The first time I ever heard of Mt David was approx 5 years ago, when Tom and Rowan and I were in the area for a family hike. Our original destination was Indian Creek, but for some reason I can no longer remember, we ended up taking the Mt David trail instead (Indian Creek and Mt David both depart from the same trailhead). The Mt David trail was – and still is – super brushy, so Tom and I were shouting the occasional “Hey Bear” to keep from surprising any furry friends. Rowan was young, and at that stage where she’d repeat everything we said without knowing what it meant. Somewhere on an old thumbdrive we have adorable video of Rowan in her kid carrier, yelling out in her tiny little voice “Hey Bear! Heeeeey Bear!” as we pushed through the brush on Mt David.
What I wouldn’t give to find that video now! Oh well. (Let this be a warning to all you whippersnappers: organize those digital pics and movies now.)
Anyway, we didn’t make it very far up the Mt David trail that day, but when we got home I did a little research and ultimately added Mt David to the to-do list. Last week, years after our family hike, I finally decided to give it a go.
According to WTA, the road is closed 4 miles from the trailhead, which actually made this trail slightly more alluring to me: I was hoping the mandatory road walk would keep the crowds away. I needn’t have worried – even though there were a handful of cars parked at the road closure barricade, I did not see another human being from start to finish.
I brought my gravel bike to avoid the 8 miles of road trotting. However, they must have recently moved the road closure, because now the road is closed only 2 miles from the trailhead, just after Grasshopper Meadows campground, adding only 4 miles round trip. I was still glad I brought my bike – when it comes to closed roads, I’d rather ride than run!
The first 1+ mile of trail, from the trailhead to the turnoff for White River Falls viewing point, is in good condition. Brush and blow-downs are a non-issue. That said, there is a fair amount of detritus on the trail, probably due to lack of use.
The trail starts to climb around miles 1.5 – 2, but not before crossing a creek one last time. This time of year, this is your last chance at water until you reach snowfields at the top, so fill up here.
Miles 2 and 3 are a steady uphill through brush and blowdowns. Everything is passable, but it definitely slows you down and gets a little annoying.
At around mile 3, you get out of the woods and onto trail that is in pretty good shape, especially considering it’s unmaintained. At mile 4.5, you finally reach the ridgeline, and the views start – but the climbing doesn’t stop. At this point you’ve gained about 3,000 ft of vert, but still have another 2,500+ ft to go. The trail along the ridgeline is gorgeous, although it’s washed out in places with some exposure. Even so, it is a trail, no hands required. Views from the ridgeline are fantastic – your reward for climbing all those switchbacks, as well as a good distraction from the climbing you still have ahead of you.
At approx mile 7.5, just a few hundred feet below the summit, I encountered a couple lingering snowfields. I avoided the first one by simply scrambling upslope and going around it. Immediately after that, the trail fades away in a washout. Going high to get around the washout requires scrambling a short cliffy section. Going low meant traversing a steep snowfield. I was alone, with no axe and no traction, and had already set off a couple minor slides and sloughs. After much waffling, I decided to call it a day at that point. I was confident in my ability to get up the cliffs, but uncertain about the downclimb.
It bothered me a little to turn around just shy of the tippy top, which surprised me since I’m not much of a peak bagger. As I descended, I realized I’d never turned around quite so close to a summit. I guess I’m either getting older, smarter, or less bold… or some combination of the three.