Cerro Ciento


A high peak in Idaho's Boulder range, Cerro Ciento is a tough cookie in February.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

Big Dan emailed me asking if I was interested in attempting a high peak. After bouncing a few ideas around, we settled on Cerro Ciento in the Boulder Range north of Sun Valley. We knew Sean had done it in December, and the approach didn't appear too long. Even though over 11k, it seemed reasonable.

Weather looked good, and the avy conditions had been Low all week. To seal the deal, Art had a hotel room in Ketchum on Friday night with floor space, so we could drive up the night before to shorten our day.

Art was racing the Boulder Tour, a 30k cross-country ski race, so we had to respect his schedule. Fortunately, he was getting up at 6, and that worked perfectly. We left the 7000' trailhead at 7:30, shortly after daybreak. 13 degrees F.

We started off following a hard-packed snowshoe trail up the valley that then ascended the side of the ridge. When we got onto the ridge proper, the track set by the snowboarders ended. We found ourselves breaking trail in calf-deep sugar. Uggh. The ridge steepens at 8600' and it took us 2 hours and a ton of effort to get just to there- basically the start of the real climb.

Dan snowshoeing with the Smokies behind

That initial section of the real climb was physically the hardest- the ridge through the trees was steep and the snow extremely variable. In some areas, it was frozen into a hard crust- usually the really steep parts. Then it would turn back into sugar where it felt like you were running on the elliptical machine at the gym- going nowhere.

When we finally got above treeline at around 9500', the snow firmed up. We were relieved, but it was already about 11:30 and we had almost half our elevation yet to climb.....

Here's one of our false summits.

False summit #1

Too bad the scenery wasn't better.

This picture also gives a sense of the steepness of the ridge.

The Smokies

At about 9600' we were finally able to ditch the snowshoes and went to crampons. But there was enough wind in the gusts to push us around a bit, so we stuck with the ski poles rather than using axes. Still, the conditions were much better, so Dan is smiling with Easley Peak in the background.

Dan with Easley Peak behind

When we got to the top of the previously-mentioned false summit at about 10,400, this is what we saw: more false summits. The high point here looked an awful long ways off (click the picture for a better view), but the real summit is still out of view.

More flase summits

So when we got to THAT false summit, it was somewhat of a relief to finally see the real summit, and not too far away.

The real summit of Cerro Ciente

The weather had been shifting around all day, with scattered clouds moving in and starting to look a little threatening, but they were staying north of us so far. The lighting was incredible, and almost as cool as the awesome view.

That's the summit of Easley on the left. Earlier, I had talked about possibly doing that ridge walk. But now we were out of time and energy.

Dan close to the summit

We finally summitted at 1:30, a 6 hour grind. 24°F. Gusts into the mid-20s. Tired, but happy.

We took photos and drank the last of our liquids, then started down just before 2- we were running late.

Steps on the descent

The climb had taken a toll on us, and descending the steep terrain on tired and cramping legs meant that we had to go slower than we might have otherwise. The sun dipped below the horizon at about 4:15, and we finally got to the car at about 4:30. We were in the process of changing out to street gear when Art showed up, worried about us. He had had a good race, and was all smiles once he knew that he didn't have to go looking for us.

He went back to town for the awards ceremony, while Dan and I cranked the heat up and went in search of fluids. What a great day!

Dan's trip report


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