Four-range Weekend

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We do a grand tour of eastern Idaho's mountain ranges

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

Beaverhead Range: Scott Peak, Webber Peak, and Huh's Horn

At last our planned weekend had arrived, and NOAA was working overtime to our benefit. I drove down to Boise and threw my gear into Michael's rig. And we're off for the Beaverhead Range on Idaho's Montana border.

We just barely made it to the Scott Canyon trail head (7800' ) before dark. We had watched the temp plummet as we turned up the canyon, and it was quite cool by the time we fell into our sleeping bags.

The next morning it was in the low 20s as we headed out at 7:30. A little high clouds, but not looking too bad.

Scott Canyon trailhead

We hiked the trail a mile or so before we hit snow. Fortunately, it was quite firm. When we got an eye on the route(s), we dropped snowshoes.

After plodding up through the sea of talus, we finally got to continuous snow, so donned the crampons.

Crampon time
We had great beta from both IdahoSummits and SummitPost, but decided to try our own route up a snow-filled couloir in the main bowl. Our couloir started out quite steep, perhaps 50°, then moderated. We were also aware that we were at the bottom of a funnel, so were paying lots of attention to the snow conditions. Kicking

Michael led off the couloir.

The snow was a little weird. There was some soft stuff, perhaps a week or two old, that had sort of a wind-slab feel. That was on top of really firm snow that in places was really hard. It was all good, but we did hear some collapsing in a couple places, where we quickly moved to the extreme sides.

Kicking

Up high it was thin and mostly the newer snow, which meant the occasional crampons-on-talus, which is lots of fun.

That's Huh's Horn in the background,with the ridge we would climb/descend. Click for a better look.

Huh's Horn in the background

The weather was improving when we hit the summit at about 11:30.

Balsam

Webber Peak only has 100' of prominence, but it is named on the map. We debated whether or not it really counts as a peak, but it was in the way of our view, so we hoofed it over anyway. It's an easy stroll, but about 1/2 mile each way. Meanwhile, the sun was working its magic on the snow on that ridge to Huh's.

This is looking back at Scott. Note the improving sky.

Webber Peak

I had tried Huh's back in 2009, but got distracted from what seemed like a perfectly sound route by the cool-looking face. That time, we got cliffed out and had to leave without the summit. So this time, I was back to remove that stain on my record.

The ridge up Huh's turned out to be much easier than it looked, even with balling crampons. But now we were punching in on a regular basis, and we had been above 11k for a couple hours now, so it seemed plenty difficult.

Huh's summit ridge

After Huh's, we had to cross most of Scott to return to our couloir, then spent the next hour or so whacking our crampons. It was probably possible to butt-glissade, but neither of us were willing to get soggy nor to hit that last steep headwall while on our backside.

When we finally got off the steep stuff, we removed the crampons and slogged back to our snowshoe cache. Then down through the sagebrush to the rig for our drive over to the Lemhis.

Crampons off

Lemhi Range: Nicholson Peak

It's a bumpy drive into Fowler Springs, the trailhead for Nicholson (6800'). But there's ample flat space for camping, and the view of the Lost Rivers is pretty good. We pulled out the lawn chairs and talked about the George/John style, which our campsite was sadly lacking.

But it was almost 60°, and later the moonrise over the mountains was worth staying up for. And then we hit the sack.

Fowler Springs

We had told SuperDave we would wait until 8:30 for him, but we pretty much knew he wouldn't make it (wisely staying home to take care of his ailing wife). So we cheated a bit, reasoning that with only a 30 minute head start up the huge sagebrush hillside, we would easily see him approaching should that actually happen.

Here's our route. That first pull to the trees is around 2k of gain.

Switchbacks

This morning it was about 30°. Tropical!

The grind up through the sagebrush was made more exciting by the ticks, then we got to grind uphill some more through the trees. That was followed above timberline by talus of various sizes and stability. But hey- the views were happening!

Wind River Bridge
When we finally gained the top of the ridge and got this view, we thought we had it made in the shade. Wind River Bridge
But then out of nowhere, this little bit appeared. Much up and down through loose and looser talus.
Wind River Bridge

But we finally got around all that and onto the final slopes of the summit. Here Michael and I diverged. He followed the talus and a few snow patches all the way to the summit.

I, on the other hand, put on crampons and followed snow and a few patches of talus all the way to the same summit.

Wind River Bridge

Either way you choose, it was big smiles on top.

That's Diamond Peak in the background.

Below, that's the view to the west of the Lost River Range. You can also see the west ridge of Nicholson(our route) just left of center.

In addition, you can see the sweet-looking snow slope to the right of the ridge. We thought that looked like a great way to descend. It went swell for a couple hundred feet, then we broke through to our crotches once, twice, three strikes and you're out. After wallowing on hands and knees for a bit, we finally got back to our feet and re-gained our previous route.

Wind River Bridge
Wind River Bridge
That lead to the previously mentioned sagebrush ridge and a knee-punishing drop back to the rig in the heat. In full snow-climb clothing. Wind River Bridge

We got back to the rig but could not just take off- it was too nice. So out came the lawn chairs.

