Thursday, September 13, 2018

Shelly and Redbird Mountains

Summits: Shelly Mountain - 11,278', Redbird Mountain - 11,272'
Date: 8/26/2018
Range: White Knobs
Distance: 8.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 4750'

After doing The Riddler in the Lemhis, I wanted to drive back a little closer to home and the White Knobs seemed to be a good choice being located just west of Mackay.  All five eleveners can be done in one day but since I had to drive back afterwards (4.5 hours), I just focused on Shelly and Redbird Mountains.  Maybe next year I can do all five peaks in one day.

I got started around 6:45 am and followed a jeep trail for a little ways and then it became a trail as motorized traffic was not allowed about a half-mile in.  From there I continued on the trail until I reached a fork and veered left.  The trail soon ran out and the terrain steepened.  After reaching a point above 9,000', I could see my route and some class 3 terrain on Shelly's east ridge.  I decided to stick close to the top of the ridge but the terrain became class 4 with very loose handholds.  Instead I dropped off the north ridge and then went on the south side of the ridge on very loose scree.  Once back on the ridge, the scree was not as loose and soon I was on the summit.  The views were incredible and the smoke was gone.  Since it was windy and I had another peak to do, my summit stay was short.  It was a 600' drop back to the saddle and then about 600' to the top of Redbird Mountain.  Once again the views were incredible.  I descended off the east ridge of Redbird and then found a trail that led to the jeep trail.

It was another great day in the mountains and my first visit to the higher White Knob peaks.

Shelly Mountain from the slopes of Redbird

Summit cairn on Shelly Mountain

Rock towers on Shelly Mountain

Redbird Mountain

View from Shelly

Summit selfie on Redbird Mountain

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Riddler

Summits: The Riddler - 11,580'
Date: 08/25/2018
Range: Lemhi
Distance: 13 miles
Elevation Gain: 5,000'

The Riddler had been on my to-do list for a while and getting late in the season, I thought I better get it in.  Tom was kind enough to provide his gpx track from 2015 which helped me out quite a bit. I reached the trailhead around 8:30 after a 5-hour drive.

Around 6:30 I was on my feet and followed the road for a ways and too far before realizing my mistake.  I climbed a couple hundred feet before dropping into the next drainage.  From there I followed a cattle trail and ran into a herd of cows.  I ended up chasing them up the canyon until it widened so they could get out of my way.  From there it was a long off-trail hike up the canyon to the start of the scree field.  Luckily the bushwhack was not bad and there were game trails.  Once on the scree field my pace slowed as the terrain steepened.  I stayed near some cliff bands for better footing and then saw a steep gully that led to the summit block.  It was a bit too steep for a safe climb so I dropped down and found another gully.  The gully had a ton of loose rock but was passable.  From there I made a couple class 3 moves which put me on the summit block.  From there it was not far to the summit.  The view of Diamond Peak was nice, but unfortunately that was the only peak I could clearly see because of the haze and smoke from wildfires.  It was disappointing but at least I still had better views than my spring trips on Mount Corruption and Straight Shot Peaks.  I took a slightly different line off the summit block which was class 3+ but it worked out.  The downclimb was slow on the incredibly loose scree.  It took a while to reach the treeline but once there, I started to make good time.  The rest of the descent was uneventful except for running into the herd of cows near the road.  This time they did not move so I sidehilled arpund them to avoid getting kicked.

Despite the haze and smoke, it was another great day in the mountains.  The Riddler was worth the long trail-less hike (not much of a bushwhack though) and scree slog.  Afterwards I decided to head over the White Knobs to do Shelly and Redbird mountains in the White Knobs.

Summit Cairn

Summit Block

The Riddler
Diamond Peak

Summit Selfie

View of my route to the summit block

Monday, September 10, 2018

Pavlos Peak

Summits: Pavlos Peak - 11,109'
Date: 08/19/2018
Range: Lost Rivers
Distance: 6 Miles
Elevation Gain: 4,000'

After a long day on Brocky Peak, I was looking for an easy and somewhat quick summit and Pavlos Peak sounded good.  After driving on Trail Creek and Doublesprings Pass Roads, I found a nice campsite on Christian Gulch Rd.

I started hiking around 6:30 and steeply climbed up to a jeep trail to the south.  From there I continued hiking straight uphill to gain the east ridge of Pavlos.  Unlike Brocky, the deadfall was not bad at all and I made great time reaching the treeline.  Once abovethe treeline, it was a relatively easy walk to the summit with a little easy class 3 action.  The views were not bad of the Pahsimeroi peaks and higher Lost River Peaks to the south.  The hike down was uneventful and it only took six hours, way shorter than Brocky Peak the day before!

It was another great day and an easy one in the mountains.  Any day in the Pahsimeroi area is a good one (even my viewless trip up Straight Shot Peak), as it is a really underrated sub-range.

