Saddle Mountain


We hike the southern-most Lemhi peak, Saddle Mountain, via the stunning Middle Canyon.

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

I had been studying Saddle Mountain in Idaho's Lemhi range. It had a short and direct route up the east side, but then I found a possible route on the south side. Ralph Maughan's book talked about a scenic hike up Middle Canyon, with a vague reference to getting to the top. I was hooked. Sean and Michael thought I was a bit crazy. But so are they, so we were off. 4:30am departure from Boise, on our feet at about 9:30. It could have been sooner, but Sean was testing the color on his new jacket to see if anyone would steal it.

At any rate, after an easy approach, we were off into some absolutely stunning country.


I didn't take very many pictures of the canyon. This one was just so-so in terms of spectacularness. This place was truly amazing. We all agreed that even if we didn't make the summit, this was a great trip.


And then it went on for miles.
Final approach
It's hard to do this canyon justice with a camera. Everything is straight up. And big. Very impressive. Final approach

After about 2 miles or so and 1600' of gain, we caught a glimpse of the upper mountain. This isn't the summit, but it was enough to whet our appetites. And solidify our choice of routes.

From just past this picture, we turned right and proceeded steeply up the ridge through the trees. After about 1500' more gain we got the view below. Our route from this point required that we get on the rib at far right, climb the rib to the false summit just right of center, then on up the skyline to the snowy spot, the actual summit.

Final approach

Stack Rock

Here's Michael on the initial rib. This was broad and easy going- much easier than dealing with the ever-present scree. And with big drops to either side, very scenic.

Class 3

From the end of the rock rib, it's a short and easy gravel hike over the shoulder of the false summit. And then you get to see the final ridge.

We determined that it was probably fore-shortened and not as steep as it looks. Which turned out to be correct. Judging by the wear in the talus, most folks seem to slog up the scree just left of the cliffs.

Class 3
But Sean instead led us right up the crest of the ridge, with much gusto. I kept thinking, "No way this is going to go. If I hold back a bit, they'll have to come down and I can shortcut it." But Sean kept flossing the towers successfully. Click to see where he and Michael are in the climb. Birthday tea

We went around some, but over others. Here's Michael on the knife edge.



Birthday tea
This is looking south toward Middle Canyon and Howe. Shafer Butte
From the last rock section, it was a short hike to the summit.
Shafer Butte

Yes, those are the Tetons. Nice view up here, eh?


To get home, we simply reversed our tracks. However, on the first ridge we took the easy way and instead of downclimbing the knife edge, we followed the old tracks through the scree.


Shafer Butte

On the way up, we had skipped taking photos in some interesting places, thinking the lighting would be better on our return. But this canyon is so narrow that the lighting is brief, so we missed it. But I tried anyway. There is a person in this photo- you'll have to look at the bigger version to see how we could brush our hands against the cliff as we walked.



Shafer Butte

Very cool climb, with an even cooler approach up a spectacular limestone canyon with cliffs ranging up to several hundred feet high. Wow!

And quite the outing for late December!

Shafer Butte

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