Monday, February 19, 2018

The Sugar Loaf

Summits: The Sugar Loaf - 6,345'
Date: 02/17/2018
Range: Owyhees
Distance: 12.9 Miles
Elevation Gain: 3800'

With colder weather moving in and a snowstorm forecasted for the central mountains, the Owyhees seemed like a good option.  In November 2016 I noticed the Sugar Loaf's rugged summit from nearby Bald Mountain.  The main reason why I had not done this peak yet was the 600 to 700 feet climb back from Stobie Creek.  No one of the Lists of John site had recorded an ascent either, probably for the same reason.  Certainly a few people have reached this summit, especially during the height of Silver City's existence.

With the forecast predicting snow later in the day, I parked at 3800' near a sign indicating the road was closed.  For the next few hundred feet the road was dry with patches of snow above it so I could have driven much further.  Parts of the road were completely dry in exposed areas all the way to the Bald Mountain Road, 5.2 miles and 2000' feet above where I parked.  The descent to Stobie Creek was steep and traction was poor with a thin snow layer.  Once at the creek I steeply climbed about 900' without too much difficulty although it was slick in the snow.  There was a small gully that looked possible if dry so I headed slightly north.  I was able to climb about 50 feet before reaching an impasse on slick class 4 terrain.  After winding my way around to the north side of the mountain I found a short but doable class 4 section that led to easier terrain.  The views from the top were great, especially of the higher Owyhee peaks to the south.  There was a large cairn at the top unlike the much easier but slightly higher Little Sugar Loaf (also in view) which I did two weeks earlier.  It was windy at the summit so I did not stay too long before heading directly south on some much easier terrain, easy class 3 or 2+.  The uphill section was steep but not too bad except for the footing.  I ran parts of the last 5 miles back to my truck and probably would have ran back the whole way without a bum foot.  On my way back I passed by a half dozen OHVs and one jeep.

The Sugar Loaf is one of the more rugged summits in the Owyhees.  I will definitely do this on again despite the steep uphill climb back to the road.  It may be possible to avoid the significant uphill section if going following the creek but sidehilling to avoid private property from where I parked but following the road is probably faster.

Terrain just south of the summit

Summit Cairn
Sugar Loaf
Hayden Peak 
Summit Selfie
Silver City Road at 5800'

Casino Peak

Summits: Casino Peak - 9780'
Date: 02/11/2018
Range: White Clouds
Distance: 8.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 3600'

The latter part of January and early February were mild, in fact so mild that warm temperatures would have made snow quite soft so I stuck to the Owyhees the past few weeks.  With temperatures dropping back to average, I decided to get a snowshoe in since I was growing tired of the Owyhees.  Splattski and Super Dave did Casino Peak (named for a nearby lake) nearly ten years ago so I knew it was a doable peak in winter.

I took my 4WD truck but ended up not encountering icy patches on the drive to the trailhead.  I followed the Boundary Creek Trail for about a mile before heading uphill to gain the ridge.  Although steep, the snow was firm until I reached 8,000'.  Even after gaining the ridge, the snow was still mostly firm with a few soft patches.  Just above 8,000' the snow was a little soft slowing me down a bit as I potholes to reach a rock outcropping.  Once past the rock outcropping, clouds moved in and the temperature never got above freezing so it was pretty easy going despite gaining over 3,000' in elevation.  Near the summit there were some cornices on the north side of the ridge that I was able to bypass on the southside of the ridge.  After a false summit, I reached the summit which was cold and a bit windy.  The views did not disappoint as the Sawtooths, White Clouds, and Salmon River Mountains were in plain view.  Castle and Caulkens Peaks were easily visible to the southeast in the White Clouds with impressive Thompson and Horstmann Peaks off to the west in the Sawtooths.  Parts of the Sawtooths were visible throughout the hike.  Had my fingers not been going numb I would have stayed longer but I decided to head downhill before grabbing lunch.  The wind was not bad in the trees where I grabbed lunch.  The rest of the descent was uneventful as I eventually made my way back to the road.  Surprisingly the snow was still quite firm the entire way back to my truck.

Casino Peak turned out to be a great choice with the firm snow conditions as it took 6 hours roundtrip.  The peak itself is not very impressive but the views sure.  At this time of the year these types of peaks are my favorite as anything much steeper would not be safe.  Hopefully I get in a few more snowshoes like this during late winter and spring.

