Castle Rock, ID

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A new local hike ends in Class 4 terrain.

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

I had several 16-20 mile hikes in mind, and NOAA was predicting rain. For some reason, I couldn't find a partner.

So after lifting weights this morning, Tom agreed to try Castle Rock, hear Horseshoe Bend. We drove about 6.5 miles up the Harris Creek road and parked in this huge lot, liberally sprinkled with dog turds and shot-up beer cans.

Car

We could see our objective, Castle Rock, at the head of the canyon.

View from near trailhead

We knew from Susan's beta that they had followed a ridge top the whole way. But this great trail up the creek bottom was simply too tempting. Besides, we were here to explore, right?

When the trail finally ended and we got into some super steep, truly heinous bushwhacking, we thought wistfully of that "boring" ridgetop.

Good trail

Our ascent route never yielded a view this good (this is from the descent), but we did get occasional glimpses showing us the effects of our bad choices.

Castle Rock

But we finally gained the ridgetop, and then the base of the climb. As expected, this is semi-rotten Idaho batholith with a liberal coating of lichen (possibly holding the whole thing together): in a word, Fun.

The route comes in from the right, then zigzags across a couple of ledge systems as it gains the upper right skyline. Some of the ledges are huge, but there is loose sand and untrustworthy rock around. So out of a healthy respect for the large dropoff shown here, I tried to always keep at least three solid points of contact.

Tower

Tom climbed several circles around me as I cautiously made my way to the summit. Glory, it is snowing!

Then an equally cautious downclimb, and we were on our way home, this time following the prescribed ridge route.

Note: The climbing is Class 4, not hard, but somewhat exposed in a few spots.

Also note: It's BSU homecoming today.

Summit
As we headed down the ridge, we found this set of switchbacks leading back down to the creek bottom. We half-expected to bypass any real bushwhacking, and were very happy to find that we never had any. Switchbacks

This map shows our approximate route, which we followed in a clockwise fashion. We would not recommend the right-hand portion of the loop. Ever. The trail was pretty good until about 4500', then left us. That is, it left us scrambling through brambles on a really steep hillside.

Instead, look for the switchbacks heading west up to the ridge top. They're hard to see from below, but if you enter a cool pine-needle-swathed u-shape section of trail, you went about 100 feet too far.

Route map

Mr. Natural Home | 2009 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski