Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Observation Peak

A quick spin (run/hike) up Observation Peak.  This might be one of the finest views in the Sawtooth Mountains.

Date: September 15, 2018.

Objective: Observation Peak 9,151ft.

Stats: 14.5 miles and 3,800ft gain round trip.  Strava.

Links: Idaho: A Climbing GuideSummit Post Page.

The Wapiti Fire had just burned and closed this area a couple of weeks ago, so I was a little hesitant to head into Grandjean.  I knew it was re-opened and from what I could tell, the fire did not reach the trailhead.  Fortunately this was true and the trail was untouched by the fire.  I was on a slight time crunch so I was quick to hit the trail without a proper warm up.

Stiff legs carried me in the first couple of miles when I decided to stop and stretch out a pesky hamstring ache.  I was excited to close out unfinished business from a year ago so I just kept pushing for the summit, since I'd already seen the lower trail.  I was also excited to see that the trail had seen some work and the down fall noted in my previous run was not there.  On that note, I would like to extend a sincere thank you to those who had participated.  It was smooth sailing, or plodding rather, past the junction with Trail Creek Lake to the trail up Observation Peak.  The trail past that junction was a little faint and interesting to follow in some places.

It was a steep 1.3 miles with more than 800 feet of vert on now tired legs.  I finally hit the top and took in the fantastic view while I sucked down a Stinger Waffle.  There was an ammo can summit register that I almost forgot to sign.  All the hard work of getting there afforded me about 10 minutes on top before I had to head down.  I noted streaks of rain to the southwest.  Now I had realized that the route was going to be about 2 miles longer than I had mapped.  Not a huge deal but a hamstring cramp encouraged me to slow down and take it easy.  Threatening clouds that were in the distance were now overhead and dropping a sprinkle or two; hard shell jacket not required.

The descent was slow but without incident and the bulk of the rain hit while driving back to the highway.  I really need to come back and do more running in this area.



Smooth trail.

Lower trail before the first creek crossing.

Looking across Trail Creek.

Mt. Regan.

Summit view.

Summit view.

Summit view.

Summit view.

Summit view.  Trail Creek Lake.

Summit view with War Bonnet.

Summit view.  Looking far to the south.

Summit view.


Ammo can summit register.

Trail just below the summit.

Trail heading back to the junction with Trail Creek Lake.

Observation Peak from the trail

Monday, September 10, 2018

Plan B Backpacking to Bench Lakes

We set out for the White Cloud Mountains, but Wildfire forced our hand.  This is a story of a Plan B that we hadn't even remotely seen coming.

Date: September 7-8, 2018.

Objective: Plan A - Fourth of July lake and Blackman Peak in the White Clouds.  Plan B - Backpack to Bench Lakes.

Partners: Deez and Landen.

Stats: 8 miles with 1,100ft gain round trip.  Strava track.

Notes: I was unaware of the Bible Back Fire until we turned down Fourth of July Creek Road.  Fourth of July trailhead and the surrounding area, including our planned camp at Fourth of July Lake and summit of Blackman Peak was closed.

Lesson learned: Always check InciWeb before leaving.

I perked up when I saw the sign for Fourth of July Creek Road on Highway 75.  Sa-weet, were almost there!

I was in disbelief when I saw the Fire Information sign on Fourth of July Creek Road that explained the Bible Back Fire and showed the closure area that was centered around our planed location.  Son of a bee sting! 

We had come to try and get Landen up Blackman Peak which is perhaps one of the easiest 10,000 foot peaks I know of.  I wasn't expecting anything other than an easy walk to a nice lake and a fun hike to the summit.  I blamed myself for not doing enough research and finding out that this area had been closed for about two weeks due to wildfire.  Deez and Landed both kept saying it wasn't my fault, but I'd rather take blame for being ill prepared than admitting shear stupidity.  Anyways, we were not about to just head home.  After a short brainstorming session, the best option I could come up with was a hike to Bench Lake.  The problem was it was already mid-afternoon and we needed something that would be a short drive from where we were and relativity easy to get to before dark.

View from Redfish dock.

Boat ride.

On the lake.

Trailhead selfie.

We elected to take the shuttle boat to the transfer dock at the far end of Redfish Lake.  I may also be wrong about this, but I think it's easier to get to Bench Lake from the west end, as opposed to hiking from the normal trailhead near the lodge.  Anyways, at least we got a fun boat ride to make a quasi-loop out of the ordeal.

No body seemed too disappointed, but nobody seemed thrilled about hiking 4 miles with 1,200 feet of gain during the hottest part of the day.  We caught a few glimpses of the White Cloud Peaks, as well as some rising smoke as we worked our way up the trail.

White Cloud Peaks.

Landen setting the pace.

Grand Mougl.

It was a hot grind up to the lake, but we found a nice shady camp site once we were there.  The tent went up, wine was poured, dinner was cooked and the Frisbee took flight and we were all smiles; at least that much of the day went according to plan.

New tent at the lake.

Mount Hayburn over the second Bench Lake.

The evening was warm and pleasant, even if it wasn't where we thought we'd be.  Since we didn't have a real agenda, we slept in a bit and weren't too fast about breaking camp the next morning. 