Pavlos Peak


View of Straight Shot Peak

Cliff bands on Pavlos

Petros Peak

Summit Selfie

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Brocky Peak

Summits: Brocky Peak - 11,839'
Date: 08/18/2018
Range: Pioneers
Distance: 10.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,770'
Time: Nearly 11 hours! (the only speed record here may been the slowest ascent of Brocky)

Brocky Peak is one of the most challenging scrambles in Idaho and had been on my to-do list for a while (especially since it was my highest unclimbed Idaho Peak).  Originally my friend Tom was going to join me but our planned route would have likely required a rope and I have no technical experience so that plan was squashed.  I brought up the Baugher route which requires a longer hike and 500' drop to the tarn but Tom declined as he thought it would be too long of day.  I would soon find out Tom made a very wise choice.  With storms in the forecast, I decided to camp at the trailhead and play it by ear whether I would  attempt Brocky or go with the much shorter approach to Howard Peak.

With clear skies I decided to go for Brocky after all.  The trail on the map turned out to not have been maintained in many years.  The deadfall was pretty nasty and the 3+ mile hike along the creek was tedious.  Climbing up to the cirque was also a bushwhack and tedious.  Once above the trees, I boulder hopped my way to Brocky's south ridge.  The boulders were loose but not too difficult on the ascent.  Once at the ridge I decided to downclimb towards the tarn to avoid the class 5 ridge.  It was steep and class 3+ but slowly made my down close to the tarn but not quite all the way down before heading north towards Brocky.  I found a decent class 3 line to the base of a steep chimney.  Two potential lines to the ridge existed, scrambling west of the chimney or through it.  I scrambled nearly to the top of the chimney before retreating in search of a better rpute.  To the west looked feasible but if I fell I would be going a long ways as it was really steep.  Further to the west was even worse so I gave the chimney another go and made it through.  The chimney was solid class 4 terrain.  It was awkward at the top but proved to be more difficult to ascend at the top.  At first I tried to stay on top of the ridge before carefully descending back to the east side of the ridge.  From there I stayed on top of the ridge which was exoposed at times to the summit.  The views were awesome except for the haze and I spent about 15 minutes at the summit.  I would have stayed longer but since it took six hours for the ascent I knew the downclimb would nearly be as long.  Luckily the skies were as the forecast was way off.  I dropped to the west side of the ridge and then to the east side of the ridge to keep the terrain class 3 to the steep chimney.  The descent on the chimney was slow but eventually I made it down to easier terrain.  The loose gravel in the chimney made the descent slick and slow.  Once near the tarn, I climbed the 400' back to the south ridge.  Although steep, the climb was fun and not terribly exposed but exposed enough where a fall would certainly hurt.  From there I descended the steep talus slopes back to the treeline.  The rocks were loose so I took my time.  Then my least favorite part of the hike began, hiking and bushwhacking over deadfall and avalanche debris.  The deadfall was relentless close to the creek all the way back to the old road.  My route I took on the ascent seemed slightly better.  Eleven hours after starting, I finally reached my truck.

It was a long slog and the longest hike by time for the year at the time (I managed to sneak in a 12.5 hour hike on Borah with others two weeks later) but worth the effort on this difficult Pioneer Peak.  Next year I would like to try the northern route with a group and some technical climbing experience.

Steep Chimney


Tarn south of Brocky

Brocky Peak from the south ridge

View to the southwest

Lovely deadfall

Summit Selfie

View of the route

Old Hyndman Peak
View of Brocky from Wildhorse Creek

Rugged ridgeline on Brocky

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Salzburger Spitzl and Alcyon Peak

Summits: Salzburger Spitzl - 11,620'
Date: 08/12/2018
Range: Pioneers
Distance: 12.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 4720'

I did not feel like camping Friday night after returning from my Colorado trip on Wednesday.  The Box in the Pioneers lookedlike a fun scramble and with the washout on the East Fork Road repaired, the hike would not be terribly long.  However the road was closed so I decided to try the only peak I had not done yet from the Hyndman Trailhead: The Salzburger Spitzl.

This was the second time I have hiked the Pioneer Cabin Trail.  Two years ago I did Goat Mountain and actually entered the drainage that is used for the Salzburger Spitzl before taking the ridge to the summit which was quite an adventure.  This time I took the Pioneer Cabin trail into that same drainage and it was pretty easy going with the only difficulty being some sticky burrs and the heat.  Eventually I boulder hopped my way to the south ridge and from there it was a steep 800' feet scree and boulder hop to the summit.  The views were excellent of Goat Mountain, other nearby peaks, and Kane Lake.  After reading the register, quite a few folks reach the summit.  The descent was mostly uneventful except for getting stung by bumble bee in the back at 11,000'.  Luckily I did not get an allergic reaction as it had been a while since I had a bee sting.  Surprisingly I did not run into any hikers on the well maintaied trail on the descent.

