Ascent of She Devil on 2016-08-08
|Other People:||Solo Ascent|
Only Party on Mountain
|Date:||Monday, August 8, 2016|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Motorized Transport to Trailhead:||Car|
| Elevation:||9400 ft / 2865 m|
Ascent Trip ReportUseful Info:
The most efficient and aesthetic way to do She Devil and He Devil is the complete traverse of the entire ridge, involving the following sections:
- The “High Route” to She Devil from Goat Pass—Class 2/3, with nasty sidehilling on scree, challenging routefinding, and a scramble over the minor summit of Baal.
- Climb up the East Ridge of She Devil: Class 2
- Descend the West Ridge of She Devil to the She/He notch: Class 3
- Climb up the East Ridge of He Devil: Class 4+ by direct ridge route, bypasses via scree gullies possible
- Descend the NW Ridge of He Devil: Class 2, bootpath most of way
- Cross country route to Sheep Lake, then return via Goat Pass (700’ of gain on way out)
This is a tough day in rugged terrain and scrambling experience is a must. The good news is that the trailhead is high so there is not a ton of elevation gain, but other difficulties more than compensate for that.
The start of the trail to Goat Pass in the Seven Devil’s campground is not signed and hard to find among a maze of social trails made by campers. The GPS track here has a waypoint for the start, at a campsite along the loop road. It is about 250 feet west of the sign for the trail to Seven Devils Lake, near the SW corner of the loop. To me, it seemed like the campground is unmanaged and not used much, so one could probably park at that campsite, or anywhere nearby.
My sight level indicated that She and He Devil are certainly within a couple feet of each other, with my guess being that She is a tiny bit higher. But the randomness of rocks and cairns might affect the ranking and dedicated peakbaggers should climb both.
The Seven Devils Road up from Riggins was long and steep but drivable by most passenger cars. The first 4.5 miles were paved, and the remaining 12.5 were good gravel. At the open meadows of Windy Ridge, a left fork led to Seven Devils Campground, which, as near as I could tell, was free and unstaffed. No one was there at 7 AM on this Monday in August. I parked near the info signs.
The Goat Pass shortcut I was looking for is not an official trail and is not signed. The only sign at the campground, located at a random campsite, marked a short path to tiny Seven Devils Lake, which I took. From there I struck off uphill through the open forest, following Paul McClellan’s GPS track from this site, until I intersected the obvious wide path. It led up through the pines to an open grassy bowl and climbed steeply up to the crest of the ridge. The path becomes obscure at a flat open area where it makes a right turn around a corner and then contours above pretty Mirror Lake, down to the left.
At Goat Pass the trail crosses the ridge and starts a descent to Sheep Lake, but the “high route” to She Devil stays on the east side of the ridge as an intermittent climber’s trail. Guided by Paul’s GPS track, I took this route, mostly easy to follow. A class 3 step had to be climbed during the traverse, and I had to backtrack to find the best way—the sooner you do it, the better.
The route went over a minor summit and then to the col just before the imposing Tower of Babel. Here I dropped off the west side of the ridge on steep scree for 160 feet or so, which went quickly with gravity helping. Then, following Paul’s track again, I sidehilled south under the Tower of Babel. This was not fun—there were intermittent use paths where it looked like people had gone, but there was no way to avoid some miserable scree sections.
The goal was apparently to head for an obvious ramp that led back up towards the ridge. Once I was on the ramp the going was easier, a mixture of talus, slabs, grass, and trees. Very sporadic cairns and footways sometimes appeared, but it seemed best to follow my nose for the easiest line. The ridge crest and open sky was beckoning above, and after some scrambling among big rocks and little trees I was back on the crest, now south of the Tower of Babel (I had read this was in interesting climb via a corkscrew route but I didn’t have time for that today).
