Boulder Talus Trilogy


A lifetime's worth of talus in the Boulder range, all in a single day.

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

It was 4th of July weekend, and I had plans. Or at least I thought I did. They kept changing, and then Thursday, the night before we were going to leave, Julie twisted her ankle at work. So on Friday, we stayed home, sort of. I pedaled to Bogus, something I hadn't done for a few years, and it about killed me. Not a good condition to be in the day before going to the mountains. But hey, I'm young and resilient, right?Uhn.... NOT.

So after agonizing about which peak to go after, I left Julie a note that I was going after Silver Peak, and might try to traverse over to Boulder. I rolled out of town at 4:45. It made it down into the upper 40s near Fairfield, but was in the upper 50s at the trailhead. The road had been interesting- it was about all my Suby could handle, with rocks, deep ruts, and some steep sections.

I left the car right at 8am, parked at 8400'. Other than the bugs, it was actually quite pleasant as I headed out through the display of wildflowers.

Flowers at the trail head

There is a fairly well-developed trail that takes you to Silver Lake. But I cut off short of the lake, heading for the ridge that forms the right skyline here.

Upper basin

It's not really much of a ridge- more of a roll in a broad flank. The goal is to climb the 1000' of talus that you see right-of-center, staying in the trees as long as possible. Note that although it appears the trees go almost all the way to the top, the view is foreshortened, and I don't think they even go half way.

Talus ramp

After suffering through that, the ridge is a welcome sight. There is a big scary-looking gendarme on the ridge, but it's probably possible to get around/over it without using your hands.

Ridge approach

It took me almost exactly 2.5 hours to gain the summit. NOAA had predicted the possibility of thundershowers, and there were clouds gathering to the north, but so far things looked good here.

It had been hard work getting here, and I could feel yesterday's bike ride. If I simply reversed my tracks, I could be home by early afternoon. All these things were rolling through my head, conspiring to make me take it easy. But then something Gordy said yesterday spurred me to push on and extend this adventure.

Summit of Silver

So here's what THAT looked like. I would have to drop off the west side of Silver, traverse the basin, and do another awful scree slog up on to the ridge joining Boulder Basin peak on the left, and Boulder Peak on the right. Then I would descend Boulder's south ridge, on the far right.

Route to the Boulders

But first I had to get off Silver. The little arrow shows the summit. I had crampons and axe with me, but the snow in the initial couloir was so mushy I just plunge-stepped it. After a brief scree intermission, I was back on the snow and glissaded a bunch to get down into the valley.

Descent from Silver Peak

A traverse of the valley was followed by the scree slope that starts at the bottom of the picture. The greenness is actually lupine, but the plants are much more dispersed than it might appear.

Again, when I finally reached the ridge, it was a relief. Then just continue up the ridge to the summit of Boulder Basin, shown at the extreme right.


Boulder Basin flank

I got to the top of Boulder Basin at about 12:30. But I was starting to get tired, and walking DOWN all that rubble seemed harder than getting up. I used my ice axe as a cane, but still was sliding around a bit.

I was trying to pace myself and attempting to stay hydrated as I headed across looking at the gendarmes on the approach to Boulder.

Ridge to Boulder


Tom Lopez' book "Idaho Climbing Guide" says this traverse is Class IV, but Big Dan's trip report says he thinks it's only Class III. I'm going to side with Tom here. The way I went there's not very much, but it was Class IV.

As a way of explanation, Class III is simple scrambling that requires you to use your hands, but without any real danger, Class IV is either very exposed Class III or requires some sort of climbing technique. I had to make a couple moves with 10-20 feet of exposure.

Boulder gendarme

Downclimbing a loose chute, I slipped and caught myself. But the force and awkwardness of the recovery made my hamstring cramp. Then during one of the Class IV bits, it tried to cramp again.

Uh Oh. I geared back another notch, knowing I had a long way yet to go.

I finally got to the top of Boulder at 1:30, with stunning views of Boulder Basin and the hundreds of peaks of the Pioneers, White Clouds, Smokies, Sawtooths, etc.

Boulder Basin

I hung out on top for about 20 minutes, relaxing in the thought that I was almost done with the upward bits. But as I was finishing my second lunch, I also finished the last of my 100oz. Camelbak. Uh Oh.

This shows the south ridge of Boulder, which of course has a couple of gendarmes to negotiate. I was a little concerned that I would be able to follow the route description I had memorized, but there was enough of a climber's trail to make it pretty straightforward.

The ledges were pretty easy, but I was tired enough that I had to be very careful on the loose stuff.


South ridge


Then came a long, long descent down off the ridge. I was watching my altimeter as I dropped, aiming for the creek at about 8400'. There is a very rough ATV-type trail at that altitude, but I think it is above the end of the road.


Boulder from near the trailhead

After some searching, I found a spot where I could jump the creek and then started what seemed like a really, really long traverse back to the car. It's only about 1.5 miles, but I was totally out of gas. Near the end, I had to plow through a very thick aspen grove, where I also ran into a big pile of bear shit. Then, while thinking about running into a bear in that thicket, I spooked a Fool's Hen. After trying to calm my heart a bit, I decided that I think I'm too old for that sort of thing.

It wasn't much later that I ran into an ATV scar going up the hillside. I rejoiced, thinking it a good sign that I might see the road again soon. As I glanced down at the altimeter again, I caught a sparkle off to my left. I had navigated to within about 50' of the car. Time to head home.

Mr. Natural Home | 2008 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski