Monday, April 21, 2014

Grays Peak 4-19-2014

The weather looked really good for the weekend and I had been thinking about a climb in ether the Pioneers off the East Fork Road, or something in the Boulders from Hwy 75.  I had seen that Mark was wanting to do Gray's peak so I jumped on with him, Tory, Deb and Oleg.

We met up and left Boise at 5:00am arriving at the Federal Gulch camp ground at 8 and had our boots on the ground and moving by 8:30.  Cold temps and very light wind with no almost no clouds.   

We hop across the creek and are on our way up the west ridge.  I had informed the group of the creek crossing and jokingly said "water wings optional".  Note the creek crossing shoes on Debs pack...  

We get our first close views of the upper mountain.  We were prepared for a snow climb and had carried snow shoes as well.  I had climbed this before, but not on snow. 

This is one of two short scrambles along the ridge.

Not a whole lot of snow and we hopped it would be in good shape to climb.

As we walked on snow here, the slope to the left failed.  We heard a "whoomp" and jumped about 4 feet in the air to dry ground.  The fracture line was visible (shown below).

Oleg enjoying the views.

We continue up the ridge.

We stop for a short break, put on crampons and grab our ice axes.

We discuss route options, snow conditions and rapidly rising air temperature.  We know we need to get moving, and fast.  

Time to climb with Oleg in the lead.

Mark,Tory and Vuyo climbing up behind us.

We were concerned about the rising temps and cornices on the ridge and after studying the route we decided to attempt to find a way around it.  We proceeded with a conservative mindset because we had already seen signs of snow pack instability and dropped down to the right between the trees.

We had traversed this slope under the lower cornices and reevaluated.  Here is what we saw;  Rising temps meant an increasing risk of wet slides and cornice failures.  We also saw the south ridge was dry and had four other climbers on it and about to summit.  That route would have added significant time and distance as well as involving a tough scree slog.  It was after 1pm by this point and had set a turn around time of 2.  We figured there was little chance of making the summit and saw little reason to continue only to have to climb back though the already melting snow.

This is looking up the slope at the cornice.  Not a good place to be and we quickly reversed our tracks.  Oleg and I also quickly agreed with Debs desire to be on terra firma. 

Oleg enjoying the view from the days high point of just over 10,000ft.

We snap a picture and prepare to rejoin Mark and Tory for some much needed lunch and rest.

Looking up the last 500 feet of the west ridge and watching the other groups summit.

Lunch with a view.

We rubberneck and name all the peaks we can.

We headed down in the ever-softening snow and into some deep post-holing mixed with glissading and a few explicit words.  Going down was tough...   

Visible fracture line on the slope that failed early in the day.  That got our hearts going!  Reexamining the north aspects, we saw several old avalanches had let loose here.

Another short section of class 3 rock on the way down.  It was the first big peak any of us had been on this year.  We had done over 3,200ft of vertical and were quite happy with that.  Success does not always mean getting to the summit.  We made a great team, had a ton of fun and made good informed decisions that kept us safe to climb another day - that is success in my book.  In the end, it is the mountain that says if you can climb or not.     

Granola out

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rolling The Dice at Grandjean Once Again. 4-12-14

Rolling the dice at Grandjean for an early season overnight hike has become somewhat of a tradition for us. For the second year running we headed out of Boise later in the day and got to Grandjean road just before 4pm.  The initial plan was to drive to the trail head and hike to Baron creek as we had done last year.  I hadn't been up there yet this year, and although I knew there was more snow this year than last, we still had to try.  When we arrived at the road, we found there were still patches of deep snow, alternating with dry ground and muddy ruts.  That meant the end of the road for the Suby and the beginning of the walk for us from the pullout on Hwy 21.

This was the condition of the road right of Hwy 21.

We pretty much figured there was no way we were going to make it all the way to Baron Creek, let alone the trailhead, so we changed plans and aimed for one of the camp grounds along the road.  65 degrees and occasional westerly gusts.

At a mile and a half in we found this nice little area along the river to camp.  We could have walked further but we were happy with what we found and saw little reason to continue.

We got to test out the new tent.  REI Quarter Dome 2.  Very nice!

It was a beautiful night and warmer than we thought it would be.