The day before was clear compared to the smell of smoke and hazy skies we now had.  Fine fall colors had come to the flora.
Hiking out.

Sawtooth Peaks barely visible in the haze. 

Hiking out.

East end of Redfish Lake from the trail.

Turning leafs.

There were several hikers and bikers making their way up the trail as we made our way back to the car.  No summits to claim, but still hard to complain.  You could certainly do worse when your unplanned Plan B is an overnight hike near Redfish Lake.

Happy trails!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Three Peak McCall Weekend

An overnight hike in the Grass Mountains with three peaks and fun off trail route finding.

Date: August 25-26, 2018.

Objectives: In order of ascent - Hard Benchmark 8,216Grass Mountains High Point 8,180. Grassy Twin Peak 8,156.

Partners: Deez, Landen and Ketchum.

Stats: 12 miles and 3,400ft gain. Strava track.

Links: Grass Mountains overview on Idaho: A Climbing Guide.

I did some digging around the McCall area looking for an easy overnight hike with some peaks.  We were to use this a training mission for taking Landen to the White Cloud Peaks soon.  A few good ideas had popped up, but I referred to Splattski who is pretty much an expert on this region.  He had suggested Grass Mountain Lakes and the surrounding peaks; an area that I hadn't yet researched.  His advice was taken and that's where we headed.

I was pleasantly surprised with how good the road access was as we drove past the Brundage Ski Area and toward the trail head.  We were on the trail about 1:30 and didn't see a soul after leaving the parking lot.  It was about 1.7 miles to the camp site we found on the north shore of the first, eastern most lake.  The hike in was not difficult.  Skies were on the hazy side with a hint of smoke in the air.  We were expecting cooler and breezy conditions overnight and into the next day and that raised my confidence that the air would clear.

Signs at the trail head.

On the trail.

Hazy skies on the hike in.

Grassy Twin Peak.

Grassy Twin above the lake. Photo taken from camp.

We found a suitable site and got set up.  It wan't long unit the dog was whining to play chase the stick so Landed obliged.  After a short convo we decided to go for Hard Benchmark, a quick bonus peak that we had already passed on the hike in.  Dog was in and out of the drink quicker than you could say "come on, lets go"!

Dog in the lake.

Hiking up Hard Benchmark.

USGS marker on the summit.

Summit pic.

Seven Devils Mountains.

Getting up Hard Benchmark wasn't too hard.  We went round trip in two hours and were back in camp with plenty of time to relax and save energy for the next day.

The next morning was cooler, overcast, breezy and smoke free.  Time to hike!

As we set out for the peaks and headed to the saddle, I realized I didn't pay attention to the fork in the trail before the lakes as we hiked in the day before.  The fork to the right is the one that will take you over the pass, towards Coffee Cup Lake.  We followed the left fork to the lakes, then to the head of the valley before I realized that I'd missed something.  We hiked up the slopes to where the trail was indicated on the map but somehow missed it.  Eventually we reached the saddle After some not super difficult off trail hiking.  From the saddle we headed south to Grass Mountains High Point.

Trail past the lakes.

Nearing the saddle with Grassy Twin Peak in the background.

Grassy Twin Peak.
There was an occasional trail to follow but the terrain was easy enough to navigate.  There is a fun class 2/3 section on the narrow ridge on the way to Grass Mountains HP.  I guess I was having too much fun hiking because I didn't take many pictures here.  The other thing I did not get a picture of is the "Ramp" section that is an important part of the route up Grass Mountains HP.  Take the ramp furthest left and you'll be in business.

Grass Mountains HP.

Frog Lake.

After the Ramp the route is easy to follow class 2 terrain to the wide open summit.

Wide open summit of Grass Mountains HP.


Grassy Twin.
Skies were gray and appeared to be getting lower so we didn't hang too long.  We reversed our route to Grassy Twin.  I aimed to side hill a bit of the false summit.  From there it's another fun and narrow ridge to the summit slope.  Easy class 3ish stuff to the small summit perch.

Metamorphic rock.

Looking back to the false summit on Grassy Twin.

Base of the summit slope.

Lower Grass Mountain Lake. Our camp site was in the clearing on the left side if the shore.

Hard Benchmark.

Grass Mountains HP.

Summit shot.  Kissy face used in conjunction with kissy sounds to entice the dog to face the camera.

I think we spent all of 5 breezy minutes on top.  I don't think anyone really wants to get rained on, so lets hit it.
Hiking along the ridge back to the saddle.

I was pretty sure I could see the trail cut into the hillside.  After 14 seconds of investigating the area that we marked were we reached the saddle I sound the trail, 30 feet above us.

Trail signage.

Hiking down the trail.
The trail was in pretty good shape here.  We passed one mountain biker on his way to Coffee Cup Lake.  That was the only other person we saw since we let the trail head.

Grass Mountain Lakes and Grassy Twin Peak.

We made it back to camp and packed up without a rain drop.  The sky was considerably darker now and the wind had picked up.  With rain jackets at the ready we pointed our boots toward the car and hiked out.

Hiking out.

Hiking out.
It was right about the moment that we got back to the car and took our packs off that the rain finally started.  Nothing like being in the right place at the right time!

Happy Trails!