Start your approach at the Beaver Creek Trailhead (9,200 ft.). The first 3.5 miles follow a 4wd road all the way to Coney Flats, a wide-open area with great views. This rough road can be driven, although I wouldn’t recommend anything but high-clearance 4wd and a lot of patience. At Coney Flats pick up the Buchanan Pass Trail and head west through the sparsely treed tundra, going forward the view of Sawtooth is very inspiring. At 10,400 ft., Sawtooth’s east ridge is in plain view.
Leave the trail and start your class 2 ascent up the ridge. This ridge is as difficult as you want to make it. Staying directly on its crest will reward you with fun class 3 scrambling over a bunch of cool rock towers. Staying south a bit and avoiding the rock towers gets you class 2. For anyone who wants a good introduction to class 3 climbing, I highly recommend staying on the crest. Once you arrive at the last tower of rock, you must drop about 100 ft. and start the ascent up the east face. The east face consists of steep semi-loose talus; this would qualify for a crux of the hike. There is no trail so find the path of least resistance for about 500 ft. to Sawtooth’s summit. The views of Paiute Peak’s north face are impressive. You also get a unique angle of Longs Peak and Mount Meeker’s sweeping ridges.
The decent is fun as well. I recommend down climbing back down to the east ridge. Once at the ridge you can continue down a steep grassy trough all the way down to the basin between Sawtooth’s great south face and Coney Island (11,580 ft.). This is a very pristine place, enjoy. Finding your way back to the Buchanan Pass trail is obvious, just hike the open tundra out of this hanging basin and you will eventually find it. If you are seeking solitude, the route I described should do it for you, I saw nobody for the first 7 hours of an 8-hour day.
This is a long day, 11 or 12 miles should tell you something. Bring enough water and food for an entire day of hiking and don't skimp on the clothing.
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