From the Merriam Lake trailhead follow the stream for a few hundred feet until you spot a wooden sign that points to the right, away from the creek. Stay on the well used trail up several steep hills to gain enough elevation to reach the lake. You may camp on the east side of the lake or continue around the north shore where you'll find more biv sites higher up. From here continue west, up the scree slope and moraine towards the bottom of the face. (Tank up! This is the last water you’ll find until you get back). Eventually the slopes lead to the base of the wall. You may find climbing the class 3 black rock band easier than the scree hiking as the FA team did.
NOTE: Come well prepared and plan for self-sufficient travel in this remote country. Cell phones and satellite phones may not be reliable in some locations and there can be long distances between good water sources in the late season. 2-ply sidewalls and tubeless tires might not survive this trip so make sure your spare is full-sized, inflated and you know where the jack is and how to use it. Don't forget your lug wrench. If you break down in this country or get snowed in you may have to walk out. Search and rescue in this range can be difficult, expensive and a real burden on the local law enforcement and Forest Service staffs who are the first to be called for emergencies in this area.
P1 of Idaho’s East Face Direct starts in a crack system just right of the obvious right facing dihedral “Grand Central Chimney” in the middle of the wall. The rock is steep and protection can be found in and around the crack. The first 30 meters is 90 degrees of 5.9+ spicy climbing. The next 30-40 meters is less steep 5.8 climbing. The top half of the pitch is composed of banded iron dolomite which is rarely loose and every move is pulling on back-cut, upward sloping jugs and ledges.
P2 is a full rope stretching pitch of 70 degree 5.7 climbing. Gear goes in easily and the pitch ends on a large ledge below and to the right of the “White Triangle”.
P3 30m of vertical to overhanging 5.10a climbing will test your vocabulary. This pitch follows a steep water streak to the right of the White Triangle (Not the black water streak on the side of the white triangle but the next water streak to the right). The protection is sparse but manageable, the holds are there but the sequence is tricky to unlock. The rest of the pitch follows a right angling crack (5.8) up to a small, but solid belay ledge. This pitch is full value.
P4 works back to the left as a (5.7) scramble on 70 degree rock and finishes under the double dihedral. Three pieces of gear were placed by the FA team however there are many places to protect a fall. The quality of the limestone is very high and risk of falling is very low. It is wise to build a belay on the arete’ 100 feet below the two dihedrals. This allows the belayer the ability to watch the leader as they finish the final pitch.
P5 Is a full value 5.10b/c pitch that starts with a 5.6 climb up the arete’ to the bottom of the left facing dihedral (to the North). The bottom of the crack is 15 feet of finger locks with poor feet. Eventually hand jams and good gear lead you to a big (cinder block) stance just below a great roof on the climbers right. The crack moves around the left side of the roof and leads to 5.9 climbing above. Despite the rating, this pitch will make you fist pump at the summit and yell, “I DID IT!” several dozen times. The gear and rock is solid but the moves are gymnastic. A very memorable pitch.
DescentFrom the top of the Diamond of the East Face, walk due north until you can see a long obvious class 3 scree slope leading down to the start of the North Face cirque. The cliff edge of the East Face will be 20-30 feet on your right and the North Face will be on your far off left. Follow the path of least resistance until the North Face Cirque drainage meets with the East Face drainage. Follow the drainage down until you reach Merriam Lake.
Essential GearUnlike other Lost River alpine climbs, this route will use the full rack. The FA team used small micro cam’s and BD #3’s and everything in-between. It will be helpful to have multiples of finger sized cams and nuts. Leave the micro nuts and biggest cams at home. Bring a dozen 2 foot runners/slings to extend placements. The FA team used a 70 meter rope and even though belay spots are abundant they stretched it out to get the most out of the rope (saves time). This route could be easily done with a 50 meter rope and would probably be 6 or 7 pitches. Self-initiated rockfall is a given in this range so keep this in mind when you choose your belay stations. Stay out of the fall line whenever possible. Helmets are highly recommended.
NOAA 7-Day Weather Report - Web Cams
ITD US 93 Willow Creek Summit Willow Creek Webcam
Gib Brown's Webcam - Gib's View
NOTE: Due to the remoteness of this area the webcams may not be operable at all times and that includes cell and sat phones so plan accordingly.
Red TapeNone at all but it's probably a good idea to let someone know exactly where you are going.
Local LinksLinks to the Mackay and Challis web sites.