Casino Peak
View of the White Clouds
View of the Sawtooths near Redfish Lake
View to the northeast
Salmon River Mountains

Cornice near the summit.
Another view of the Sawtooths

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Peak 8848

Summits: Peak 8848
Date: 01/14/2018
Range: Sawtooths
Distance: 6.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2240'

The forecast for the weekend was mild and sunny so I decided to make another trip to the Banner Summit area, my fourth trip in just over a month.  Peak 8848 is only 3 miles south of Banner Summit and its summit is just north of several avalanche chutes including the Shoestring chute.  Perhaps the chute would be a good name for the peak.

The roads were not very icy except for a few isolated patches so I made good time with my Hyundai Accent.  The ridge was pretty easy to follow as it climbed gently uphill until dropping 200'.  Gaining the north ridge was steep and with the warm temperatures the snow was soft.  The views opened up as I gained elevation.  With soft snow, my progress was quite slow but eventually I made my way a few hundred feet below the summit.  The last section was somewhat steep but with no signs of avalanche activity I decided to go for it.  It took some effort but I eventually reached the summit.  There was a decent sized cornice at the top so I quickly touched it with my stick and then grabbed photos just below the summit.  The northern Sawtooths and Salmon River Mountains were clearly visible.  Bull Trout Point, the two Spring Creek peaks, and Canyon Creek Peak were easily visible to the west. With the warm temperatures, the snow was falling from tree branches I thought it would be a good idea to head down with snow stability declining.  Once back on the ridge I had lunch before continuing my descent.  The short uphill section was not too bad and I made good time getting back to Banner Summit.

Although the temperature was warmer than I would have liked (30s), the scenery and views made the extra effort worthwhile.  With clear roads I decided to attempt Peak 8477.  However I headed uphill too early and the terrain was too steep to continue, especially with visible loose wet slides.  I ended up settling for Peak 7422 to the north but even there the snow was shifting below my feet.  I highly recommend Peak 8848 as it is a great snowshoe and seldomly visited.

View to the west from the summit
View to the north with Cabin Creek Peak
Peak 9220
The bathroom is still visible unlike last year

Copper Mountain

Monday, January 8, 2018

Thatcher Creek Peak

Summits: Thatcher Creek Peak - 8235'
Date: 01/01/2018
Range: Sawtooths
Distance: 6.6 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1866'
Partners: Dave, John F., Tamara, Michael, John P., and Ruby

The forecast was clear for Sunday and New Year's Day so I planned on heading to the high country for a snowshoe.  With winter just starting  (barely) I had not done much that was TR worthy.  When Super Dave invited me for a snowshoe of an unnamed peak west of Thatcher Creek I was in since most of my trips are solo.  I had not met Dave before but we exchanged emails before about Mount Williamson since he and Michael both did the peak a year before I did.

All of us rode in Super Dave's SUV to Banks where we met John P. at Banks.  We arrived at the trailhead shortly after nine and walked along the road for maybe a quarter-mile before heading uphill to gain the north ridge.  We took turns breaking trail as most of us sunk in quite a bit.  Unlike Copper Mountain a few weeks earlier where I broke trail nearly the whole way, I was a bit worn out after doing Wilson Peak, Soldier Cap, and Cervidae the day before (5800' in elevation gain).  Once on the ridge the snow conditions were not bad so I broke trail for the last 1.5 miles.  Near the summit the ridge was a bit undulating but we soon reached the top.  The view from the top was not great and with a slight wind we decided to have lunch just below the summit.  From there Cabin Creek Peak and the northern Sawtooths were visible.  The best views were below the summit as Bull Trout Point and the Sawtooths were clearly visible.  I discussed bigger peaks with John P. and Michael on the way back.  We reached the car roughly 5.5 hours after starting.  By the time we reached the car it was a sultry 25 degrees!

Thatcher Peak was a great way to start off the new year, especially since I rarely hike in a group.  While the summit may not have had great views, other parts of the hike did.

