The main objective for my trip to Idaho was to climb He/She Devil with Duane who needed He/She Devil to catch up with SPer rfbolton in their quest to complete the 57 Ultra Prominence Peaks in the lower 48 states. Since it is a long drive from Medford, Oregon to Idaho, I wanted to add at least one more climb to the itinerary. I chose Monument Peak.
I left home early on Thursday July 19, 2007 and drove east through Klamath Falls, Lakeview, Burns, and Ontario before entering Idaho and catching Hwy 95 north. I drove up Hwy 95 to Council, filled up with gas and headed west on Hornet Creek Road. I passed through the little settlement of Bear and was finally on a gravel road with another 20 miles to get to the trailhead. The road to Black Lake is easy to follow and isn’t too bad. It is narrow in spots and if you meet another car, one of you usually has to back up to a wide spot.
Eleven hours after I left home I arrived at Black Lake. I drove through the campground and all 4 campsites were full. I had noticed another road just before the campground that headed around the northeast end of the lake. I could see a tent down there, so I drove a little ways, found a nice level spot surrounded by trees and car camped for the night.
Early the next morning, I got ready for my hike and walked up the road to the trailhead. The sun wasn’t up yet, but it was light. I headed up the trail. There are a few trees across the trail near the trailhead, but I think they were left there by the forest service to keep the ATV’s off the trail and out of the wilderness. This is a good trail and easy to follow. The grade is easy and it didn’t take me long to climb the 700 ft up to Purgatory Saddle. The sun came up as I reached the saddle and I could see Emerald Lake in the distance down the valley. I continued on the trail as it descended down towards Emerald Lake.
This is a pretty area and soon I was in the valley among the trees, crossing little streams and enjoying the scenery. I expected to see back packers around Emerald Lake, but I was all alone and continued down the trail. The trail seemed to become more brushy and there were more trees across the trail that I had to negotiate, but it was downhill all the way from Purgatory Saddle, so I was making great time.
I reached my preset waypoint at 6,600 ft elevation and the area was brushy and a little marshy. I continued down the trail to see if it improved. It did in a couple hundred yards and I headed off to the east to see if I could find Monument Peak. It was steep climbing through a forested area with some rocky areas to pass through. Nothing difficult except for the steepness of the terrain. I continued up and saw a dry creek bed on my left and thought that may be the creek that leads to the basin at the foot of Monument Peak. I continued to follow the creek bed until I came to some vertical cliffs and the creek bed continued very steeply up through a chute with vertical walls on each side. I pulled out my trip reports from those who had climbed this route previously and they never indicated that they had to climb this chute. I decided I was too far north, so I started traversing to the south at the foot of this cliff and soon I rounded a corner and could see that there is a very wide chute and break in the cliffs that entered a basin.
I hiked up into the basin and was surrounded by vertical walls on three sides. Far up to the north in the basin I could see more vertical walls and the large triangular shape of Monument Peak. It is still steep and I had another 1,000 ft of elevation to gain in the basin as I approached Monument Peak. I was hoping that the trip report information I had with me was correct, because there is no way I could climb any of these vertical walls, especially the one directly ahead of me on the south face of Monument Peak.
As I approached the very base of Monument Peak I could see the ridge line heading westerly from the summit had some chutes that looked climbable. I selected the first one next to Monument Peak and started making my way up it. This is like climbing a dry waterfall. There is a cave about half way up and I tried a couple different ways of getting around it before climbing the left side and then crossing over the roof before continuing up. Lots of loose rocks in the chute and I kicked lots of them down. I was glad no one was following me. Otherwise, only one at a time would be able to climb through some of these sections.
I climbed and gained about 225 ft in elevation before reaching the ridge. I could see the Seven Devils north and they were impressive. I found a little trail that leads to the east side of the summit block and then it was an easy scramble to the summit from here. There are great views from all directions on the summit. I could see some fires on the Oregon side of Hells Canyon were filling some of the valleys with smoke, but it wasn’t bothering me up here. I signed a summit register that had been left in 1999. It was signed by a couple of parties in 2002 and one in 2004. I signed the register as the only visitor since 2004.
I didn’t stay long because I had to still hike all the way back up to Purgatory Saddle and then drive to Seven Devils Campground to meet Duane. I went back down the way I came up, except that it was easier to find my way from the basin to the trail on the descent. It was a long hike up to the saddle and the day was getting warm. I took my time because I didn’t want to punish my legs before tomorrow’s big climb.
I did pass some people who were horse camping on the north side of Purgatory Saddle on the way out. When I got back to my car, the campground was still full and someone wanted my parking spot for a campsite. It is a busy little campground. This hike took me 8.25 hours and was 11.2 miles with about 4,300ft of elevation gain.