The Little Matterhorn, found deep in a high cirque in the heart of the Pioneers, is an impressive tower that resembles the Matterhorn in Europe. Its dizzying southeast face dominates the headwaters of the East Fork Canyon and although there is no information available, it has most likely been climbed.
The northwest ridge is a short, but exciting adventure that may be climbed in conjunction with The Box or Big Basin Peak. Although the prominence on this side of the spire is less than that magical 300' number, the 100' climb from its northern saddle will push a climber's scrambling abilities to the limit. The class IV route involves several difficult moves with great exposure, and few handholds.
The Little Matterhorn was most likely created as two, huge glaciers carved out the impressive upper reaches of the East Fork Big Wood River, scouring out the land on both sides while meeting at the base of the Little Mattherhorn, leaving the lone tower to guard the valley.
Unlike many high valleys in the Pioneers, some people do explore the upper reaches of the East Fork Big Wood River. Many surely approach the gentle nature of the northern side only to be turned away at the last few hundred feet where the ridge unexpectedly spikes into a difficult scramble. Although there was no sign of prior human activity on the summit, the prominence of this spire surely means it has been climbed before.
To access the Little Matterhorn from Hailey, Idaho, drive north on Highway 75 for 7 miles until reaching the East Fork Road. If coming from Ketchum, drive south on Highway 75 for 7 miles until reaching the same road. Turn east up the paved road and drive through many subdivisions.
Follow the road through the old mining town of Triumph until the road becomes dirt. Continue up the main East Fork of the Big Wood River as the road splits at Hyndman Creek. Follow the road past Sawmill and Federal Gulch Campgrounds. The road deteriorates in condtion after the campgrounds and a four-wheel drive, high clearence vehicle is needed. Drive 4 rough miles to the trailhead for Johnstone Pass.
No permits or red tape in this area.
The East Fork Road is closed near Sawmill Campground in the winter.
Many mountain goats roam the upper East Fork Valley, please, as always, keep your distance.
When To Climb
Little Matterhorn is climbed either during the late summer months to ensure a snow-free encounter or in early spring or late fall as it appeared ice happily forms on the east face creating what could be a wonderful, yet difficult, ice climb.
An ascent in winter would be close to impossible. Difficult access, countless, massive avalanche chutes along the approach, and the steep nature of the spire would make the first person to ascend in winter, an incredible mountaineer.
There are many spots to camp in the high basin around Little Matterhorn, although boggy conditions in spring may be a problem.
Otherwise, camping at the trailhead is possible as there is plenty of room.
Sawmill and Federal Gulch Campgrounds nearby, offer all adequate camping facilities.