Our early season attempt on the north face of Grandjean PeakWe decided to make an early season attempt on Grandjean Peak's north face route, and we headed out on Thursday afternoon driving from Boise to Grangjean Idaho in about 2.5 hours. We arrived at the Grandjean turn off about 7pm, donned snowshoes and started the long trek in to Sawtooth Lodge. We were immediately greeted by a short blizzard that left about 2" of fresh snow over the already packed trail.
The hike to the Sawtooth lodge took roughly 3 hours on snowshoes and covered about 6 miles most of which we were accompanied by the 3/4 moon and a clear sky night.
After reaching the Sawtooth lodge we threw out the tent and hit the sack for a nice night's sleep. We picked a fairly sheltered spot under some large Pondarosa pines which protected the tent from the storms that passed through in the night dropping another few inches of snow. The wind picked up a little in the early hours and the temperature was well below freezing. Both of us brought 0 degree sleeping bags and we stayed quite comfortable throughout the night.
Climb dayThe fallowing morning dawned over cast with snow flurries as we got on the trail. The next few miles to the base of Grandjean Peak took us about 2 hours of steady snowshoeing. The weather continues to be very over cast with heavy snow, wind and fog.
We stayed on the road till we reached Grandjean Campground which is about one mile past the Sawtooth Lodge. At the campground we signed a backcountry permit and headed up the trail. The trail leaves the backpackers parking lot and heads directly north towards the entry of Trail Creek. The trail was completely snowed over and we had a tough time finding the bridge that crosses Trail creek and heads up the S.F. Payette canyon.
The trail to the Barron Creek turn off was snow covered but we were able to fallow it by looking for depressiosn in the snow and looking for clear lines through the trees.
As we hiked along we heard what sounded like hundreds of puppies yipping off in the distance. The sound continued to grow closer and louder and as we looked to the sky we were amazed to see a flock of hundreds of Sand Hill Cranes flying in a huge group up and over the Sawtooth mountains.
As we started our way up the Barron creek drainage the storm increased and the ceiling dropped and decreased visibility to almost nothing. We continued up Barron creek well past the north face of Grandjean peak and didn't realize our mistake until the clouds cleared and we could see we were almost to the confluence of Barron Creek and the north fork of Barron Creek.
We back tracked about half a mile, crossed Barron Creek in wide spot and began our climb up the north face. In spring or even summer the crossing of Barron Creek could be a dangerous prospect. Please note even during the cold temperature we had on our climb the creek was not easy to cross. There are many fallen trees and large boulders, which combined with high water could cause some very serious drowning hazards. Please use caution when crossing this creek.
Deep snows and bad conditions.
The conditions we encountered on the south side of Barron creek were completely different then on the trail. The north side of the valley had recieved a lot of sun and the snow pack had been reduced to a few feet. Once we crossed the creek to the North face of Grandjean Peak the conditions were much more winter like. The snow pack increased to over six feet and as we climbed onto the middle third of the mountain the snow made climbing almost impossible. The slope angle increased and eventully we had to remove the snowshoes. We began climbing the second quarter of the route and the Angle increased to over fifty degrees in some places. The conditions deterirated rapidly as the angle increased and soon the snow was completely unconsolidated. With each step we would sink to our chest and over the next hour we were only able to gain 150'.
The sun was sinking lower in the sky and so I did some quick calculations and realized that at the pace we had climbed for the last hour, it would take us another 6 hours to reach the summit. That would put us on top at roughly 10pm. If in fact we made the summit and weren't killed in a slide.
After a short pow wow we turned tail and headed down, toward the Barron Creek trail.