Ruts in the road before the bridge.

All in all it was a good early season teaser and we tested some new gear that worked great.  Maybe next year we'll bring snowshoes just in case...

Granola out  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wilson Peak with Soldier Cap. 4-11-14

Spring Break had come and gone for me.  I had plans to climb Dickey Peak in the Lost Rivers but we decided to cancel due to a lousy and deteriorating weather forecast.  None the less, however, I have been really itching to get out, and not just out, but onto some new ground.  Finally, the right astronomical alignment occurred when I could get away for part of the day.  My first choice was a snow climb of a bigger peak, but the weather had been unseasonably warm and I needed to be back in Boise no later than 5pm so that option was out.  "What to do, what to do..."  Warm? - Yes.  Too warm for the Owyhee front? - Nope!  I coupled that with the limited windshield time and the plan was set.  I had this hike in mind since last fall following a geology field study protect of the Western Snake River Plane (WSRP), so all in all, it fit my criteria.  I left the house at 8:30am and within just over an hour of driving, I got the first views of these peaks from Hwy 78.

Soldier Cap is the pointed peak on the left, Wilson Peak is the rounded one in the center.

As I turned off Hwy 78 onto Wilson Creek road, I was greeted by a cattle drive that we waited about 20 minuted to pass.
No matter, it gave me time to review my game plan for parking.  Without really knowing what to expect as far as condition of the road, I had figured I could drive within about 1 mile or less of the ridge that I planned to hike to the top of Wilson Peak.  But, after all, what qualifies as a road is subject to debate and often better left to foot travel.  After the cattle drive passed, I was on the way up the road that starts as pavement, transitions to good gravel and became increasingly rough after about mile 4.  Although it appeared to be not too bad, I wasn't more than half a mile from where I planned on and decided to park.  Boots on dirt at 10:30 with clear skies and light wind.
The planned route takes the center slope.  Here, the ground appears mostly flat.  That was not the case.  A series of gullies anywhere from 10 to 30 feet deep criss-cross the ground.  Not a big deal early in the day.  After all, this was the warm up section...
It wasn't long into hiking the first slope until the views started opening up.  This is looking toward Bogus Basin, in the Boise Mountains.

At about 2 miles and 1.5hrs into the day the radio tower at the top of Wilson Peak came into view.

Looking NNE form the top of Wilson.

Peak #1 of the day at about 5,300ft.

Looking at Soldier Cap from Wilson with about a 1.5 miles to cover.

Ketchum investigates lava blocks, or more likely the creatures that live in between them, on Wilson Peak.
What I presume to be remnants of an A'a lava flow. 

Some pretty cool granite lobes along the way.

Too bad there is nothing for scale.  This bird was huge!

Impressive canyon of Upper Reynold's creek.

Looking back at Wilson Peak.  Note the boulder fields and the road, which was in decent shape.  The day had warmed up but the breeze kept it cool.

After 2 hours and 4 miles we got to peak # 2 of the day, Soldier Cap at about 5,400ft.  Several carins mark the top, though none appeared to have a register.  We had been moving almost constantly since the start and the time at the top was short lived.  Like any good hiking partner would, I split my lunch of cold pizza with Ketchum, we gulped some water and headed back down.  

One last look at the Owyhee Mountains to the south.

A closer shot of Soldier Cap.  There is actually potential for class 3 scrambling, but I kept it mellow. As I usually do with the dog, I stayed on the class 2.

If this is the condition of the road, we could have driven here, right in between both peaks.  But whats the fun in that right?  After all, we're explorers!  

There is actually some pretty clean granite out there, probably unclimbed.  As long as you don't count the bird poop stains a the top...

If we had more time, I would have wondered around the boulders a bit more.  

It was non-stop full speed back to the car and we made it in 4hrs and 5min with 8.8 total miles and 1,800ft elevation gain.  However, those gullies that we didn't mind so much at the start proved to be quad burners on the way out. I did my best to skirt around them without adding too much additional distance but for the most part I followed the same path back to the car.  All in all, its a pretty clean area and I'm glad I got to explore it before it gets much warmer.  Next time, I'll come back in the fall, drive further up the road and bring the bouldering gear.

Granola out.