I left Boise around 12:30 PM on Friday to meet up with Wes at Redfish Lake at 3:00. I was running late, the lodge was closing for the season and the shuttle boat was making its last run of the season on Sunday at high noon. On the way up around the Horn I drove into a wall of lingering forest fire smoke and NOAA was forecasting a new season low for the next two mornings so I wasn't real encouraged. The smoked got so thick I could see it blowing over the near-by hills like clouds. I was thinking that if I'd of known this or seen it on the ITD web cams I would have canceled. I hate the inversions in the valley but this latest go-around was a record I hope to never see broken again. I was kind of kicking myself for not being able to go over the past weekend when the temps were in the mid-70s and the nights were still around freezing. That big Harvest moon and clear skies would have made for some out-of-this-world photography. That weekend just didn't work for the four of us who had to meet up from 3 different parts of the state so we settled for whatever we could get out of this weekend.
I pulled into the lodge around 4:00 and found Wes waiting at the boat dock. I dumped off my pack, drove my car back down to the hiker's parking lot and hoofed it back to the dock as quickly as I could. I had a late start and really wanted some evening light for photos and we were planning on staying for two nights so we hoped to catch some lingering daylight in time to get camp setup. Cory and Kevin were coming in on their own schedules and we hoped they'd both get there before the last shuttle boat ran at 7:00 PM. Kevin had never been up to the Perch before and a missed shuttle ride would add 5 more miles of trail hiking with headlamps to the approach. I have been up here at least a dozen times but for some reason I always forget about how stout the approach is with a loaded pack. The logs at the creek crossing must have been put in by some young slack-liners who like a soft rope. There are around 4 long, but small diameter lodgepole over a 20' gap and another one that didn't seem to have any real purpose other than to serve as a foot snare. I don't think this bouncing contraption of a bridge is going to survive next year's run-off for a minute. Back in the day, this crossing issue would have been solved quickly with a double-bladed ax and some stout rope. At any rate, we both managed to bounce our way across without mishap and up the hill we went.
We made it to the luxurious climber's biv site just above the first lake around 7:00 and had plenty of time to get settled into our tent before dark. We quickly pumped water, fired up the stove, had a good hot dinner and found that we could keep the temp around a comfy 70 degrees in the tent with the stove running on low. (Heck with the carbon footprint, it's freezing arse cold up here tonight in Stanley). We ate, turned on the digital tunes and stretched out in our double-down beds and told stories until around 9:30 PM when we heard two voices outside of the tent. Kevin and Cory managed to meet up at the lodge and were able to headlamp up together. Kevin had never done this approach before so we were relieved he didn't have to do it in the dark for the first time. Our new visitors first priority was was a hot meal and lots of liquids and no time was wasted in getting that taken care of. We kept the heat and music rolling along with a lot of stories (that were all 100% true) until around midnight when we all finally bonked out. No one was planning on climbing until the sun got around to the west side so morning was quite a casual affair.
Saturday morning started real cold but before long the day turned into one of those "bluebird" Idaho, Indian Summer afternoons and the climbing action warmed up as quickly as the weather.
Wes doing the bounce-step
Sunrise over the Perches
And you wonder why this place is called the Sawtooth?
Wes, Kevin and Cory
Wes, deep in contemplation
Wes, Kevin and Cory at the start
Wes leading P1 of the Mountaineers Route
Cory working on P2
Cory near the top of P2
Cory on P2
Kevin leading out P4
Kevin is unaffected by great heights
Cory, Wes, Kevin and the "Splattski"
Wes on the dock as the last shuttle of the season arrives
If you ask Idaho climbers "where are your big walls?" the first answer, unquestionably, would be the "Perch". Nested a relatively short, 3 miles above the inlet of the state's clearest lake, Elephants Perch is the gem of Idaho when it comes to big walls. The area is characterized by vertically fractured, pinkish-gold granite that is the result of having been the most heavily glaciated portion of the Sawtooth Range. While not tall by Yosemite standards, the high quality rock and alpine setting more than make up for the lack of "vert". During late summer and fall the range often experiences long spells of clear, stable weather and the first hard freezes that knock down the sometimes prolific insects of early summer.