Friday, June 27, 2014

We Brave The Mercury Retrograde and head to Champion Lake and Washington Peak in The White Cloud Mountains. June 19-21, 2014

Deez and I have been talking about a trip into the White Cloud Peaks and the summer solstice seemed like a good time to make that happen.  The weather looked good so we put the plan into action despite the Mercury Retrograde, a time when travel delays and mishaps are likely to happen.  I had picked this trip because most of the route up to the lake faces west, so it would likely be melted out.  We were a little worried about the possibility of snow lingering at the lake and shaded north aspects.  After all, its only June.

Given the current aforementioned astronomical event that tends to jumble things up a bit, I had half expected to get held up at work Thursday morning.  This turned out to not be the case and I was actually out right on time.  Retrograde, smrreshro-grade...

We had most of the gear packed up so when I got home we were pretty well set to go.  After a stop at the Subway on Floating Feather and Hwy 55 for the most delicious flat bread breakfast sandwich one can get on short notice, we were off and making good time.

Then, just after Garden Valley, this happened...

Idaho has two seasons; winter and road construction.  We were delayed by road construction.
The road flagger kindly informed us that we would be delayed for 20-25 minutes...  Rats!

We needed to make good time to the trail head because we had an 8 mile hike to the lake.

Oh well, we're still good on time.  Its summer and the days are long!  Lets sort and pack while they "fix" the road.

After another 15 minute delay on the Banks to Lowman highway we were back up to cruising speed.

We found remains of an avalanche along side Hwy 21.  Hey, they don't call it Avalanche Alley for nothin'!

With all the construction and traffic delays, we were about an hour and a half behind schedule.  Its 2:30pm and that's not a very good time to start an 8 mile hike.  However, the sun was high and so were our spirits, so off we went.  I figured that at a 2mph pace, it probably wouldn't even be dark when we hit camp.

Ketchum was off and running and probably wondering why we're so slow.
This area burned in 2005, so I expected this, but it lasted most of the hike.  Bummer...

 We hiked across this avalanche track on the "trail".  Pretty cool!

While not ever terribly steep or hard, there was more downfall then I care for so it was hard work none the less.  From time to time, we still got to enjoy great views of the Sawtooths like these.

About 3.5 miles in, we passed a really cool beaver pond.

Unfortunately, the hike looked like this for most of the way to the lake.  It was kind of a bummer and had I known this, I would have picked another area.  Its still an adventure!

We arrived in camp well before dark with plenty of time to pump water, cook, etc.
This lovely view of the sunset at Champion Lake was much deserved.

After dinner we had some wine while relaxing by the fire with some tunes for a while.   Just before calling it a night, I heard a bugling elk.  Pretty cool!

Day two dawned mostly clear and warm.  I pumped water and got set to head up Washington Peak.  Deez said she didn't feel too well, so she slept in.

Upper Champion Lake.  The ground here was quite soggy and muddy.  I was glad we stopped at the lower lake.

The route up Washington Peak winds up a steep hillside to a saddle.  I think I counted 16 switchbacks before I hit the saddle.

Castle Peak, a trip we are planning later in the summer.

From the saddle its just over a mile of easy class 2 to the summit.  Ketchum greedily takes the lead.

These cornices looked like they could fail at anytime.

After 2 hours and a very cool ridge walk we hit the summit which sits at 10,519 feet.  The warmth we enjoyed earlier in the day was now gone.  The wind was blowing 30+ and cold.  It eventually drove us off the top, but not before we had our fill of snacks and awesome views.

Lower Champion Lake where the camp was.

Someday, I'm going to climb that peak.  Hopefully later this summer.

 Six Lakes.

We were back in camp in about 3 hours round trip and had the rest of the day to relax.

Another beautiful sunset on night 2.

We woke up on the last day well rested and were fairly quick to break camp.  At least we started our last 8 miles at a decent hour!

After leaving the lake, it was the same grind to get out that we had done to get there.  Did I mention that this area was badly burned in 2005 and there is a lot of downfall?  Oh, okay, good...  Anyways, there was nothing much else to see on the way out until we hit the Bridge St. Grill in Lower Stanley.  Bacon Cheeseburgers and cold beer are always a beautiful sight! 

We were pretty stoked to finally get into the White Cloud Peaks, even despite the apparent lack of aesthetics.  We won't be going back up to Champion lake any time soon, but we do plan to return to this range in August to do the loop around, and climb Castle Peak.

This never gets old, this never gets boring and this never stops being fun.

- Granola, out.  

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