White Cloud Peak #4 (WCP-4) is located in a remote section of central Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains. There are a couple of potential route options, but the East Ridge via Iron Basin is the only one that is realistically doable in a single day. The route follows an infrequently maintained trail to within a mile of the summit and 1200’ gain. Along the way, you will be rewarded with great scenery that you’ll likely have all to yourself.
Getting ThereThe most likely routes to be used in reaching WCP-4 begin in the Northern White Clouds at the Slate Creek trailhead. To reach the trailhead, make your way to the beautiful mountain town of Stanley, and then go northeast on Highway 75 for about 24 miles (or 34 miles southwest from Challis). Just after the highway crosses the Salmon River, look for a turnoff to the right (south) for Slate Creek. Follow this dirt road for 0.8 miles until you reach a fork. Take the left branch and follow the Slate Creek Road (FS666) until it ends at around 7 miles from the highway.
From the Slate Creek trailhead, follow the trail past the Slate Creek Hot Springs, old mine buildings, and mounds of silty tailings to a creek crossing. Just after crossing the creek, the trail forks with the right branch leading to Hoodoo Lake. For WCP-4, take the left branch leading to Ocalkens Lake. The trail makes its way through patchy forest for the first 4 miles to Ocalkens Lake, then heads uphill to a 9600’ saddle at the eastern end of Iron Basin. The views from the saddle are impressive, with 11ers Caulkens Peak, WCP-9, and David O’ Lee Peak right in your face.
From the Iron Basin Saddle, you’ll gradually descend a few hundred feet in the next mile or so down a less and less obvious trail. As you make you’re way down through the wide-open spaces in Iron Basin, the low-point on the ridge to the north is your target. At about 9200’, leave the trail and start heading cross-country to the base of the talus slopes, and choose a sheep trail to angle up the hillside. The rock is loose, but not overly steep in the lower section. As you get closer to the saddle, the slope gets steeper and the rock gets looser, so watch your step. The last 800 feet of climbing from the saddle to the summit is easy scrambling, that ends with a fun final traverse from the false summit out the to the slightly higher north summit, with a small cairn on the highpoint.
- Distance (round trip): 13.3 Miles
- Elevation Gain (cumulative): 4000 Feet
When to Visit
The summer climbing season in the White Clouds is typically from July until the snow flies in October. A visit earlier in the year may be feasible, but would require crossing a couple streams swollen by snow run off, and the approach could be longer depending on spring road conditions to the Slate Creek trailhead. As for the winter, not sure why anyone would target this particular peak, but it would be very challenging due to the long approach.