Thatcher Peak 

Cabin Creek Peak 

View of the Sawtooths

Dave and Michael at the Summit
Summit Selfie 

Splattski TR -

John F TR -

Dave's TR -

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Basil's Peak

Summit: Basil's Peak- 10,414'
Date: 11/25/2017
Range: Boulders
Distance: 8.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,400'

I had been looking for off-season peaks with the winter approaching and noticed Basil's Peak on Google Earth.  I had thought about doing Basil's Peak on Thanksgiving but the weather conditions were better on Saturday.  From viewing the ridge on Google Earth, I knew that if there was enough snow that the avalanche risk could very well be too much and turn me back.  With nothing to lose except for bailing on summit after a nice snowshoe I got up early and headed out.  Regardless if I reached the summit I knew I would still get a nice workout and excellent views.

After a 3+ hour drive, I found a suitable pullout and began hiking around 8:30.  After a brief flat stretch, I climbed a steep but snow-free hill to gain a ridgeline with varying depths of snow.  The snow waa firm enough so I did not put my snowshoes on right away.  After dropping 200 feet to the base of the south ridge of Basil's Peak, I  put on my snowshoes  and made great time on the firm snow to  9,800' was easy even with a short but steep section.  My progress slowed significantly  and with exposed rock on the west side of the ridge I took off my snowshoes.  The last 3/4 mile alternated between snow and exposed rock.  With warm temperatures recently, it rained at higher elevations but was now frozen over.  After nearly falling I slowed down and checked the snow with my walking stick.  That stick would get shorter and shorter throughout the hike.  Eventually I reached the summit and was treated to great views of the Boulders and surrounding ranges.  Boulder Peak, Ryan Peak, and Kent Peaks were quite impressive.  It was somewhat windy on the summit so I decided to wait to have lunch since I had a long hike/snowshoe back to my car.  The ridgeline took just as long as the ascent as it was undulating and I had to make sure the snow was soft enough for descent footing.  I did not put my snowshoes on until I reached 9800'  when the partially snow-free sections ended.  Despite a short uphill section, I made good time until I reached a snow-free section where I took off my snowshoes for good.  From there I walked back to my car, postholing more as I reached lower elevations.  Luckily the snow was not more than a foot deep and the views of the Smokies made my slow progress quite enjoyable.  Just over 7 hours and 10 minutes I reached my car.

Getting above 10,000 feet this late in the year is quite a treat and it will likely be the last time this year although I was thinking the same thing on Galena and Gladiator Peaks.  The views were great and I am glad I did Basil's Peak when I did as the avalanche risk would be too much if there was more snow.  With or without snow I highly recommend this peak.

Basil's Peak on the descent

Boulder Peak


Kent and Ryan Peaks

Boulder Basin Peak (I  think)

Summit Selfie

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Gladiator Peak

Summits:  Gladiator Peak - 10,243'
Date: 11/12/2017
Range: Boulders
Distance: 5.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,960'

Gladiator Peak has been on my to-do list for some time and a nice sunny November day seemed like the perfect time to go for it.  Gladiator Peak is typically done during the winter months or late spring  as it is class 2 and close to the highway.  Two weeks earlier I had visited the Boulders with much less snow but a couple of storms had hit since then.

After getting up a bit early, I hit the road and started hiking around nine after deciding on a pullout.  I bushwhacked my way to the road and followed it to the base of the ridge leading to Gladiator Peak.  After a steep ascent to gain the ridge, the terrain was relatively gradual but still required some effort in a few feet of snow.  Eventually I worked my to the base of the west/southwest ridge of Gladiator Peak and saw the last 500 or so feet ahead of me.  The route was steep and I sunk in quite a bit with my snowshoes.  After seemingly taking two steps up and one step back for a while, I reached the summit ridge.  From there the biggest challenge  was to to stay in deep snow with my snowshoes.  I went over the summit to a false summit, which I determined by my altimeter but it was really close.  At the the top I was warm enough to eat lunch and to take in the views.  The views were great of the Boulders, Sawtooths, White Clouds, and Smokies.  Peak 10,185 would be an easy walk to its base but it requires class 3+ climbing so it will have to wait until at least late next spring.  The descent went quickly with my trail already broken. Even the slight uphill portion on the forest service road was quite easy.  From there it was less than a mile to my car.

