Dickey Peak


Is it still a winter ascent if I was in a t-shirt on Dickey Peak?

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

I was itching to get out, especially because the high pressure over Boise was blocking the sun. I spent the week trying to drum up some interest for east-Idaho sunshine, but only my brother was a lock. Wes sent me a photo of Dickey on Friday for beta, and I knew we were doing the right thing.

So we left town at 4am for the long drive to the Lost Rivers. After some scouting from the car, we were on our feet at 9:15. It was 13°, light northerly breeze, and not a cloud in the sky.

Dickey Peak

Although there was almost no snow at Mackay Reservoir, there seemed to be snow pockets here and there in the upper valley. And one right where we wanted to start, so we put our snowshoes on at the pavement and started mushing. The snow was sugary to the ground, with a non-supportive crust. Fortunately, my brother is a horse and it didn't take long to bust our way across the flats.

Upper valley

Once we got on the mountain proper, we quickly gained altitude and views. We found two dead logs to sit on while we had lunch, but the logs were about 30 feet apart. Sorry, no sharing of goodies at this stop.

Lunch stop looking toward Mackay

As we got higher on the mountain, the natural flow was up the gullies. Of course, the natural flow of any sliding snow would be down the same, so we stayed well to the side. We had heard some whoomping, we couldn't see what the gully looked like above (it curved and went behind a ridge), and after all the avy stories recently we were being extra cautious.

Looking up the mountain

As we worked our way up the gully's edge, we saw that there wasn't much snow, even up high. However, the snow was much the same as on the flats- sugary powder right to the ground. So we stayed on our snowshoes until well above 10,000'.

For reference, there is a small red 'x' where the car is parked. Click the pic for a better view.

Handwwerk Peak
At the top of the gully, it was quite steep. There wasn't anywhere to stop, even though I was ready to take off the snowshoes (and switch to crampons?). Eventually, between becoming dehydrated and all that kicking trying to maintain a grip on snowshoes, my legs started cramping. When we finally found a place big enough to set down our packs (near the edge of the shadow in this pic), we got the snowshoes off. What a relief! upper gully

From there, we did some wading, but were able to follow gravel patches to the ridge, and then some somewhat solid (somewhat: remember, this is the Lost Rivers) rock ribs to the false summit. So we never did put on the crampons.

The view to the top was exciting!

From the false summit, there appeared to be several very steep snow sections. I was concerned about steep snow due to the sugary conditions.


Some of the drifts had some solidity to them, but overall it was basically the same snow as down low: sugary to the ground, but not much of it. As it turned out, the ridge from the false summit was quite easy; here Tom does the last 100 feet to the top amidst assorted gravel bits.

False summit

It took us a few minutes over four hours from the car, so we were sort of tired. The wind was blowing, but 10 feet off the top it was dead calm. We had another leisurely lunch and rubbernecked. It was warm enough that neither of us bothered getting out our down layers.

Summit dorks
Obligatory picture of the north face of Borah. False summit
With better snow conditions, this thousand-foot gully facing north-east looks like a cool way to get up to the false summit. gully
On the way up, we had spotted a couple of good-sized point-release avalanches, here circled in red. On the way down, we spotted another one, which we think was new. At about 2:30 on the descent, I was in a t-shirt, no gloves, and still sweating. It must have been close to 50°. Anything with a southern exposure was way too warm for the snow to stay adhered, so be careful out there. False summit

Our route up high was a more northerly exposure, so the snow was still cold. We realized there wasn't much of an avy issue, so we got out into the gully and tried to glissade. Between the crust and the sugar, we only got about 200 yards of sliding before we had to start walking again.

On another glissade attempt, I managed to find some hidden rocks, and got spanked for my efforts. Although this gully looks enticing, that spanking told me you can't ski it right now.

We waded down for a ways further, to about 9500', and put our snowshoes back on.


Then it was back across the flats. Despite the calm air above, the wind down here had been blowing and much of our tracks had filled back in.

When we got back to the car at a bit before 4, the shadows had almost engulfed it. But there was still enough sun on the windows that our dry clothes were nice and toasty.

We decided to complete the tour, so we drove home through Challis and Stanley (we had driven up through Fairfield and Mackay). To our surprise, it was faster going through Stanley!

False summit

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