McCaleb and Little Mac



McCaleb had been on both our lists way too long.

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

NOAA predicted a 30% chance of rain and thunderstorms after noon. And without a solid freeze, warm afternoon temps. So with regret, we agreed to leave Boise at 3am.

When we got to Mackay, it was just before 6:30. We were wide awake, thanks to a deer the other side of Craters that we could have petted if the windows had been down. It was that close.

Thanks to a little recon with Ralph a couple months ago, I knew about half the road. After that, we only made a couple small mistakes before the big grind up the hill.

McCaleb from Mackay

And after some breakfast and a change of shoes, we were on our feet at 7:30. Yes, it is steep.

At the rig

Although steep, this is one of the more pleasant Lost River approaches. Pine needle duff on soft soil. Open trees. Nice and cool. And a starting point of over 8000'. Sweet!


The ridge section

At about 9400' we hit continuous snow. It was rock hard, like snow is supposed to be in the spring. Finally!

This was our route up the face of Little Mac. Unfortunately, as soon as we got into the sun our rock-hard snow gave way to boot-top and deeper postholing. And it was hot (the temperature, not the post-holing).


We hit the top of Little Mac in about 2 hours from the car. Weird. Only 9:30 and we had already hit our first summit.

Although the temptation was strong to sit and enjoy our vantage point looking at the face of McCaleb, we figured the snow was only going to get softer. Time to move...

Summit of Little Mac

Walking down off the ridge required descending steep talus in crampons (fun... not!) and occasional thigh-deep postholes. I only cramponed myself once, so I consider it a success.


Decending off Little Mac

As we had hoped and prayed, the snow was firmer on what had only recently been in the shade. Now we had the opposite: totally hard snow. It's not terribly steep, but we found ourselves on the same angle, same side, for long spells without a rest. Our ankles were starting to cry.

Traversing the snowfield

And then we were on top of McCaleb. The firm snow had made the climb go really fast, and we were both surprised by how good we felt. Especially compared to the earlier posthole session.

My wife loves my new hat. She says it keeps the women away.


We wandered around and enjoyed the views. We had lunch. Then we noticed this little bugger winging its way towards us. I asked Michael if he wanted to wait for the snow to soften so we could glissade the entire face (we were concerned that the coarse granular snow would shred our good pants).

Fortunately for both of us, Michael wanted to get going. So we walked down the first 1000' until the snow softened up before starting our glissades.

Looking at Mackay

Recently someone on the IdahoSummits board called the NOAA folks idiots. But NOAA totally called this one.

At 12:02 we felt the first few drops of rain. At 12:08 we hit the truck and started to change. At 12:10 we heard the thunder. And at about 12:14 we finally got the doors to the rig closed, shaking off the pellets of hail. It poured on the truck all the way down the hill.

As we pulled out of Mackay, our peak was still under a dark cloud. But it had kindly given us an outstanding morning. And now we can finally check it off our lists.

Storm cloud

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