Mount Carter is one of the taller Sawtooth peaks, standing at 10,590 feet. The peak overlooks the Goat lake drainage, upper Fishhook drainage and offers wonderful views of Sawtooth lake and the highest Sawtooth crest, including Thompson peak.
The mountain has the advantage of being one of the easier tall peaks in the range, the most difficult part of the climb being the approach. Once on the ridge, it is a straightforward scramble to the top. It suffers however, from the proximity of Thompson and Williams peaks, both more popular destinations and as a result sees fewer summits than it would otherwise.
Getting ThereThere are two main routes to access the peak. One via Goat Lake and one via Redfish Lake, and both climb the peak's east ridge.
Goat Lake is reached by the Iron Creek trailhead, located two miles northwest of Stanley on ID 21. Drive to the end of the road and park at the large parking area at the trailhead.
Refish Lake road is 5 miles south of Stanley, on ID 75. Drive to the backpackers / hikers parking area just short of Redfish Lake and park here.
The RoutesGoat Lake
The Goat Lake approach is the more difficult route, both longer and over more difficult terrain. From the trailhead, follow the Iron Creek trail .75 miles to the junction with the Alpine Way trail. Follow this trail southwest for just under 2 miles, where you will overlook the Goat Creek drainage. Here there is a backpackers trail (not maintained, but easy to follow) that leads up the drainage and to Goat lake. After Goat Lake the route is off trail and the biggest challenge you will face is a tricky headwall to access the ridge.
The Redfish Lake approach is slightly shorter and invloves a little less clambering. From the parking area, follow the signs to the Alpine Way trail. From the first junction, take the right hand trail, which will lead you up a ridge, at the next junction follow the left branch which follows the top of the ridge toward the base of Thompson and Williams peaks. As the trail nears these peaks, it will curve toward the north. Here there is a faint climbers trail that circles around the base of Williams to the west. Follow this to the basin between Williams and Thompson and make your way to the east ridge of Carter.
CampingBoth trailheads offer ample camping. The Sawtooths are also blessed with many lakes and basins for overnight trips. If planning on the Goat lake approach, be aware that there aren't many spots for a tent there.
Weather / SeasonsMuch of the Sawooth area is accessible year round for hiking / winter climbing. If you attempt these peaks in the winter, be aware that the approach is lengthened, and ice-axes / crampons / snowshoes are a must, unless it is an unusually light snow year.
As with all mountain areas, Stanley has the potential for recording the coldest temperatures in the lower 48. It is not uncommon for daytime highs in the winter to not rise above 15 degrees, and colder temperatures are always possible.
Red TapeThere are no restrictions for Sawtooth access, but you will need to fill out and carry a wilderness permit, even for a day trip.
External LinksTop Lopez's Climber's Guide remains the authoritative guide to Idaho's mountains.
Margaret Fuller's Trails of the Sawtooths and White Clouds is also a valuable resource.
If attempting a winter ascent, this snotel gives nearby information.
The Sawtooth webcam is a great resource for checking conditions.
Dan Robbin's Idaho Summits website is both a great tool for researching peaks, and the message board is a great way to connect with Idaho outdoors folks!