Thompson, Mickey's Spire, and Mt. Carter

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A long day in Goat Creek drainage nets three summits: Thompson, Mickey's, and Carter.

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Tom and I rolled out of Boise a few minutes after 5am. After a quiet drive to the Iron Creek trailhead, we were on our feet at 8am. Temperature was 32 degrees.

This was going to be a long day. It wasn't the shortest route, but Tom hadn't seen Goat Lake or the full basin above it. And I hadn't seen the basin without snow. So we were going for the scenic cruise, plus this route offered us the option of trying Merritt Peak or any of the peaks at the head of the drainage. But I'm getting ahead of myself here...

It took us about an hour and a half to get to Goat Lake. I think it's about 1600' and 3 1/2 miles. Most of that is on good trail: the Iron Creek trail, followed by the Alpine Way trail. Then you take the climber's/fisherman's trail past Goat Creek Falls up to the lake. This last bit is quite steep, and at times it can be a little hard to follow.

Once we got to the lake, we had to navigate through several campsites... there were quite a few people camped at the lake, and the trail went right through their camps. Whooops. But there isn't much room, so we couldn't really detour, because you have to follow the narrow trail around the lake. You have to , because in places the cliffs drop right into the water. Our goal was the valley at the end of the lake, the little U-shaped valley just in the middle of the pic.

Goat Lake

Once you get around the lake, the scree slog begins. After a short step up the valley that included several rock-hard snow fields, you come into the middle basin. About a mile and another 800'. This basin doesn't change altitude much, and holds several lakes. We also got our first view of the peaks at the end of the basin, from left to right- Thompson, Mickey's, and Carter.

Thompson, Mickey's, and Carter

As you move through this area, you also are passing Merritt Peak, on the left. We decided against Merritt Peak because climbing it would mostly be a reconnaissance for the snow route, which is the way we really want to climb it. And why spoil a good adventure by knowing too much?

This lake is the top of the middle drainage... check out the underwater cliffs.

From here, you climb up a steep talus headwall into the upper basin.

Merritt Peak

It's another 800' and 1 1/2 miles until you reach the upper basin, where you get this view of Mt. Thompson. There are year round snowfields, and several small tarns, and water running here and there, sometimes deep in the talus.

Mt. Thompson

 

This is another view of Thompson, showing the route, which starts about 3/4 further and 600' higher. Although the last 400' of the route is steep, it is really just a hike with a few bouldery moves at the very summit. And wonderful exposure on the east side.

Neither Tom nor I had clear memories of climbing this before. I think we climbed it together back in '74, so after 33 years Tom had an excuse. On the other hand, I had climbed it again in 2001, and it still seemed diffferent than what I remembered.

 

Thomspon climbing route

Once we got up Thompson, our next objective was close by in plain view. This is Mickey's Spire. The route follows the ridge or arete on the right side. This part is quite easy. But real the summit is on the far left.

Mickey's Spire

Getting from the right end of the ridge to the true summit requires some sketchier scrambling in loose talus and rotten rock. This picture doesn't show the steep gullies you have to cross, only the easier stuff afterwards. I left the pack here, along with the camera, so didn't get pictures of the really bad stuff. Let it suffice to say that it's not really hard climbing, but so loose as to require a great deal of care.

That's smoke from the Ketchum fire on the horizon.

Summit ridge route

From Mickey's it's an easy scramble over to the saddle to climb Mt. Carter. This peak is just a hike, and not even all that steep.

However, the descent back to the valley was steep, and a little scary looking. But it wasn't too bad once we found the right gully to scamper down. We had to go through the cliff bands just to the left of the right-most snow patch. I've seen pictures of glissade tracks down this slope, but today there wasn't enough snow, what snow there was was very firm, and we didn't have axes.

Mount Carter

This is the view down the valley, with smoke from the Cascade fires on the horizon.

And then it was time to head back down the valley. We were pretty tired, and with the loose talus, it took us almost the same time to get down as it did up. When we got back to the car, it had been a little over 11 hours of almost constant movement. Sore feet, dehydration, and big smiles.

 

Pitch two traverse

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