JT Peak

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The old guys go for an adventure. And score!

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At a Christmas party a couple years back, Tom invited me to climb what he suspected might be an unclimbed peak in the Sawtooths. This is the Tom who wrote the Idaho Climbing Guide, so he might know. I wasn't too overwhelmed by the possible first ascent, but adventuring into unknown territory with a great partner always sounds fun. So we rolled out of Boise at a leisurely 7:45 and were wading across Baron Creek at about 11.

1976
Then it was miles and miles up the South Fork. We bemoaned the loss of shade in the burn. But with the glass half full, I suppose the view is improved? 1976

When we got to Fern Falls (about 10.5 miles), it was hot, dry, and already 4:30. The river valley was gorgeous, and the falls spectacular, but where is that damn Elk Lake?

1976

As we got near the lake, my pulse quickened. I'm pretty sure this is the top of our peak, peeking through a gap (click for the bigger photo and you can see what I believe is the summit obelisk).

But the long, hot trail had about done us in. We ate, tried to re-hydrate, batted a few mosquitoes, and then tried to get some sleep.

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The next morning we were feeling a bit worse for wear and tear. And it was muggy, which fit in with NOAA's prediction for 20% chance of thunderstorms.

But we were on our feet at about 8. We waded the South Fork, then headed up the trail for Benedict Creek.

Camas Prairie Lopez cell phone photo

When we got to our peak, this is what it looked like. You can't quite see the true summit, but you can pretty much tell where it is. Gulp.

Well, we have a rope and hardware. Let's eat that elephant one bite at a time. So we started slogging up the scree. The effort plus the humidity meant that I was quickly completely drenched. Not good-- because to go light, I had packed only one liter of water.

 

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Based on the route photos I had shot (see below), we identified the chute we wanted to start in.
Camas Prairie Lopez cell phone photo

At the top of the chute, we traversed to the right looking for a ramp.

Those with sharp eyes will recognize the flattish summit ridge of Mt. Everly on the left skyline.

 

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We followed an obvious ramp to climber's right. Some of the ramp was surprisingly easy (based on the photo), more of a hike.
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Then when it thinned out we scrambled steeply up a bit, then traversed left on another ramp.

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When that higher ramp cliffed out, we bouldered up a short wall that gave entrance to the upper gully. After another short bouldering wall, the angle started to ease back.

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At the very top of the gully, we were confronted with some low-angle slabs. Normally these would be a piece of cake but they had a nice layer of undisturbed lichen that made slipping seem like a real possibility. Some slightly awkward underclings (the crack under the topmost block in this view is the undercling) got us onto the summit flats, which are just out of view above here . Camas Prairie

But wait! We need to climb the final obelisk to call this a true summit. With about 1000' of air to his left, Tom readies to make the final moves.

That's Elk Peak in the background.

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Tom was also admiring this unnamed lake under this peak's huge north face. No fire rings in sight! Camas Prairie

Oh- and here's the summit obelisk. You want to try that in your hiking boots?

Tom is caching the new summit register.

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This was a cool climb, very exploratory with a really interesting, convoluted route (in honor of our average age of 58, we dubbed it the "Poor Circulation" route). Until we were 50' below the summit, there was never a point that we knew we had it sewed up. And even then, the obelisk looked daunting.

Lots of fun and lots of challenge for a couple of old duffers.

 

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To get down, we simply reversed our route. But in the high humidity, I had lost a lot of water and was now in a pretty bad way. After finding a creek (several cross the trail right below the peak) we did the slog back to camp, where I lay prostrate in the tent recovering. Meanwhile, Tom was full of energy.

The next day we did the long slog out, then rewarded ourselves with some really excellent hamburgers at Grandjean's Sawtooth Lodge. Somebody go try their burgers and tell me if they are as wonderful as we thought at the time, or were we just glad to be back in civilization?

Camas Prairie Lopez cell phone photo

So what makes this peak so cool? Well, the climb. But it is also a very cool looking peak in a cool spot.

When Tom first mentioned it I wasn't terribly excited. Long slog. Short peak. No one knows about it. Slightly contrived?

But I dutifully pulled out a map, and that's when I realized that I had several pictures of it that I had taken without realizing. Here it is from the summit of Reward Peak.

Incidentally, that long, left-sloping dihedral to the summit looks really promising!

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And here it is, dead center in the picture. This was taken from Payette Peak, I'm sure to show the Rakers.

Both these shots were incidentals. Just random shots taken from various summits. But these photos really piqued my interest.

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Then last year Tom mentioned this peak again, and when I got to the top of Benedict Peak I was astonished to be looking right at JT! I zoomed in, and this picture is how we figured out the route.

Tom- thanks for a great outing.

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