A plan happensI had been thinking about this area for some time but normally I have a trip planned out a fair ways in advance. This was not the case however as this trip just kind of jumped out of nowhere at me.
I had originally planned to go to the Oregon coast with family but for some reason, my family had scheduled their visit to be sat/sun/mon. For me, this would mean one day at the coast and two days spent driving, not a good return on effort spent and I really wasn't ready for a lazy weekend on the ocean.
Enter good friend Bob Bolton with an email query to me on wednesday. "Hey, got any plans for the weekend?" "How about some stuff in Idaho?"
Hmmmm, that sounded like a better deal than the bakery at Lincoln City and all that good stuff they do a great job of making over there.
I emailed back, "Lets go do something, what do you have in mind?" From there, it evolved into a trip on friday as Bob decided to take a day off from work and by having the extra day, we could add the prominence peak and lookout known as Sturgill Peak and the county highpoint of Washington county Idaho, Cuddy Mountain
We met at my house at Kennewick as Bob made the trip after work on Thursday. He camped out in our spare bedroom and early friday morning we were on our way, finally grabbing breakfast in Baker City Oregon. From there we headed for Idaho where our first stop was the lookout atop Sturgill Mtn and a visit with Iris the lookout.I think Iris had eyes for Bob but then there is no accounting for taste. Iris has been manning that lookout for ten straight years and she was really fun to talk to. Mainly a road drive up Mann Creek just north of Weiser, it was a 21.5 mile jaunt from highway 95 to get close to the lookout and the short little hike from where we had to park. From there we headed north to visit the top of Cuddy Mountain, which I've covered in this trip report, the highpoint of Washington county. The frosting on the cake however was our visit to the 7 Devils area.
The 7 Devils Area - He DevilDriving up the 17 miles from near Riggins Idaho, we arrived in darkness to a campspot at the 7 Devils campground where we met a friend who intended to dayhike both He and She Devil the next day. Edward had been out for the past ten days during which time he did Gray Wolf Ridge (WA), Glacier Peak (WA) Mt. Jefferson (OR) and Mt. Stuart (WA). He had been saving this for last although he did have a couple more lesser efforts up his sleeve before he was to return to San Diego.
Saturday morning, Bob and I hefted our packs and headed up the climbers shortcut to Sheep Lake, a smarter way to get to the lake since it saves over 6 miles from the regular trail that heads in there. The first view of Sheep Lake and He Devil was impressive. Our goal was to get to the lake, nab a camping spot and climb He Devil. Then on Sunday, climb She Devil, break camp and pack out.
We found a nice spot, set up our camp and headed up He Devil. Following some directions found in a guide book, we left the Gem Lake trail at the big switchback, where a use trail is marked with a small cairn. Clambering up one ridge and then down a bit, we then had to climb back up to access the main ridgeline that takes you almost all the way to the summits. About halfway up the ridgeline, we met our friend Edward who was on his way down. He had climbed She Devil first and would now make his way back to the campgound. We continued on up the ridgeline and scrambled our way to the tops, where a large cairn and register are found and a separate area where the benchmark is located. All too soon it was time to reverse our direction and we carefully made our way back down the way we came until we reached our campspot at the end of the lake. We stopped and chatted with a young couple from Moscow Idaho who had backpacked in the day before to catch fish but they had come in the long way and were interested in trying the climbers shortcut on their way out the next day.
A bit further on, we met a husband and wife who had come from Portland Oregon to climb both of the Devils. It was almost dark and we didn't visit very long as we had to get back to our campsite and they could tell by looking at me that I was pretty tired. As we returned to the lakeside campspot, I was really dehydrated and tired and announced to Bob that I didn't feel up to climbing She Devil the next day, as I had hit the wall. Poor nutrition and not enough water had taken its toll. I was so tired from the days efforts that I didn't even eat dinner but just crawled into the tent and my sleeping bag and went to sleep. The news that I didn't feel like I wanted to do She Devil must have been disappointing to Bob however he was supportive of my decision so we decided we would break camp and hike out in the morning.
The reflection view that greeted us was killer and stimulating.
The 7 Devils area - She Devil
Amazingly, the next morning I felt fine and announced to Bob that I wanted to climb She Devil after all and thus began another great day in the mountains. I'll explain the turnabout a little later. Today however, I made sure to get some better nutrition so I ate a dinner for breakfast as oatmeal didn't even begin to look appetizing to me and I wanted some REAL food. I also aided my hydration efforts by drinking a quart of water as soon as I got up and I think that was a big key that helped me. I also filled up my hydration bladder with 60 ounces of water and included a 16 ounce water bottle with electrolytes in it. I would need all of it as our effort ended up requiring more than we thought it would since a hiker's book to the area listed She Devil as an easier climb than He Devil. Of course, the author must have smoking some dope or something as his info was way off the mark. It turned out to be flat wrong as He Devil was much easier in comparison to She Devil. At least on He Devil, a ridgeline provided good access and reasonable footing, She Devil was another story, the access up and down was a bitch. Back to the story.
