the bowl hoping for a speedy ride on my roll-up toboggan. The glissade was disappointing, and it took some time to switch from ski poles to an ice axe, so she got ahead of me... while thinking I was ahead of her! Classic. She then rushed all the way to camp trying to catch me while I sat at the base of the bowl (where I thought we were supposed to regroup) waiting for her. I finally gave up, thinking that if she was actually hurt I'd better go get supplies rather than searching randomly as a storm closed in, and headed down.

Sure enough, she was just finishing her tea when I arrived back at camp.

While we broke camp, locally formed clouds started washing across the peak at 13k and clouds that had broken away from the Sierra Nevada started to drop rain on the valley far below. We retraced our steps down the ridge, sometimes drifting a bit too far away from the ridgeline, with two meager snow flurries (that didn't stick) hurrying us along. We re-crossed the creek at 320pm and were back to her SUV around 415pm. It never really rained on us, but while cleaning up at the car the clouds lifted long enough for me to see a new white snow line just about where we camped... and my car got a bath on the way home. The trees on the west side of Carson Pass had a mid-winter-style white coat but the pavement wasn't slick.

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