Big Black Dome

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Spring weather reverts to snowy on Big Black Dome and Wildhorse Peak.

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I had driven to Hailey the evening before, enjoying the always-beautiful Sawtooth Valley.

What kind of a winter are we having? Compare the picture at right with the same location, same date in 2008.

Trailhead

After dinner in Hailey, we woke up at a leisurely hour, finished packing, and headed ‘around the horn’ to Copper Basin because Trail Creek summit was still closed.

We had made it just past Craters when I realized I had left my camera on the table at Mariel’s. Dang! The mountains had a fresh coat of snow, so although we couldn’t see their tops, it was still quite beautiful. And I figured my homies would want the beta. Sigh.

Eventually we made it to Trail Creek road, where we got to enjoy the new pavement that extends virtually to the Copper Basin turnoff. Then it was a little slick and muddy on the Copper Basin road, which was clear of snow but just barely- the adjacent sagebrush appeared to have somewhere between 2 and 4” of snow hanging in it.

We drove past the Big Basin sign, which is when I realized I should have brought better instructions. Jason was, however, doing a great job navigating so we eventually found the right road.

This road was snow covered, so I stuck it in 4-wheel and we started creeping cautiously up the one-track jeep road. By now it was snowing, and the incredibly flat light made is hard to tell where the road was, let alone guess where the big rocks and the deepest rut might lay.

It was all going well when on a short, steep pitch behind a little ridge I suddenly felt the front wheels sink. Uh oh. Reverse did nothing. Fortunately, I was carrying a big shovel and it took less then two minutes for Jason to dig me out of the about 12” of gloppy snow. I backed down and parked on the spot.

So there you have it- it’s storming, everything is white, and there is deep snow on the ground in patches. And we can’t see a thing to decide where to go.

The GPS seemed to show a prominent ridge, and scroll-scroll-scroll- yep, there’s Big Black Dome.

We loaded up the snowshoes and some lunch, and lit out following the road, which turned into an ATV track. After about a mile I saw a sign that I recognized, showing the start of the real climb, heading straight up.

Trailhead
As these things often go, we could have made it up the road. But it was only a short walk to the real trailhead, and the flat road gave us a chance to warm up a bit.

It was only a few minutes later that we put on the snowshoes at a little over 9k.

Then it was simply a matter of slugging it out, working our way over and around a few rocky encrustations of the snowy ridge. Snowshoeing in boulders is really fun (not). When we got up to the Dome part, it was howling and Jason had disappeared ahead of us.

Approach

I suppose it was about 15 minutes later that Mariel joined Jason on the summit. 3 or 4 more and I found them laying down behind a small rock, trying to get out of the howling wind.

Approach

We poked around for a summit register for about 30 seconds, then beat feet out of there before we all froze. Jason was already partway there. Jason and I did this silly glove exchange thing, trying to warm up his hands. Eventually the heat packs fired up, but by then we were down out of the wind and it was quite a bit warmer.

When we got back down to about 10k, we found a little bluff to hide behind while we ate.

And here's our view back up the mountain from about where we had parked. The Big Dome was not so Black today!

Sunrise on the Pioneers

When we arrived at the truck on its flat promontory, we wisely decided that it would be more pleasant at the level of the main road, so we started back until we found a suitable spot to throw up the tents.

It was pretty nice for an hour or so, then the weather moved back in. We dove into the big tent, where you could see the little tent if you looked out at our mountain....

Sunrise on the Pioneers

Mariel made us a gourmet dinner in the tent while it blew and spat, and the cabernet did the meal more than justice.

When we awoke the next morning, there was 2 or 3 inches of frozen, gloppy snow on everything. Our attempt to block the wind with the truck failed when the wind did a 180 degree during the night.

No snowshoes

So rolling up crusty, wet tents, we headed out of the valley toward peak #2: Porphyry. But when we looked at the rushing dark water contrasted against the two inches of bright snow we’d have to stand in in barefoot while we put on our boots, Mariel called it. Wildhorse Peak includes a bridge, and that seemed much more sensible.

Jason again set a torrid pace, cruising up the atv track at 1500-1800 feet an hour until the snow got so deep as to require snowshoes. That slowed us down considerably, as did the need to fuel up after yesterday’s hard work.

As we gained height, our world shrank because we were climbing into the clouds. Although it’s always great to get out, and especially with my kids, I was disappointed not to be able to show off the views.

We were right under the lookout when I remembered that Dan had said the true summit was off a bit. Well, we weren’t going to be able to see anything at the lookout anyway, so we diverted over and wandered the ridge out to the true summit. From that vantage point, we could see Trail Creek road below us-- but not a lot more.

As we headed down, the clouds continued to lift some, so we could see the lookout on the way down.

Down, down, down. Into the truck, and heading home. April isn’t summer. But all in all we had a great time.

Bottom of the gully
Flying off to Wisconsin early the next morning, I could see all those same peaks, all rosy pink and white in the glow of the rising sun. Gorgeous.

Map of Big Black Dome

Camp
Map of Wildhorse Camp

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