Feeling rejuvenated and eager to go, I think Bob was amazed by my turnabout. For one thing, I hate to not finish something I start and I wanted to get both of these peaks so I could claim my 30th Ultra. It was very important to Bob as well as this would be either his 49th or 50th Ultra, making him closer to completing this rather impressive list of mountains. To claim this one, it is necessary to climb both of the Devils, one doesn't get the job done even though there are some people who think that He Devil is the highest. Of course, there are others who feel that She Devil is a bit higher (count me in that group). About 4 a.m., I had awakened to this strong feeling that I would climb She Devil and was up to it so I knew I had it in the bag. I then went back to sleep and slept soundly until 6 a.m. when I announced my decision to Bob that we were going to climb She Devil.
Sunday morning found us on our way and we stopped and chatted briefly with the couple from Portland. Their plan was to climb He Devil first and She Devil second although it wasn't clear to Bob and I if they were going to do that today. Saying our good byes and mentioning that perhaps we'd see them along the way some place, we headed for the so called "easy" way up She Devil.
Haha,the guide book guy got us, two more suckers for his little joke. The east side colouir of She Devil is but a thousand feet to get to the ridgeline, actually a saddle that separates She Devil from The Tower of Babel, but that was the nastiest scree I've encountered in Idaho. It was two steps up, three steps back, with all the rock crap above you threatening to join you (or bury you) as you tried to wade upward. Exhausting until Bob and I finally got to the rock on the west side of the chute and just climbed the rock, class three all the way to the saddle that is between She Devil and the neighboring Tower of Babel. The climbing the rock was actually fun although you needed to be cautious since the consequence of a fall in some spots would be nasty.
Finally we reached the saddle. Two hours up from the lake to do a lousy thousand feet but we used every minute in our effort upward. A great view down to Upper Cannon Lake was one of the treats that awaited to award our effort.
Looking up at The Tower of Babel, we were tempted to scramble to its nearby summit but we knew from our effort up the colouir that we had a full day ahead of us as we wanted no part of going back down that thing. We were actually concerned that we could end up under all that scree so we elected to traverse the mountain. More on that later as we still needed to climb it. At first we saw a horrendous cairned route leading over some class 4 territory on the south side of the saddle but fortunately we spotted the easy (actually easy this time around) route towards the summit of She Devil still 4/10ths of a mile west of the saddle. It was a nice use trail that hugged the Sheep Lake side of the She Devil massif. We were treated to great views down to Sheep Lake from our airy pathway. What a pleasure this little trail was, particularly after our last two hours of effort.
The use trail mentioned is just below the saddle and angles its way over to the highest point at the far end. The last bit to the summit was actually very enjoyable and about halfway there, Bob headed up to the ridge and I continued on until the use trail got real faint and then i too made my way up to the ridge too, only to discover that Bob was almost to the last spot before heading up to the actual summit. All the time we were on the ridge, we noticed that there were butterflies everywhere, zillions of them. There must have been some kind of butterfly convention going on because I noticed some of them flew around like they were a bit tipsy.
Soon I joined Bob on the summit and he was already reading the scraps of paper that were stuffed inside a nice brass tube container. He held up a business card of Fred and Noni Spicker, with a 2004 date written onto the card. As I started to grab something to eat, I noticed that the couple from Portland had just topped out on He Devil and were moving over to the north peak where the benchmark is. We yelled and waved and lo and behold, they saw us too and waved back. A neat moment since the two of them and the two of us were the only ones camped at Sheep Lake and we were on the two major peaks at the same time waving at each other.
Bob was looking at the cloud build up to the east of us and the wind had come up so he suggested we eat something, take our pics and start making our way back down. We had already decided we weren't going back the way we came so we descended, trying not to step on butterflies down the south slope of She Devil. The south ridge worked fine as its scree and talus were easy to deal with and we worked our way down to a spot that offered a few trees for shade and we took a rest and changed our socks. Yup, I gave my socks to Bob and he gave his to me.
NOT. Just kidding you. Actually, I just aired mine out and that is always very refreshing (except for the marmots that die downwind) to me.
We would recommend that if you go via the saddle between He Devil and She Devil that you GPS it as we missed it initially and had to backtrack, costing us a good half hour and some valuable energy. The slope up to the saddle is loose scree and does sap some effort but when we got to the saddle, we were surprised at how steep it was but yet it was doable so we did it. Bob ripped his pants on a butt slide and eventually we worked our way over to the snow slope and carefully worked our way down it and used it to aid our descent. After the snow slope, it was boulder city all the way to the lake. Again, by the time I got to the lake, I was starting to feel the exertion of the day but Bob offered me some electrolyte drink and that kick started me right back to the campsite at the end of the lake.
We noticed that the Portland couple had not returned to their tent yet and wondered if they were going up She Devil the way we had earlier. We hoped not, for their sake. The way we came down was much better than the way we had gone up.
We ended up traversing the mountain by dropping down the south side and working our way over a saddle between He and She Devil and dropping down a nasty boulder field back to the lake.
Once back to the lake, we broke camp and headed back to our vehicle, making it to the truck at dusk. I pulled in my driveway at 3:20 a.m. but Bob had to drive all the way back to Vancouver where he was a little late getting to work. I was at work at 8 a.m. and found that two and a half hours of sleep left me a little bleary eyed for the rest of the day.
What i didn't mention were all the lakes visible from the He an She Devils.
They are everywhere and two of my favorities were Sheep and Gem Lakes although there were others like Mirror Lake, Upper Cannon, etc., the list is quite lengthy and the area must be a lakebaggers dream.
Bob nearing the summit of She Devil
Looking across to He Devil from the summit of She Devil. Two climbers were on top of He Devil and can be seen with higher magnification.