Square Top Mountain

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A solo adventure behind Paddy Flats, Square Top offers spectacular views.

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

 

I was jonesing for an adventure but the normal cast was not available. So solo, I hit the Kennally Creek campground (trailhead) in about an hour from the house, and was on my feet right at 7am. 58°. Perfect.

I had been here before on my climb of Blackmare Peak so remembered that the first couple miles are mellow.

 

 

Early skin track

Then, on new terrain, a long, gradual climb took me to the turn-off to Blackmare Lake. As described in Scott Marchant's book The Hiker's Guide to McCall & Cascade, at 3.5 miles there is a sign pointing to Blackmare Lake with the words "No trail."

Note: The Marchant book does not give directions to the peak. For those, see Tom Lopez's Idaho Climbing Guide.

Good views

The next section of my trail to Needles Summit is plagued by downfall. There are probably 50 or 75 trees in the trail, and they are completely inconsiderate in where they fall. The example in the picture shows a tree that fell in a creek and mud flat. And it took several other trees with it, making a royal mess for the hiker to clamber through/over/under.

 

The face

Shortly after that section, you climb to Needles Summit.

From there, the trail works its way across the hillside to yon saddle. But in between, the novice hiker would think the trail pretty much vanishes. If you have your 'trail eyes" on, the trail can be followed- because I did it.

In talking with Art afterwards, it was much like this 40 years ago, so I guess you don't have to worry about it totally disappearing. At least not yet.

Getting closer

About half way to the saddle, you can leave the trail and hike up for this view of the peak with Blackmare Lake at its feet.

Finding the very faint trail after leaving it can be a challenge.

Summit

The red line shows the trail leaving Needles Summit (center) and traversing left to the next saddle (as you head toward Square Top). There saddles are cool, no?

When you finally cross the nearer saddle, you drop down to the flats and then leave the trail for the last 700 feet of climbing.

(Note that you can see Long Valley in the background, including Lake Cascade on the left- click for the bigger version).

Summit

As you move through the flat section, you get awesome views of the Needles. These are just a few of the random Needles seen here and there.

[Editor from the future: That may be Gold Fork Rock]

Tracks
And this is the high point, the tallest Needle, and the greatest concentration of spires. Tracks
But back to our hike. From the previously-described flats, you have about 650 or 700 feet to climb to finally get to the top of your peak. Tracks
As you near the final bit, you can swing climber's left to keep it Class 2, or you can go right and climb Class 3. Either way, there are two benchmarks on top, thanks to the government's Double Redundancy department. Seriously, if you can tell me why there are two, I'd love to know. Tracks

All smiles on top.

That's Blackmare Lake. Another conundrum: If anybody can tell me why Blackmare Lake isn't by Blackmare Peak, I'd love to know.

Tracks

And what's that off to the East? I know because I've been there before! (sorry, the light was all wrong for shooting this direction)

This was a great hike with tons of scenery. I really enjoyed the wandering, vague trail and all the greenery, plus a really great viewpoint on top.

 

Tracks
PS- I spotted a bunch of potential rock climbing but you'll have to verify that for yourself. But here's a teaser.... Tracks

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