It turned out to be another great day in the mountains picking off one of my higher remaining Idaho Peaks that I had not done.  Brocky Peak was my highest unclimbed Idaho peak but that would wait until the next weekend.

Day 2
Summits: Alcyon Peak - 11220'
Range: Pioneers
Distance: 6.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 2950'

I decided to venture over into the Copper Basin since I had not been there this summer.  It was a long drive to Muldoon Canyon and I camped at the base of Green Lake Road.

After debating whether to hike or drive the road, I drove part of the way up before parking as the road was rough, narrow, and steep.  At the trailhead for Green Lake, I ran into a couple with a flat tire and flat spare.  I offered to give them a ride but they declined since they had friends camping somewhat nearby at Lake Creek.  If I were in that situation I would have taken a ride but maybe they wanted to get a nice hike out of their situation.  It was a short hike to Green Lake and from there I could see three summits with the gnarly middle summit looking like it was the highest.  It did not look too promising that I would make it to the top.  It turned out that there was no need to get to the top of that summit.  Upon closer inspection the southern summit appeared higher and was much easier.  I think the east route from Antelope Creek might have been class 4 but Alcyon Peak was class 2.  After looking at the traverse to the gnarly summit to the north, it looked technical so I did not try it.  The views were pretty good at the were excellent except for the haze and the summit to the north appeared lower.  The descent was uneventful except for finding a USGS survey marker that had been dislodged by an avalanche or rockfall.  On the drive out I did not see the couple I ran into earlier so hopefully they had help as their truck was still at the trailhead for Green Lake.

It was another great weekend in the mountains and the Pioneers.  I still have quite a few 11ers to do in the Pioneers so I will be back in the range before the snow flies.

Summit of Alcyon Peak

Green Lake

The impressive summit north of the true high point

Alcyon Peak on the right and the gnarly summit on the left

Summit Selfie

Monday, August 27, 2018

Mount Wilson and Wilson Peak

Since I was a little kid, I had always wanted to visit the San Juans and with a nice weather window I decided to attempt Mount Wilson and Wilson Peak in the San Miguel subrange of the San Juans.  My friend and adopted grandpa Murray was an avid photographer well into his 80s and traveled to the base of Mt. Eiger in Europe, photographed Mt. Waddington, and traveled to the Silverton-Ouray area a number of times.  With little recollection of my biological grandpas, Murray became my adopted grandpa.  Unfortunately I cannot remember a single mountain he photoraphed (Murray took an interest in mountains when he was a bit too old to climb) in the San Juans.  We attended the same church in Wisconsin while I was growing up.  Murray passed away in 2011 but he inspired me to visit and climb mountains once I moved to Idaho.  This trip was a nice tribute to him and to see where he traveled in his Honda Pilot.  It turned out to be an excellent trip.

Day 1
Summits: None
Distance: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,900'

After sleeping in my truck in Utah, I drove through Moab and Monticello into Colorado.  I arrived at the trailhead around 12:30 and was on my feet by 1:00.  The hike in was slow because I overpacked but at least I could get away with it since the hike to Navajo Lake was a cakewalk compared to my hike to the second lake above Shepards Pass when I did Mt. Williamson last year.  I found a nice campsite not far past Navajo Lake with plenty of tree cover.

Day 2:

Summits: Mount Wilson - 14,246' and Peak 13540
Distance: 6 miles
Elevation gain: Roughly 4200'

I woke up around 4:40 am and was on my feet by 5:20 am to avoid potential afternoon storms.  Once the sun came out, the skies were already cloudy.  When the trail headed uphill towards the Rock of Ages saddle, I headed south towards Mount Wilson.  There were plenty of cairns to mark the off-trail route.  It rained a little bit and then pea-sized hail started to come down pretty heavy so I ducked under a rock for a few minutes as the hail was starting to hurt.  As quickly as the hailstorm began, it ended so I pressed on.  After the rain and hail, the weather started to clear.  It was pretty much a class 2-3 route until the last 100'.  Had Mount Wilson been closer to home in Idaho I would turned around.  The exposure was quite nervwracking but luckily the rock was solid.  Wilson Peak, Gladstone Peak, El Diente, and Lizard Head were all in view.  Although not prominent enough to be a real mountain, the traverse to El Diente is a popular route.  Being alone I made the obvious choice to forego the class 4-5 traverse.  I took a look at the southwest ridge and it looked much easier.  However my campsite and pack were on the other side of the ridge so I carefully my way downhill over the exposed ridge.  Once back to terra firma, I made my way back to the trail.  Although clear, the wind picked up and once I reached the Rock of ages saddle, Peak 13540 seemed like a safer option than Wilson or Gladstone Peaks in case if any storms popped up.  No storms occurred by the wind made it difficult to stand upright at times so Peak 13540 was a good choice as there were no obstacles and the views were great.  I did not stay long and ended up taking a slightly longer route down by leaving the trail earlier to avoid a stream crossing.  Once back at my campsite the only excitement was a marmot trying to get into my pack.  Despite removing my remaining granola bar into my bear (marmot) cannister, it still tried to dig into my pack later and was not scared at all by me, even after I threw a rock its way to scare it.

