Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sawtooth Scrambling

Williams Peak (false summit) - class 4
Thompson Peak (southwest couloir) - class 3
Mickey's Spire (north ridge) - class 4

August 11, 2014

Following a rather exhausting backpacking tour of the southern portion of the Sawtooth Range, Will and I turned right around and went back up in the mountains to tackle some peaks the next day.  We wanted to climb the tallest mountain in the range, Thompson Peak, and some others along the way.  We started at 6:15 am at the Redfish Trailhead and followed the trail towards Marshall Lake along a heavily wooded and large glacial moraine until a climber's trail splits and travels up the valley towards the saddle between Williams and Thompson Peaks.  The hike was amazing.  The trail kind of disappeared as did the trees, so we just wandered up the valley towards the saddle, trying to avoid any difficult terrain.  We were both surprised to come upon a beautiful, perfectly round, deep cirque lake.  It's not even named!

A quiet and peaceful approach to the mountains
Getting lighter and warmer 
Above the trees and off the nice trail  
Who wouldn't name this lake.  I would like to name it Poppycock Lake.   
Will hiking around Poppycock Lake 
Poppycock Lake
The morning light and the backdrop of Thompson Peak and its' jagged eastern ridge, made for a great surprise.  We continued up the valley, passing little lakes and waterfalls.  We scrambled up the headwall to the saddle.  From here we decided to climb Williams Peak first.  Summitpost.org says, "Williams Peak is easily accessible from the saddle." Wrong again buddy.  From the saddle, we didn't know any better because it appeared that the peak was very close, but that's because the true summit was out of sight.  We scrambled around on some towers trying to get as high as possible.  We reached the top of a particularly exposed and exciting spire and realized that the summit was still very far away. The true summit was at the top of a ridge lined with impassable towers, nested on top of a thousand feet of 40 degree scree slopes.  How is Williams Peak very accessible from the saddle?

Small lake below the saddle
Filling up our water bottle with fresh snow melt
Getting close to the saddle
Thompson Peak, on our way up Williams Peak
Looking down the western ridge of Williams Peak
On OUR summit, first ascent!
Me scrambling out on a super exposed ridge, Thompson in the background 
Coming down from OUR summit
We decided to go down and head over towards Thompson Peak while we still had energy. We scrambled around the west side of Thompson and up to the saddle on its' southern side.  From here, it was a simple scramble to the summit.  Much more straight forward than Williams Peak.  After summiting Thompson Peak, we scrambled down and up the adjacent peak to the south, Mickey's Spire.  We were both tired and not excited about the descent, but we made it down from the summit to the trailhead in about 3 hours.  Total time on the mountain: 11 hours.

Fortunately, the next day it was raining, which gave us a good excuse to end our trip and go home.  We were tired and we needed a shower.

Some big xenoliths within a hypabyssal intermediate dike
Making our way to Thompson Peak.  Williams Peak on the right. 
Some fun boulder hopping up towards Thompson Peak 
Looking down on the unnamed lake from the summit of Thompson 
Will taking in the views and catching a breather on the summit of Thompson
Guys, Jeff Cronin is a murderer.  
Will making his way up Mickey's Spire 
Looking north towards Thompson and Williams Peaks from Mickey's Spire
Fresh runoff in a beautiful valley
Some sweet boudinage structures in the Idaho Batholith
Poppycock Lake (actually unnamed) and Thompson Peak on the right.

Backpacking in the Sawtooths

Backpacking in the Sawtooth Range, Idaho - Pettit Lake to Redfish Lake

August 8-10, 2014

With 2 weeks between my summer internship and the beginning of my PhD at Northern Arizona University, I gave myself time to spend time with family, friends, and of course, time to climb some mountains.  William (fellow graduate student) and I met in Stanley, Idaho to hike and scramble some peaks in the Sawtooth Range.  Originally, we planned on traversing the entire range from south to north and climb peaks along the way. Unfortunately, my plan may have been a little ambitious and poorly constructed.  I seem to have forgotten that carrying 35 lbs of gear makes hiking harder and slower than I am used to.  Also, the information on summitpost about many of the routes up the peaks is vague and often, plain wrong.  Not to mention my steri pen whacked out on our first night so we were left with chlorine tablets to purify our water, but only enough for 3 days instead of the planned 5 or 6.  So, our plans changed.

Red is on trail.  Yellow is off trail scrambling. Blue stars are camps.  Purple stars are trailheads. 

Day 1:
Friday night at 6:30 pm we hiked in from Pettit Lake at the Tin Cup Trailhead and made our way towards Twin Lakes, 7 miles away.  We were greeted with some of the best and unique lighting as we hiked past Alice Lake.  We set up camp in the dark and went to sleep.  

Pettit Lake
Map check
Big mountains!
Some crazy lighting on a pond near Alice Lake
Day 2:
The following day we awoke to clear skies in a beautiful setting, one of the cooler areas we encountered during our time in the sawtooths.  That morning we climbed up Snowside Peak (class 3) from the east.  We ditched our gear near the pass and scrambled up and down 1,500 ft in about 2 hours. After a nice break and some food, we continued our trek north towards more peaks.  We hiked down to Toxaway Lake and up over another high pass towards Hidden Lake.  Some afternoon storms blew in but we avoided getting rained on too much.  We camped at Hidden Lake all by ourselves (on a saturday night) in a beautiful setting.  We backpacked about 13 miles that day, climbed up two passes, and a peak.  We were pooped.  
Panorama from camp at Twin Lakes.  Snowside Peak is on the right - 5th highest in the range
Looking down on Twin Lakes
Will on the summit ridge of Snowyside
Scrambling down Snowyside
Summit photo from Snowyside Peak - I'm upset with Will for farting on the summit
Looking down on Toxaway Lake as storms begin to bow in. Snowyside is the peak on the left in the distance. 
Creek crossing
HIdden Lake, Cramer Peak on the left
Day 3:
The following morning, we attempted to climb Mt. Cramer from the west and south, because summitpost.com basically says, "you can approach this mountain from any direction."  Not quite true buddy.  The western ridge is a knife-edge ridge with impassable towers.  The only way up from western side of the mountain would be from the southwest up a really crappy scree slope about 1,000 ft high.  No thanks.  Of course, we didn't realize this until we did.  Which meant we spent a significant amount of time and energy route-finding and exploring impassable terrain.  

After our detour, we hit the trail and hiked all the way out to Redfish Lake, reboot, and hit some peaks in a day trip.  We hiked past the picturesque Cramer Lakes and down the Redfish valley towards the lake.  We took a boat shuttle across the lake and cut off 5 miles.  We probably hiked around 12 miles that day, including our route searching.  

3 days, ~32 miles, 1 (and a half) peaks.

The following day we scrambled up Williams Peak, Thompson Peak, and Mickey's Spire.  See the next post for details.  
Looking down on Hidden Lake 
Mt Cramer west ridge
Mt. Cramer west face
Scrambling along the west ridge in an attempt to get to the summit of Mt. Cramer
Looking down the ridge, Hidden Lake on the far right
Upper Cramer Lake
Upper Cramer Lake and Cramer Peaks
Lower Cramer Lake 
Redfish Creek crossing
Big granite walls!
Jagged peaks above Redfish Creek valley
Wet hike out
Redfish Creek empties into Redfish Lake