Monday, January 30, 2017

Nip Benchmark

Inversion means high pressure. Overcast and cold in the Treasure Valley, but sunny, warm and calm in the mountains. Nip Benchmark is not the most rugged peak, but the access is good. Couple that with a weather window and you have the key to getting into the mountains during the winter.

Date: Jan 28, 2017.

Objective: Nip Benchmark 7,373ft.

Stats: Class 2. 4.9 miles, 1,227ft gain, 4:05hrs round trip. Strava track.

Partners: Dan, Carrie, John, Tamara, Mark, Tory, Josh and Jen. Dogs: Vuyo and Shadow

Links: Mark's report. Dan's report.

Gear notes: Snowshoes and sun screen.

Nip Benchmark high point.

Mark, Dan and I had the usual back and forth discussion about which peak to attempt during a much needed weather window. Dan put Nip Benchmark just north of Stanley out there as an alternative to the desert peaks of the Owyhee's we were discussing. For me, the peak didn't matter as much as just getting out did.

We decided on a later start since the overnight low in Stanley was well below zero. I don't recall the exact thermometer reading as I left the comfort of my car, but lets just say it was one or both degrees at 11am.

Get busy moving or get busy freezing!

The initial section was along Nip and Tuck Road. It had been groomed for snow machine use and provided us with the easy ground we needed to warm up. We left the road and used some SnoMo tracks as we headed up the South ridge. It wasn't long before we were all sweltering and shedding layers.

Dan and Carrie leaving the road.

Nip and Tuck Road.

Heading up the South ridge.

We regrouped along the ridge and started the rotation of breaking trail as we headed toward our peak. There was just a short section of downhill before the next uphill section.

Slogging along.

Dan with Nip Benchmark in the background.

Jen and Josh.

The views of the snow covered peaks of the Sawtooth Range were as impressive as ever. Even though the air temp was likely in the single digits, there was not a breath of wind. It felt downright hot.

Sawtooth Range.

Mark and Vuyo in the lead.
Let the hunt for the highpoint commence!

John lead us though the trees and right over the highpoint, hitting every bump along the way just to make sure. He picked a nice spot with a view and dug a bench where the group could rest and enjoy lunch.

View from our lunch spot.

Lunch is served.

Mark and I.

It was great to chat it up with friends both new and old and hear about what everyone had been up to.


Northern Sawtooth's.

After lunch and plenty of pictures, we were discussing the idea of a loop. We would descend the East ridge, eventually getting back to the road just above our vehicles.

Dan and John beginning the descent.

Dan led us down the ridge, weaving though a few stands of trees and some neat rock formations.

Dan leading the way though the rocks.

Carrie makes her way past the rocks.

We punched though to boot top or deeper from time to time on the descent. I was glad to see the snow pack remained stable even late into the day.

Mark following the trail.

Dan had finally had enough of slogging out in front, so I took over and angled down a gully and back to the road.

Gully back to Nip and Tuck road.

One last view.
We would have been in a fine vantage point to view the sunset only a couple hours away.

Sweltering for the time being.

We were glad to be off of the mush and back on the road to our vehicles. In the course of about 5 minutes from the bottom of the gully to the road, the air temp went from sweltering to freezing, requiring us to add a layer for the short walk to our parking spot. Then we regrouped in Stanley for libations and a few laughs before heading off into the evening. Not a bad way to spend the day.

Happy trails!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Night Time Ops on Cervidae

The annual Moonlight to Cervidae hike with the Idaho Summits gang is a great way to close out the year if you can brave the arctic conditions.

Date: 12/31/2016.

Objective: Cervidae Peak, 4,987ft.

Partners: Steve W, aka Delta Operator, aka In The Wild Chef in the 4pm group. Splattski and the 6pm group.

Stats: 5 miles and 1,900ft gain. Class 2. Strava track.  

Gear notes: Cold weather layering system.

Cervidae Peak.

New Years Eve had come, and so did another annual Moonlight to Cervidae trip. The group usually sets out at 6pm, but I had planned to head out at 4 to see the sunset and make it back to town in time for the Reckless Kelly concert. Steve said he wanted to head up at 4 as well so we were the early group, with the main gang heading up at 6.

Low on the trail.

It was sunny and cold. Clear, but not calm. The wind was zipping along and really driving the temperature down; single digits, maybe colder on the way up. 

Clear and cold.

In the Wild Chef right at home in the wild.

As we headed up into arctic conditions, we had to make a few minor clothing adjustments. Steve used his snowshoes, I carried mine. We hiked up as the sun went down. The low angle light and shadow rise were spectacular.

I would have been keen on taking our time, moving just enough to stay warm because it had been a while since I had been out with Steve. We had some catching up to do, but sadly, I was short on time.

Night sky from the summit.

We topped out in the dark, switched on our torches and took in the view. Did I mention it was cold?
Fingers... getting... cold... numb... Hence the lack of pictures.

Dark and cold summit smiles.

After a short time on top, I headed down and Steve stayed put, awaiting the arrival of the rest of our friends on the summit. Shortly after I began my descent, the wind calmed down and it actually felt warmer than it had been on the way up. As predicted, I passed the main group on their way up.

Back down at my car, I realized the folly of my ways. Why I had parked off the road, basically in a snow drift, I have no idea. How I got my car unstuck without assistance, I have no idea. I was a bit behind schedule, late to the party, but I was just glad I made it by the time I did.

Happy trails!