Big Creek Peaks

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Big Creek is a big area.

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First, the sad part: the GPS says this peak is only 120 miles from my house.

So... after about 7 hours of driving (for me), Michael and I were the last to the camp spot at about 11PM. The weather prediction was 30% changing to 60%, and we weren't 100% certain this was a good idea.

But we all hauled our carcasses out of bed the next morning, making it onto the trail at 6:00AM sharp. As we headed up the North Fork of Big Creek, the sky was mostly clear.

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We found Victor's steep trail up onto the ridge, and after that we were enjoying the lower-angled cruising (pictured here). A little deadfall, but we made good progress. Mostly. Group dynamics take effect when you have this many together. To quote Dave, "We're moving pretty fast when we're moving."

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It wasn't long (well, maybe 2000' of gain) before we ran into patchy snow.

In the dark last night, we hadn't been able to see the mountains, so had gambled and left our snowshoes in the car. Gambling is always a gamble.

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The snow was mostly firm. And most of us had remembered our gaiters. So for the most part, the occasional post hole wasn't too annoying.

And the 30% POP was not in evidence. Yet.

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We walked the ever-hardening snow when we could, then slugged up the loose talus when we had to. The snow would have benefited from wearing crampons, but had we put them on, the talus would have been horrible. Make compromises and make do.

This is looking north.

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And the conditions were much the same looking south.

That's Bear Mountain on the left.

Another 500' and we should be there.

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Summit of Big Creek Peak.

Most folks would find it disturbing to run into this crew up here.

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This area is pretty much due East of Doublesprings Pass, giving some great views of the Lost Rivers.

Looking across the valley at Mount Borah.

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From Big Creek, since the weather was still looking pretty good, we decided to head over to Flatiron Mountain. That's it in the background.

But first, we had to lose 800 feet.

[Note for Dylan: there is something inside the lens of my camera.]

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Initially, the walking on the snow was excellent- just a slight sinking of the heels. Alex demonstrating heel technique.

But then the sinking got a little deeper. Sunny day, don'tcha know?

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And then even deeper. Steve acting as portable snow depth gage.

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But as we got near the saddle, we ran out of snow (finally!).

Time to climb Flatiron and regain the previously lost elevation. We found a few goat trails, but mostly just slugged our way up the talus.

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The snow was again fairly firm (mostly) up on top. That's Big Creek in the background.

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Summit of Flatiron. Dave expounding on the view.

The cornice wasn't too dramatic, but the 2000' slope below it was.

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And in the darker foreground, there's peak #3 for the day, Smokescreen. But once again, we first had to descend.

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And here we are climbing out of the saddle after that descent.

The weather had been brilliant, so now the snow was really suffering. If you look closely, you can see strange imprints in the snow left by each of us crawling the last 50 feet to escape the slop.

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Looking back at Big Creek on the left and Flatiron on the right.

And we're off the snow again. And with another 500' of gain to do. If you've been keeping track, we've done about 6000' so far today.

On top, we saw the remnants of a fairly-well defined trail. I have no idea why or who built it. Any ideas?

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At this point, we've left the dry ground on Smokescreen for a snowy descent ridge. As we dropped, we attempted to find the firmest snow. Note that the sun had disappeared, replaced by a strong, cold wind. But not cold enough to freeze the snow.

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Our descent ridge had a little gendarme, which John lead us around. This was taken before we got to the bad part.

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We took the bad part in turns, which allowed me time to take some pictures. Just as a reminder- it is spring. We saw evidence of a fair amount of recent avy activity. Trailhead

And here is Michael after crossing the bad part under the gendarme.

Then came a long traversing descent searching for dry ground and a path with fewer downed trees.

Eventually, we got back to our up-track and then finally to camp. Shortly thereafter, it started to sprinkle, the end of a hard 12-hour day. Great outing with a great bunch of guys!

Special note: When we drove out the next morning in the rain, due to the extremely slick mud, we just barely made it out in the FJ.

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Map

 

Dave's trip report

Alex's pictures

John's blog

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