Yuba County High Point Trip Report

Sugar Pine Peak

Date: April 21, 2002
Author: "Old Clymr"

I first attempted the HP of Yuba a couple of years ago. It was the tail end of a 2-day, 5-county northern California blitz. I managed to nab Black Butte, Anthony Peak, Mt. Eddy, Hat Mountain and, I thought, Sugar Pine Peak. But I did Sugar Pine in the dark and couldn't find the register. I suspected even then that I was on the wrong hill in the forest. Subsequent review of others' trip reports confirmed my suspicions. I missed it in the dark.

My kids and I tried to get up to the peak earlier this year during the January warm snap, but those northern mountains hold snow pretty well even at 5000 feet. We were turned back at Scales Road.

So we went to see how much snow was left. I took copies of 3 trip reports, a Topo map, the Gazetter map series, but idiotically I left Suttle's book at home. The trip reports by John Sarna, Dave Covill and Edward Earl (thanks to all of you) clarify how to find the peak but all reference Suttle's directions. None of them, even pieced together, offer ALL of the directions and the maps are not clear because of dense forest and active logging. This peak is probably the closest thing we have in California to the eastern forest hp's (and it is, I would guess, quite simple compared to many or most of them).

So, I got as far as the 4-way junction on the road that turns off Scales Road before I ran out of steam. None of the trip reports clearly identified the correct turn off. I've read Suttle's instructions before and had even been in the vicinity once, but since I can't even remember to bring the book, don't expect me to remember the approach description either. Oh, and there is snow left up there. A substantial bit, in fact. The storms the previous week had left about 6 inches of fresh snow laying around and a few late season snow banks lingered too. I was very paranoid about getting stuck in this remote area with my young daughters.

I tired a couple of the options from the 4-way junction and explored up them 0.4 mile, through deepening snow, in my jeep. They didn't appear promising and felt wrong to boot. Here I was yet again, confronting my hubris with the simple fact I'd underestimated this little hill. AGAIN! How many times do I have to beat myself with that word "again?"

At a high point on one of the logging roads, I got a brilliant idea and after 15 minutes of trying I managed to get a connection on my cell phone. I called my wife and through a lot of static (sounded like a Sprint PCS commercial and in fact would make a good one) I got her to quote to me from Suttle's book. Wow! The correct road was BEYOND the 4 way junction.

Now properly equipped, we found the white gravel spur road and 0.2 mile up that we were stopped at a deep snow bank. We walked up that road, post-holing often, until it leveled out. Still nothing! No jeep road climbing steeply to the left. When the road started going back down the other side I had to concede defeat. Like the 3rd time! North Pal was easier than this! I mean, emotionally, I'd bagged it and given up. Told my kids I wasn't coming back until August.

As we walked back down toward the jeep, severely depressed I might add, knowing I'd have to come back to this very place one more time, I noted a pile of rocks with a stick in the middle. I mean, I had my head down, like a little boy dejectedly kicking rocks (pine cones in my case), and quite by accident I noted the cairn. I looked up, blinking in the sunlight, to my right and there, was a steeply rising, unmaintained jeep trail. We'd walked right by it! It was snow all the way to the top.

Directly we were on top. I found the 3 closely spaced trees with the pile of sugar pine cones. It was buried in snow and after a few minutes digging I gave up finding a plastic baggy register in the debris. Luckily for me, Edward Earl provided the final piece of an amazingly complex puzzle and told of the other register across the road in a concrete marker. FOUND IT! Inside I noted the signatures of each of my beta benefactors, Earl, Sarna and Covill, as well as entries from others here (whom I promptly forgot of course).