South Loon and North Loon

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Michael gets Loony.

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

Michael has been chasing the list of Idaho's 2000' Prominence peaks, of which North Loon is a member. So despite it's relatively low altitude, he was highly motivated to get this one.

We knew it was going to be a long day, so we hit the trail at 7am. To the north, it looked gorgeous. To the south, a bit smoky.

Trailhead

 

The bear grass was in bloom all the way up Lick Creek road, but especially so at the higher altitudes. This is on the excellent trail to Duck Lake.

Miners Peak

Just like when we did this hike last time, it was a smoky vista that welcomed us on top of the first pass. That's North Loon on the left, South Loon on the right, and Hee Lake in the front. Our route today would be on a vague trail off the pass, then bushwacking through deadfall the rest of the way. There is a trail, but it's so buried that calling it a trail might give others false hope.

South Fork of the Salmon River

By the time we got to Hee, the smoke was being blown out by building winds. Unfortunately, the winds were not strong enough to blow out the biting insects.

Through the next section of 'trails' we were too busy navigating and high-stepping to take pictures. Then we were on top of South Loon, shown below.

Miners Peak close-up
Miners Peak close-up

We reached the top of South Loon just before noon. The climb so far was fun, and we were feeling pretty good.

Our next objective was to traverse the ridge to North Loon. Doing so would mean two summits without too much extra elevation.

Snowshoes
Well, that didn't work so well. This is the north ridge of South Loon as seen from North Loon. We had experienced the first few hundred feet of this scene, which was pushing us lower and low on the west side. We decided that it simply would not go, so we climbed back to the ridge top and started scouting for a way to descend the east side. Ponderosa forest

Eventually we found a descent with an acceptable amount of risk. I commented that once we were committed, we were going all the way-- and that doing so was probably stupid.

So we made our way down onto the talus below, and it began.

Ponderosa forest

Once down a way, we changed our mind about the south ridge of North Loon. Instead of wrangling our way up the talus ramp and confronting the several gendarmes, we elected to traverse the green areas and approach from the east ridge, on the far right side of the photo.

Somewhere up that ridge, I started to not feel real well.

Upper ridge and lookout

But we plugged away in the heat, swatting ravenous horseflies for distraction.

On top, however, the wind was raging. It was great!

Upper ridge and lookout

I had very vague memories of climbing this peak back in 1998. I didn't remember the peak so well, but I did remember the use trail leading out of the valley from Enos Lake, on the right.

So rather than climb South Loon again, we hiked over to Enos and then out of the valley.

Upper ridge and lookout

Ths is one of the upper Enos Lakes, looking back up our route.

From the saddle above Enos, we followed footprints and cairns back to the ridge that signals the start of climbing South Loon. We had closed the loop, but we still had a long way to go.

Upper ridge and lookout

By now, I was cramping and my feet were killing me. It was a slow plod back to our first pass, taking us to about 8PM.

But the light was fantastic. This is the same view as picture #3 on this page.

Upper ridge and lookout

Michael waited for me patiently for a while, allowing me to get this great sunset shot. But then the skeeters overwhelmed him and he had to go faster to keep the varmints off.

When I finally got to the rig at 9:45, he had barricaded himself inside the rig to avoid the skeeters. I though he was joyfully listening to music, but the rhythmic clapping was just Michael killing the ones that got inside.

Upper ridge and lookout

Map.

Note that we tried several routes through the valley in search of the alleged trail.

 

Also heed this caution from an e-mail the following morning from Michael:

"definitely not a hike to try without a local"

Upper ridge and lookout
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