Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Castle Peak with Outdoor Idaho

Dan Robbins extended me a last minute invite to climb Castle Peak for Outdoor Idaho as part of a one hour special titled "Beyond The White Clouds". It was a pleasure to work with this very friendly, talented and dedicated crew.

Date: August 12-13, 2016.

Partners: Cast - Big Dan and Carrie. Crew - Sauni the producer. Tim, CFO, tripod and stills. Jay, camera 1. Zach, camera 2.

Stats: 11 miles and 4,300ft  total gain round trip. Summit elevation 11,815ft, the highest Peak in the White Clouds.

Links: Info on the showPrevious climb of Castle PeakBig Dan's report.

Dan's original partners for this trip had to cancel last minute and I hope all is well with them. He was in need of fresh blood. Last minute trips require last minute packing and planning, as well as last minute permission from your significant other whom you've just told you didn't plan on hiking that weekend (thanks babe!). Dan's instructions to me were simple; pop in and climb Castle while the crew did their thing.

Haze on Hwy 21.

I headed through the haze toward Stanley and was an hour or so behind schedule by the time I got to the trailhead. I knew I'd take the shortcut known as the Splattski cutoff and could make it to the lake in three hours or less. I ran into some acquaintances that was a nice surprise as I dragged my sleep deprived mind and body up the trail.

Washington Lake.

From Washington Lake to the other side of the ridge is a steep and loose effort; short but not easy. If it was easy, it would just be the way.

Looking down the west side of the cutoff.

Its really not a bad way to go if you want to get Chamberlain Basin quick, or if you'd rather not endure the miles of trail that takes all day.

Chamberlain Col.

I was on the east side of the divide in just and hour and forty five minutes later and navigating to the lake was easy enough. Dan and Co. had been at the lake since Thursday and I was late to the party; literally. I told Dan I'd be there about 5-6 and it was closer to 7 by the time I landed at their lake side basecamp. I was greeted by Dan, Carrie and the very friendly crew and soon enough I was enjoying the lavish supplies they had horse packed in the day before. Having wonderful beef and sweet potato tacos and IPA for dinner felt more like car camping than backpacking.

Upper Chamberlain Basin.

Dan and Co. decided on a 9am start which is on the late side for me, but it was their show and I was tired anyway. I was quick to hit the sleeping pad since I was running on three hours of sleep. The next morning dawned clear and calm.

Jay getting some lake side footage,

Castle Peak reflection.

As the crew packed up their gear, Dan filled me in on the filming process. We figured we could do the route in 6-7 hours, then add 2 more for the filming. The typical sequence goes like this - The crew runs ahead and sets up while we hang back. They cue us and we hike until they tell us to stop. Repeat. With Dan mic'd up and the cameras rolling, we were off.


Carrie and Dan starting up the base of the peak.

Dan's pace was quick so we actually made good time between stops.

Lower Chamberlain Lake.

Castle Peak is steep and has 4,000 feet of prominence. That means the jaw dropping views come quick.


It was neat to watch the crew set up and direct shots.

Jay. Videographer extraordinaire.

Jay lugged a 17 pound camera up and down the mountain. Hats off to this hard working and dedicated crew.

Heading into the gully.

You'd think that once in the gully there wouldn't be much to shoot after a while, but there was plenty of work to be done. The filming process was in full effect. Go, stop, go and stop again.

Upper gully.

Its a bit of a slog to get to the good stuff. The last 400 feet or so up to the summit ridge is a grungy but fun class 3 scramble. Both Dan and I had done this peak before so the route finding was on us. It wasn't difficult climbing, but we weren't hauling cameras and tripods.

Dan pushing through one of the difficult moves.

Dan leading the way.

Jay climbing up a difficult move with the camera.

Tim getting up to a ledge after a difficult move.

The upper section of the climb had a couple of tricky spots that had us scratching our heads, but we were able to get the camera gear up and everyone got to the summit.

Sauni, Tim and Zack nearing the summit ridge.

Topping out was delayed while the crew set up for the two part shot of us reaching reaching the summit block.

Selfie while we wait for the crew to set up the shot.

The haze was closing in on us, but it was considerably more clear than the last time I was up here.

Northern White Cloud Peaks.

We hit the highpoint, high fived and signed in with cameras rolling all the while.

Making TV on the top of Castle Peak.

I was enjoying the view and a snack while Dan and Carrie did interviews with Sauni.

Dan setting up for his interview.

Then my time came to face the camera and answer a few questions related to the newly designated wilderness area and mountain climbing. It was an unexpected and unique twist to the trip. I just hope I didn't ramble too much in my high altitude philosophic state.


We had been on the summit for an hour doing interviews and taking a gazillion pictures before we started down at 4pm. 

Down climbing the class 3 section.

Down climbing the class 3 section.

Once past the 3rd class section and back in the gully, the crew wanted to film a rockfall scene. If they would have had their cameras rolling ten minutes earlier, they would have gotten a real life shot of a close call involving a large rock and me trying to duck behind a ledge, instead of the fake stuff we tried. Instead of bloodletting, I only let out an "oh F-bomb." I took a few small frags, but was otherwise unscathed. Close call; shaken, not stirred.

Thanks for the offer of clean underwear, Dan!

Boot skiing the scree at the base of the peak.

Jay wanted some Emmy materiel, but we were all back at basecamp in about two hours with no visible signs of trauma noted. They got to cracking beers and I got to loading my pack. It was after 6 and I needed to get moving if I was going to be back at my car before dark.

Haze on my hike out.

Dan, Carrie and the crew wished me well as we exchanged parting remarks and handshakes. I tore off for the trailhead at a maniacal pace.

Sorry guys, gotta go!

The haze was noticeable now as I made my way up the valley, up and over the ridge. I was back at my car with my headlamp blazing at 9:30. I was having trouble with cell service on the peak, so Denise wasn't exactly aware of my progress and late finish. I was worried about her worrying about me and it was good to hear her voice when my call finally went though at 10pm.

It was a pleasure to work with this crew on such a unique opportunity and I can't wait to see the show.

Happy trails!


  1. Jay is an animal! Congrats.


  2. It is dangerous where you are, stay put, stay found! When you read the stories of people who are lost and they keep moving only to experience worse conditions, it makes sense to learn the importance of staying found. I thought about this