But eventually we had to get back on the road to meet up with the IdahoSummits spring outing in the Pioneer range. This is Invisible Mountain (Lost River range) on the approach to Mackay.

The group was camping together, which was a lot of fun. I didn't take any photos of the group campsite, but at the end of this report I'll provide some links to reports that do. Let me just say that the spaghetti carbonara Steve (of In the Wild Chef fame) cooked on a campstove was almost as good his tiramisu, made on a picnic table.

Wind River Bridge

Pioneer Range: West Rosencrance Peak

The next morning we were in our cars at about 7:30, and on our feet (7000') around 8am for a short walk up the closed road (we were good boys and girl and obeyed the ridiculous Road Closed sign).

The plan was to hike up West Rosencrance, then traverse to Rosencrance, then back down the north ridge of Rosencrance to the road to close the loop.

Wind River Bridge
After the road section, our route took us up a cow path that followed a fence line. There were actually cow paths on BOTH sides of the fence, but we were on the outside side... ? Wind River Bridge
I hiked with Julie and Steve. We were a little behind the main group as we all progressed up the ridge. Wind River Bridge

From our vantage point, we could see people on the summit of West Rosencrance (or so we thought). We could also see people taking various approaches to the route: some on the snow, some on the talus.

Click for a bigger version.

Wind River Bridge
We chose the latter, based on mumblings and grumblings about the lousy snowshoe conditions (they weren't THAT bad, but it was hot and tired). Wind River Bridge
The kids kept pluggin away and pretty soon we were on what had previously appeared to be the summit, actually a false flats. Wind River Bridge

From the false flats, the summit isn't much higher. But it does look to be a long way away.

"Really? We have to go all the way over there?"

Wind River Bridge

But they were pretty smiley with the summit views.

And oh my, the views. It took me almost 10 minutes to name all the peaks through the 360 degrees of non-stop gorgeous mountains. I think this might be the most fabulous view ever! I can't even attempt to show you the panorama because there is no way I could do it justice.

Let's see... starting from the left, that's Big Black Dome, Pegasus, Chrysaur, Altair, Standhope, The Fin, ...

 

Wind River Bridge

We slogged back down the same route, stumbling downhill on our snowshoes and punching into the warmed-up snow. There wasn't much to look at. (That's Standhope and The Fin in the background).

The rest of the group continued on ahead of us to Rosencrance, then descending in even-more-sodden breakable crust. By the time everyone was back, our (we think much smarter) group had already been in the lawn chairs for an hour or more.

And if last night's dinner wasn't good enough, Steve repeated the carbonara and Geo offered up ribs, homemade coleslaw, and even homemade pickles. Them's eatin!

Wind River Bridge

Lost River Range: King Mountain

Our final day was to be in the Lost River Range, where Michael, Dan, and I would meet my daughter Mariel to climb King Mountain. In a range famous for steep starts and loose talus, this climb might just take the prize.

Wind River Bridge

This wasn't the smartest plan on our part, because Mariel is known as "the gazelle" (Michael's suggestion of putting an Idaho twist on it by calling her "the pronghorn" just doesn't have that ring...).What this means is that although we guys were all acclimatized and macho, she was fresh and simply left us in the dust. She's in the picture, but you can only see a bit of her pack way above Dan.

King Mountain is famous for its hang gliding, and it's the site of the 2013 National Championships. It's worth wandering around their website to learn more about the area, the weather, etc. The hang gliders have two parking areas, and we utilized the low range of Michael's rig to access the upper one (8200').

Wind River Bridge
This shot north into the main part of the Lost River range gives you a glimpse of King's talus armor. And a bit more perspective of the work we were doing. Wind River Bridge
Despite our fatigue from Rosencrance and everything, we were making great time, climbing between 1500' and 2000' per hour. Meanwhile, you'll notice that Mariel is in cruise mode with her hands in her pockets. This fulfilled my morning's prediction to Michael that it was just a matter of time before she would be out-hiking her Dad. Wind River Bridge

The summit block of King is rated Class 3. But today, that was buried in steep snow that pushed us onto some Class 4 rock. And then some even steeper snow.

Looking from below, we sort of anticipated the dificulty. Mariel had brought Fleur, her dog. Realizing that the terrain was too much for Fleur, Dan (who had climbed King before) nobly offered to stay with Fleur while the rest of us tagged the top. So after a brief snack, we were off.

Wind River Bridge

It gets steeper and steeper, then in a protected alcove turns to snow and gets steeper yet before it finally eases up and turns again to talus.

Note the 'dropoff' behind Michael. Mariel is off the steep snow. I'm standing just below the summit.

Wind River Bridge
This was taken during our descent, looking UP at the 'dropoff.'. Not a good place for dogs.
Wind River Bridge

Summit of King Mountain.

The weather was okay, but a little suspicious and more so as you looked north. We spent a moment discussing the weather because we knew that our friends the Fadgens were attempting Breitenbach up there just a few miles from where we were.

Wind River Bridge

We safely negotiated the descent, regrouped, and marched back down the ridge to the car. On the way down, it was just as steep as it had seemed on the way up.

A really great weekend with great people. Thanks everyone!

Here's some other trip reports and photo albums from the weekend:

Wind River Bridge

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