McGowan Twin (Mystery)


I finally climb a route I stared at almost 40 years ago.

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

When I was about 19, I spent the winter in a cabin in Stanley that looked directly up at this route (the shadowed gully on the peak on the left). From that perspective, the mountain looked way too steep to ever be climbed. But as I became more experienced and saw the route from different angles, I became intrigued.

More recently, Michael had also spotted the route. When he chose it for today's objective, I was immediately on board.


So to get started, I rolled out of McCall at the crack of 3:30am for a rendezvous in Banks at 5am. That put us on our feet at Stanley Lake at about 7:30.

We walked a few logs to get through the water on the road, then started up the very flat trail. After a bit, we spotted a very large animal in the meadow ahead. As we got closer, we found two of them. They did not like us: note the hairs on the back of the neck. What you don't see is him trying to scare us off with the faked charges. Ornery buggers. But we stared them down and they eventually ran off. Whew.




We weren't too sure about our route. Although it was 32° when we left the car, it was warmer already. Looking up at the route, we could see a large debris pile from wet slides in the recent warmth. We could also see where a deep slab had added to the debris. Hmmm.

Well, there was always the Plan B, which followed the route described in the Dear Tom Lopez book.

Spoiler alert: we followed the line shown in red.


We had to do a little log gymnastics to get across the creeks, but we didn't hit real snow until almost 7800'.

I've been up into the basin under McGowan a few times, starting around 1970 or so. This time, we found a pretty decent climber's trail.


Here's a trip report from 1998. If you look carefully at that old report, you'll see Julie in front of this waterfall.

Just below this point, Michael and I dropped our snowshoes and wading shoes. We laughed at the imaginary discovery of this unusual stash.

As we climbed toward the waterfall, we decided that the snow was in better shaped than it first appeared. That brought a hard left and back to Plan A. UP! Lower route

We were moving well, and were soon past halfway.

The day was heating quickly, so it was advantageous to walk the firmer snow in the shade.

Mid route

About here, we were wondering how steep it really was. Turns out, there is an app for that.

I guessed 35°, and that's exactly what Michael's iPhone said it was (he's holding it on a ski pole to average the angle, and it was too steep for me to just walk around and get a better picture angle).

Then it got steeper.


And narrower. Initially we were going to go right to gain the easier terrain near the ridge. But the gully looked pretty neat, so we instead bent left and headed for the cornices. Fortunately, the cornices got smaller as we got nearer.

At the top, I think it topped out between 45 and 50°. After using a rock rib for a handhold, I crawled under the cornice to the right to gain some very awkward stemming in the top moat while trying to pull up on a pile of loose rock. Michael watched for a moment and realizing my folly, moved left across some steeper terrain without the rocky floundering. I would have loved to take a picture just then, but instead handed down my axe so that he would have two tools for the crux.

Upper route
After walking 100' west, this is looking down the route. When I was here with Sean, I thought this looked skiable. With a little traversing, it is. Looking down
Although the adrenalin was fun, it was nice to be on top and relaxed. We bundled up so that we could enjoy the breezy view and eat. Then we descended to the saddle under the west ridge, then down to the basin under McGowan to close our loop. Summit


We had a great day. Good weather. As we cruised the flat trail back to the car, Michael pointed out how easy this approach was compared to some of the stuff we had done a month ago on the other four east Idaho ranges.


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