It turned out to be a beautiful day and it was great to get over 10,000' once again, probably for the final time of the year as the avalanche conditions will only deteriorate.  Being this late in the year I will be fine with not getting above 10,000' for a while as I Have been getting to the high country quite a bit this year with 40+ peaks over 10,000' in t
2017.  I hope to do Gladiator Peak this spring too as it is a great snowshoe.

Gladiator Peak  vied on the Descent 


View of Castle Peak

Galena Peak 

View of the north summit

Monday, November 6, 2017

Boulder and Galena Peaks

Summits: Boulder Peak - 10,981'
Date: 10/28/2017
Range: Boulders
Distance: 11.5 miles
Elevation Gain: ~4,300

The previous weekend I stuck to lower elevations and got drenched in a snow mixture near Lowman.  This weekend was dry with highs near 60 near Stanley.  Boulder Peak eluded me in September as a storm was brewing as I headed off of Boulder Basin Peak.  It turned out that I probably could have done Boulder Peak then but this weekend was the perfect opportunity.  I was thinking about Peak 10,185 but when I saw Boulder Peak was practically snow free I turned onto Boulder Creek Road.  With my truck deciding not to go in reverse I took my old Hyundai Accent so I parked just off highway.

It took a well over an hour to reach the trailhead and it would have been nice to have had my truck but the road hiking was easy.  Once at the trailhead, I followed the trail for less than a half-mile before heading uphill.  Although steep, the bushwhacking was minimal and I managed to avoid the worst of the scree.  Once on the ridge I saw the first tower and contoured west around it.   Immediately after gaining the South ridge once again I descended around another tower to the east and worked the ledge system.  Eventually I regained the ridge and stayed on top to the summit.  There I signed the  register and took in the views.  Lorenzo Peak dominates the views nearby with Castle Peak dominating the north view as usual.  I lingered at the summit for a while before heading down.  Knowing this was one of final trips in the high country I took my time on the descent.  The hunter I ran into was shocked I hiked in from the highway.  Last year I did Lorenzo and Silver Peaks from the highway too.

With the excellent conditions, I decided to camp and attempt another peak in the Boulders.  Although the night was chilly, it was still quite warm for  this time of the year.

Day 2
Summits: Galena Peak - 11, 153'
Date: 10/29/2017
Range: Boulders
Elevation Gain: 3,950'
Distance: 7.4 miles

Two weeks ago I did Senate Peak and saw Peak 10,835 and it was on my list.  Unfortunately there is not a lot beta on the peak and all I knew was it can be done from its saddle with Galena Peak.

 I was not originally planning on camping so I did not bring a headlamp and got a late start close to 8:00 am.  At first the going was easy along a road and a trail but I ended up bushwhacking so I crossed Senate Creek to regain the trail once again.  The trail curved back to the west a short time later so I followed Senate Creek on its north side before heading straight uphill on the cliff bands avoiding the scree.  This was a great opportunity to take advantage of class 3 climbing.  Unfortunately  when I reached the ridgeline east of Senae Peak I had to drop elevation from a class 4 gully.  It worked and I climbed the class 3 terrain back up to the saddle.  From the saddle I did numerous class 4 moves to get to th saddle.  With short days and a gnarly time-consuming ridge, I headed back uphill to regain the saddle to do Galena Peak.  I probably could have made it but I would have had to do quite a bit of routefinding.  Other than a few towers on the north ridge, the route was straight forward and I likely grabbed my last 11k summit of the season.  Near the summit I dropped down to a ledge system on the west side of the ridge to avoid an exposed section of the ridge. The views were great and with the sun out I was not cold.  Most of the nearby southern and western slopes were snow free.  After taking in the views, I descended the west ridge of Galena Peak which is obstacle free.   I kind of lollygagged my way down as I knew this would likely be my last trip in the high country for a while.  Depending on weather and avalanche conditions I may be able to do a few peaks above 10,000' this winter.  Eventually I reached the trail and followed it back to my car.

Being late October, I could not have asked for better weather.  It is not very often that I can get above 11,000' this late in the year without snowshoes.  The warm weather did not last and the next weekend the snowline was around 4,000'.  This trip was a great way to cap off the climbing season.

Frozen Lake near Boulder City

Boulder Peak Summit Cairn

Lorenzo Peak from Boulder Peak

Peak 10835

Galena Peak Summit fro.a nearby false summit

Castle Peak from Galena

Galena Summit Selfie