Joe Devel Peak
By: Patty Kline
It was a small miracle that the leaders, myself and Jim Fleming, made it to the Cottonwood Pass road head 25 miles above Lone Pine on the Horseshoe Meadows Road. Not too far from home my high mileage truck boiled over with major trouble on Highway 14 in Acton. Leaving it to the mercy of unscrupulous mechanics, I found the last rent-a-car in the area. Jim and I arrived in style around 11 pm in a Ford Contour.
Our group of 5 left the parking lot for the trail directly behind it at 8:15 am. The trailhead is located at the very end of the Horseshoe Meadows Road. Besides Jim and myself, the group consisted of Bill Stampfl, Spencer Berman and Lynn Frick. On the 13 mile hike to Lower Soldier Lake at 10,400 we got a small rain shower. The 1,500 foot gain seemed like a lot more with the undulating trail. There was a nice bear box in camp for our food with no bears in sight. The rodents know people are now camping all summer near the bear box and make it their business to nibble any stray lunch you have in your tent at night while you sleep. They begged for food at our happy hours.
Saturday morning on the next day there were a few puffy, white clouds by 8:00 am, and they kept building. We picked up the trail on the south side of Lower Soldier Lake and joined a trail which ultimately would join the Pacific Crest Trail above Rock Creek Ranger Station. We didn't go that far. After about 4 miles, losing about 400 feet, we turned towards the peak, going generally in a northerly direction. Visible from the trail there is a rocky buttress, which is the eastern escarpment of the peak. We were well west and out of sight of this buttress when we turned off the trail. Going cross country steadily uphill after a mile the peak came into view. We were at the tree line about 11 am at 11,600 feet when a thunder storm proceeded to dump 5 inches of rain on us. At this elevation it was hail. Everything was white in a few minutes. For the next few hours on the way back to camp this kept up. My Sierra Club cup acted as my rain gauge and was almost overflowing as were a lot of other things. It made for spectacular stream crossings that were high to begin with for the El Nino snow year of 1998. These crossings were not dangerous, being small streams, but just enough to ford and get entirely wet boots. While drying out at happy hour I was getting numb. Lynn Frick, member of the Ski Mountaineers, was more than equipped and loaned me some dry clothes. To heck with Gortex. She stayed dry with plastic gear in the rain. I now am following her example for 1999.
Sunday morning we again set out for Joe Devel, which I was now calling "The Beast." Joe Devel has a very respectable origin. It was named after Joseph Devel, a member of the Wheeler Survey party. Joe was on the party that made the first ascent on September 20, 1875. Lynn decided to stay in camp while the 4 of us bagged the peak. It was about 3,500 feet of gain for the day, 12 miles, 4 of which were easy cross country. The peak is sandy and class 2 only on the top. There is a ridge on the very top. We worked our way left on the ridge, encountering about 3 false summits before the left most peaklet, which is the true summit at 13,327 feet. There were great views of Whitney on top. The descent makes a great run in the sand all the way down to the trees.
Back in camp that afternoon we had our third happy hour. The jokes from the happy hours spilled over to laughter the entire trip. Prizes were awarded the first 2 nights for the most tasty appetizers. we gave up our original intent of getting Pickering today because we needed to make good our aborted climb of Joe Devel the day before. The next morning we hiked out to our vehicles under clear skies and all went for dinner at an SPS favorite, The Pizza Factory in Lone Pine. It was a great group and a fun and somewhat leisurely outing.
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