Summit Selfie
Summit of Peak 13540
Peak 13540

Day 2:

Summits: Wilson Peak - 14,017'
Distance: 11.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,000'

Once again, I got up early to avoid the storms and since I was hiking out.  Although I got started a few minutes earlier than the day before I managed to lose the trail which cost me some time.  Once at the Rock of Ages saddle I chatted with and passed a pair of climbers.  At the saddle with Bilk Creek a few mire climbers emerged.  Then route got tricky and I could not find an easy route so I waited for the other climbers.  Although not considered the crux, I thought that the few steps near the Bilk saddle were the most exposed as it put me on the side of a cliff.  The next couple hundred feet were easy and then the route steeply descends the west side of the ridge.  One guy went ahead of me and then I carefully descended the steep section.  A few climbers behind me were reluctant and most of them forged ahead.  After a steep climb back up to the ridge it was an easy walk to the summit.  Soon I was joined by the climbers me as the one ahead me waited for his wife.  The views were excellent except for the haze.  Mount Wilson, Gladstone Peak, El Diente and Lizard Head were easily visible.  After taking in the views on Wilson Peak, I knew the traverse to Gladstone Peak was out of the question with the hike out.  On the way down I stayed with the group of hikers until we parted ways at the Bilk Basin and Rock of Ages saddles.  The line I took on the way down near the Bilk Basin got a bit sketchy since I took a lower line off the ridge.  Eventually I reached my camp and started hiking out around 12:45.  The hike back was uneventful and I ran into a couple of groups setting out to do the Wilsons.

Climber descending the crux

Wilson Peak

Navajo Lake

Mount Wilson and Gladstone Peaks

Route to regain the ridge below the summit

Myself on the summit

I decided to attempt another 14er, Mount Sneffels that is a shorter hike which would allow for time to start driving back that day.  I noticed that there was a road connecting Telluride and Ouray/Silverton so I decided to for it.  The Ophir Pass Road was essentially all scree and was one of the scariest drives I have ever done.  Twice I almost got stuck as I could not get traction but luckily 4-low got me out of those spots.  Once at the pass it was easy going on the east.  I hope Murray did not try this one in Honda Pilot but knowing him he probably did.

Ophir Pass
Day 4
Summits: Mount Sneffels- 14,150'
Range: San Juans (Sneffels sub-range)
Distance: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,970'

The drive into Yankee Boy Basin was rough and after dealing with Ophir Pass, I decided to park well short of the upper teailhead at 11,300' (pretty dang high for me).

The next morning I was on my feet by 5:30 am to avoid any potential afternoon storms.  At the upper trailhead I ran into a couple of groups and they were doing the standard class 2 route which I was also doing as I downloaded the gpx file.  That was all the information I had.  The route was pretty straightforward with obvious paths up the gully.  I had to be careful to not knock loose rocks on hikers below me.  What was not obvious was the route below the summit.  After trying one route I decided to abandon it as it was class 4+.  Then I spotted a hiker descending through a v-shaped notch.  The notch is awkward and there was no view of the other side from below.  After spotting the handholds I made it through without too much difgiculty but left my pack behind.  At the top the views were awesome and I had the summit mostly to myself as another hiker was just descending.  She decided to take ridge route to avoid the crowds.  Descending the V-shaped notch was easier that going up.  Several others were headed up as I was heading down.  I took my time on the descent, especially to avoid beaning other hikers with rocks (not a concern in Idaho).  Once back at the upper trailhead, I took a trail to a lake before heading back.

The Yankee Boy Basin is spectacular and had I had more time I would have done Gilpin Peak to the south.  Mount Sneffels is quite impressive and I would be shocked if Murray did not venture up this way, at least for part of the ways before the road got too rough.

V Notch

Mount Sneffels

Summit Cairn

Gully leading to the V-Notch

Gilpin Peak

Summit Selfie
Day 5
Summits: Bear Benchmark and Francis Peak
Range: Wasatch
State: Utah
Date: 08/08/2018
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: A whopping 800'

I camped as high as I could but far enough from Salt Lake which put me in the mountains east of Spanish Springs.  Bear Benchmark would be the least exciting summit with 1.5 miles and less than 200' of gain.  At the top was a geocache, dead sheep, and smoke.  To get a little more of a workout I parked 1.4 miles from another 9,000' peak, Francis Peak.  Although marred by radio towers, it had good views of the Wasatch Front.

Bear Benchmark

Francis Peak