This was kind of an unplanned trip for me. Hyndman Peak is the ninth highest peak in Idaho and a popular peak. But, in my mind the major trailhead for Hyndman was a long enough drive to put off until "next year". It isn't that long of a drive, really, but there is enough closer to home to keep me busy.
On a local internet forum Kevin posted that he was looking for a partner for Hyndman Peak. Sounded good to me. I wouldn't have to drive all the way from where I live. So, I emailed him and said I was willing to go with him. The driving arrangements were set and the trip plans solidified.
We left on an early morning drive halfway across the state in Kevin’s car. He wasn’t very familiar with the Pioneer Mountains, and I wasn’t familiar with the approach from the south. I left my Idaho road atlas in my car, so I gave IdahoKid a quick call for directions to the trailhead so we wouldn’t waste time getting lost. Still heading out across the high desert, the sun rose on the Pioneers. Beautiful sight, but bittersweet because we wanted to be at the trailhead by then.
Finally arriving at the trailhead, we set out. It was a very cold morning, and I bundled up a bit more than usual on the approach up the Hyndman Creek trail. Kevin didn’t believe me that there was a bridge crossing Hyndman Creek at the trailhead and got a little wet fording the creek. At this point on the trip Cobb Peak dominates the view. The route we were taking was the most popular on the mountain, and there wasn’t really anything eventful about it. The weather was pleasant once we were in the sun, and the trail was easy to follow.
Eventually we had to turn to the left to go around Cobb Peak. We followed some steep switchbacks to the first small lake on the approach. We were surprised to find a yurt tucked into the trees. At this point the snow covered the trail, and we lost it somewhere in the trees past the yurt. We decided to walk up a sagebrush covered slope that paralleled where the trail was supposed to be. Cresting the hill, we had a great view of the lower portions of Hyndman Basin and its towering peaks. From here, we could see spindrift on the high ridges of Hyndman and Old Hyndman, but we were still comfortable in the basin with no breeze and lots of sun.
From here on, we couldn’t find the trail, so we just headed up. The snow was of various depths and quality as we continued up the basin. With no trail, we kept on route by traveling from lake to lake in the basin.
Passing the highest little lake in the basin, we began to ascend Hyndman’s southeast slopes.
Kevin found a talus rib and head up, and I skirted around a bit more to another rib that hit the east ridge sooner. I thought I might find the climbers trail and find the easy way up.
Here the temperature dropped and the breeze picked up. This was definitely the hardest part of the climb. The cold air was bearable after bundling up, but still uncomfortable. The ridge was slow going. The snow was sugary and it was hard to step in the right place without plunging into knee-deep snow. The higher we got the more miserable and cold it became. Eventually we made it to the summit.
I like to be pretty comprehensive in my summit photos, but after taking my hand out of my glove, I immediately began to freeze up. I have never lost dexterity in my fingers so quickly in the cold. I could feel it freezing up. After taking a few quick shots, I put my glove back on and started heading back down the mountain. I’m not sure how cold it was up there, but the small thermometer on Kevin’s backpack read -10 F. Perhaps it wasn’t that cold, but with the steady breeze it certainly felt like it. The SNOTEL site at the trailhead barely got above freezing that afternoon.
Heading back down, we followed the summit ridge and headed into the bowl between Hyndman and Old Hyndman. We skirted the bottoms of the scree slopes since the snow at the base was waste deep. It was still cold and breezy, more than when we started up the southeast face. No chance to warm up now, either, as some clouds were moving into the area and blocked the low sun, already starting to set this early in the afternoon.
We could see the trail from above much more easily. We followed it down, losing it a few times, but finding it again. It was a pleasant surprise to see light coming from the yurt further down. We were greeted by the occupants’ dogs, and decided it would be nice to visit whoever was staying there. We visited more for the warm air, but the social interaction was nice, too.
Eventually, we headed back down the trail and made it back to the car, ready for the long drive home.