Scorpion Peak


In winter weather, we climb another peak in Muldoon Canyon.

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

The plan had started as a climb of McCaleb, but when NOAA offered up a deteriorating prediction of 40% chance of precip after noon, and maybe some thunder showers, we decided we needed to go after something closer to home so that we could make the drive, do the climb, and be off the summit when the weather moved in.

We decided it was less drive time to do Scorpion Peak. Michael and I had targeted Scorpion when we climbed nearby Antares Peak last fall and felt that with an early start we could get up it by noon. We might even be able to run over to Peak 10650, which is connected by an easy ridge walk. Perhaps we were putting too much faith in the NOAA timetable, but there you go.

To maximize our chances of getting up and off by noon, Michael picked me up promptly at 4. As we got close to our destination, we started seeing "Road Closed Ahead" signs. Why they can't put such out by the highway is beyond me. But we kept cruising, eventually finding that the road had blown out about a mile short of the Garfield Ranger Station.

In my usual overly-optimistic pre-climb map study and also from the pictures I took from Antares, I had identified a possible loop, incorporating the standard route from the "Dear Tom Lopez Book" book (Idaho Climbing Guide) and then adding a ridge walk down the south side. I wasn't sure the ridge would go, but it looked interesting. With the closed road preventing us from the trailhead, we chose to gamble on the south ridge route. Maybe I should say the closed road forced us to try this route with a slight tinge of dread, because already this spring I've had to back off short of several summits. Whatever- we were on our feet at about 8:30. After scrambling up the road bank, we found a mine road heading our way.

Mining road

We wandered across some meadowy area, admiring the beautiful valley. Then we were confronted with about 1300' of your standard Pioneer steep sagebrush hillside (think Johnstone, Cobb, etc.). We tried to out-think the sage brush to find an easier passage, and either we were really smart or it just wasn't too bad (likely the latter). This is looking back down the ridge, but the car is not in view.



At the top of the steep section, we got a long, easy ridgetop to walk for a bit. And we got views: the ridge above us, a herd of elk, and we could see more Pioneers to the west, especially Grays and 10805.

We walked the ridge for a ways farther, then traversed over into the gully just to the left of the ridge. The snow in the gully provided decent, if steep, walking, but allowed each step to sink in about 4-5". It hadn't really frozen overnight and the temps were quite mild (I was in just a t-shirt on top).


From the top of the gully, we could see most of the upper route. However, the cloud ceiling was lowering, bring with it some spitting snow. Earlier we had been able to see see more Pioneers to the west, even Brocky. But with the change in visibility, we were worried about even finding the route.

First, we had to climb over a false summit (Michael is checking to see if it has sufficient prominence to satisfy SuperDave's criteria), then down to the saddle, then up the ridge in the center of the picture to the cloud-swathed summit. The snow here was a little softer, plus it now offered occasional tank-traps that were knee deep and more.


Our peak

As we got higher, we found that it's a straightforward ridge walk, but the snow up higher threw in some crotch-deep drifts to keep you awake.

Then this traverse across some loose (and holey) rocks buried under a shallow, slippery layer of snow. And then a short knife-edge section (picture taken on return, see below).

Rocky ridge

When we got to the summit at 12:15, the light was so flat we took to poking the snow to make sure we didn't walk off a cornice.

Still thinking about that noon NOAA prediction, we were concerned that we would lose the visibility we needed to get back down. In to the off-and-on snow, now the wind came up, too. We didn't stay long.

Reflecting later in the day, it struck me as funny that neither of us made any mention of heading over to Peak 10650.
Not one word. ;-)

On the return I took a couple shots of Michael negotiating the knife-edge. Soft, gloppy snow covered rock of questionable stability. With a healthy drop on either side. But heck, that's got to be at least what, 20 or 24" wide? Kinfe edge
Kinfe edge

As we got lower on the mountain, the cloud ceiling lifted. Of course.

As we drove out, I asked Michael to stop so I could shoot a little panorama, seen below. On the very left, we have the "Snow Dome," with the very white Antares to its right. Scorpion is on the far right, with our upper route on the left horizon.

All and all this was a great trip, especially considering the road closure and less-than-ideal weather.

Note: Yes, my camera is croaking.

Antares and Scorpion

Mr. Natural Home | 2010 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski