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Thread: Devils Backbone

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2012

    Devils Backbone

    "Thank goodness I'm not a Seahawks fan."

    It's a typical Tom Janisch comment, who is anything but the typical follower of American culture. It's 10:30 a.m, meaning a large percentage of Northwesterners will be glued to televisions watching the Hawks in their first post-season game against the Vikings. As for the four us skiing the Entiat region today, we've just broken out of valley clouds and are immersed in brilliant sunshine and brilliant scenery. We look up at Devils Backbone, a ridge between the Entiat River drainage and Lake Chelan, and take in all the skiable lines above which, of course, has all of us understanding what Tom is driving at.

    A few hours later we were lunching on the top of a nameless peak from which the regionally famous Pot Peak mountain-bike descent starts. Mount Stuart is a sore thumb sticking above the clouds to our south and Star Peak lords over the valley clouds to our north.

    Following lunch, we strip skins for the fun that will offset the exercise that delivered us here. First we take a short lap off the north side of our peaklet. "It's amazing how long powder can last," Adam Vognild notes as we climb out of the hole we just sampled. It's true, the fluff we just skied fell over 10 days ago. Temperatures have warmed around the region and yet these north-facing slopes are coated with crystals as devoid of substance as the arguments of most political candidates.

    On our return back to the car, which has nearly a 5,000 vertical foot drop, we work the slopes carefully to avoid the crust that has formed on parts of our south-facing ridge. We stick to the west side of the ridge and mine excellent snow all the way down to the snowed-over forest road leading downward to the Entiat River Road. The forest road is a combination of ice (in our ski tracks) and breakable crust (out of our tracks) and the last few miles are steep enough that the descent is fast and scary. Early on I try letting my boards run straight like the ex-ski racer in our company. One harsh body slam makes me realize a racer I am not and a snowplower I must sometimes be.

    "What a bummer we had to ski all that powder, rather than watch football," Tom says as we load skis into the car. As a cultural Neanderthal he doesn't realize that some of us can have our powder and football too. When I get home I switch on the DVR and, fast-forwarding through the ads and timeouts, watch the Seahawks take down the Vikings in half the time compared to viewing the game live. The win is as implausible as our win at finding so much powder after a week of warm temperatures around the region.

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    Details, Details -- Devil's Backbone in Winter

    Access: Drive the Entiat River Road about 22.5 miles to the plowed parking area at the start of the Preston Creek Road. No permits needed.

    Map. The instructions below reference waypoints shown on the map attached to this post.

    Instructions. From the start (waypoint 1, elevation 1,760 feet) follow the Preston Creek Road for 2 miles to waypoint 2 (elevation 2,800 feet). Turn left and follow this road 3.4 miles to Waypoint 3 (elevation 3,800 feet). Leave the road and follow the southwest-facing ridge system to waypoint 4 (elevation 5,450 feet). Traverse in a northeasterly direction to the col at waypoint 5 (elevation 6,360 feet). Head in a southeasterly direction to the summit (waypoint 6, elevation 6,670 feet).

    Other Activities.
    The Preston Creek Road and its tributary roads makes a good road system for beginners to snowshoe and for intermediate to advanced cross-country skiers to ski (metal-edged cross-country skis recommended). This WenatcheeOutdoors guidebook entry has the details about Nordic skiing or snowshoeing the roads.

  2. #2
    A few more photos

    and link to my photo album
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  3. #3
    Since I have ridden up there I always figured the skiing would be amazing during the right snow year. I wonder how the approach from the Chelan side would go. I'm sure they close a gate somewhere on the way up.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Traveling the whole ridge systems from Angle Peak down to Pot Peak and to the Ramona Campground (Pot Peak mountain bike descent) would, topographically, be good terrain and would have north-facing snow. You'd want to study Google Earth to see if the vegetation would allow it or make it a thrash. Coron probably knows the state of the brush along that route too.

  5. #5
    The skiing is always good up high, even in low snow years. Since both roads are groomed for snowmobiling and travel away from the good skiing before reaching the ridge, the only direct route is the Pot Peak Trail. I did skin up to Pot Peak in an afternoon a few years ago. You could certainly go up that way until the snow was deep enough to leave the trail. I actually found some good skiing below Pot Pk on that trip, but the "good" sections were really short and mainly in places where the Ceanothus was not too thick. I looked for some routes that would offer off trail travel. I think I have a route picked out that would allow a ski from the top of Stormy to the 25 Mile Cr Snopark without using the trail. Nonetheless I need to try it before I suggest someone else ski it! It could be a dud. I think Devils Backbone is best reached from the Entiat or the Pot Peak trail from the Chelan side. I hope I'm wrong.



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