After a rest I headed SW to the next minor bump but had to backtrack when I got cliffed out, getting by it via easy terrain to the left. The next obstacle ahead was the minor summit of Baal, which I at first optimistically thought was She Devil. The best route around Baal stayed mostly to the left (SE) and went near the summit, which I quickly tagged and was surprised to see had a register. The descent of Baal was standard-issue scree and small cliffs, where I was often forced left to avoid small cliffs.
At the Baal-She Devil col the going got easier and the way to the She Devil summit was pleasant class 2 scrambling, a nice break. Here, of course, I let my guard down and on the false summit I tripped on flat terrain and stupidly scratched myself up a bit. On the broad summit of She Devil I took a nice rest and patched up my scratches before starting down to the She/He notch. The descent started with a big step over a deep cleft, and the rest was definitely steep and cliffy, solid Class 3. As usual, a climber is forced to the left, away from the crest, to avoid daunting drop-offs.
At the notch the real fun began. Based on trip reports I had read, it seemed like there were some climbable chimneys that surmounted the cliffs of the East Ridge of He Devil. So I scrambled up, class 3 at first, and when I saw a dihedral/chimney in a cliff band, I made my way up—there were good foot- and handholds but it was starting to get into Class 4 territory. Not long afterwards was another chimney, this one higher and with a big projecting chockstone sticking out. This was tougher, and required some creative stemming. At this point I was committed to continuing up, since I did not want to downclimb this stuff—fortunately, I knew there was an easy way off the back side of the summit. But I was still a bit scared of getting cliffed out on a gendarme as I made my way up.
I found myself on a large ledge, and cairn off to the left led me towards a downhill ramp which I followed for a short while. But I did not like going down, and the cliffs of the summit were still a long way above me, and this route looked like it would eventually entail a long climb up a miserable loose scree gully. Ugh. I am now quite sure this is indeed the standard route, and recommend that people take it. But I, happy that my previous cliff climbs had worked out, returned to the cairn and climbed up a little step and then tackled a very steep Class 4+ section (see photo)—there were blocky rock stairs at the start, but the upper section was pretty dicey with poor handholds. When the right side of my wall disappeared near the crest, I could step up on that and get to the top.
Fortunately, my sporting but foolhardy move paid off and I was on top of a knob with easy terrain that led me to a vegetated notch, where the scree gully bypass came up (looked brutal). From here easy scrambling led up the slopes of the transverse-oriented summit block. Halfway up I was startled to see a guy above me, the first person I had seen all day. I yelled up a greeting and asked if he was on top—he said Yes, so I happily made my way up to the massive cairn on the south summit of He Devil.
The guy was a cross-country runner from Washington State University with minimal gear who had wandered up the NW face of the peak, apparently training for his season ahead. We chatted a bit as I rested, ate some snacks, signed the register, and hiked over to the more pointy north summit. Views were good despite the arrival of some clouds. It was nice to take a good long rest after the exertions of the day.
The cross-country runner eventually went down the scree face, but when I had finished my rest I figured I would follow the standard NW ridge route, which had a braided footway down the easy slopes. Cairns marked the route when it dropped off to the right down into the large talus bowl, but among the big rocks and snowfields below I lost any path and simply rock-hopped on the nicely solid boulders to an obvious notch in He Devil’s north ridge, and then downhill through open forest. Using my GPS I aimed for a trail, and once on it I could now mindlessly follow the well-graded switchbacks down to Sheep Lake.
I followed the south and east shores of the lake on intermittent paths and over some talus fields (the west and north shores might be easier but longer), and then picked up the obvious Goat Pass climber’s trail. This led steeply uphill to a ledge, then on a long airy traverse up to Goat Pass. I was pretty tired at this point. After a long rest at the pass it was easy downhill back to the Seven Devils Campground, where following the main trail down showed me where I should have started in the morning. A guy in a pickup was in the campsite where the trail began, but the runner at He Devil’s summit was the only human I saw all day in the backcountry.
She Devil Summit: 11:20 – 11:50
He Devil Summit: 13:15 – 13:50
Total Hike Time: 8:45
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