Searching for some local rock in a new area, we stumbled upon the Wildhorse Canyon area as a potential area with solid rock. I was looking for a warm up for an upcoming climb on the Grand Teton. The South Central Idaho climbing blog provided some good information along with the Exploring Sun Valley guide book by Matt Leidecker. The drive in was pleasant and had great views of Mustang (Howard) Peak's North ridge. It was easy going until we reached the Wildhorse Campground at which point a sign stated "Road Closed ahead due to Avalanche". Always ready to not take heed to warnings, we drove ahead and found a passable road all the way to the trailhead. The road was pretty rough and gave the Hell Roaring road a run for it's money. We clearly need the high clearance 4WD that my friend John was driving. Just before the point where the road switch backed up toward the left fork of Wildhorse Creek, we parked.
We immediately crossed the creek via logs and followed the really nice trail of the Right Fork of Wildhorse Creek (toward Old Hyndman and Arrowhead Lake). This well maintained and gentle trail led up under the North Ridge, NW Ridges, and the NW Face. Our initial plan was to climb the North Ridge, just because of how striking it was if anything else. At just over 1 mile up the trail near a clearing, we left the trail and picked our way up and toward the NE crossing many ridges and gullies. Soon enough we were on a beautiful ridge composed of solid granite. We knew we were still a few ridges from the North Ridge, but the climbing was so clean we decided to continue up the rocky rib.
The climbing was mostly Class 4- Low 5th and we roped up and simul climbed, placing pro every 50 feet or so for good measure. Near the top of this rib, we spied the NW face and knew that was the way we wanted to get up. It looked steeper than the north ridge, and mostly solid. 3 more simul- climb pitches led to the base of the upper NW face at which point the route steepened. It was here that the climbing was mid 5th class. John led the 5th pitch and I led the 6th pitch. We didn't simul-climb these 2 pitches. Above the 6th pitch, we were directly below the summit.
One more short 4th class pitch led to the summit which had great views of Hyndman and Old Hyndman. The summit ridge is a long rocky rib with overhanging slabs on the east side of the ridge. The true summit had signs of a toppled cairn and had no summit register (that we could find). We enjoyed the views and a break before heading down. It didn't appear there were any easy ways down, but we found a pretty easy scramble over medium to large talus down the SW slopes. At around 8500 feet we found the trail and made our way easily back to the car.
For gear we brought 2 half ropes of 8.6, a set of small nuts, 10 runners, and a set of cams to 2. We only needed 1 rope on this climb, but we used all the gear. You could get by with just a full set of nuts. The rock was mostly solid and had lie back flakes, chicken heads, and slabs. All of the pro was slotted in cracks. There was just enough spots for placing, given the easy rating. There were only 2 small spots in 1600 feet of climbing where it was loose. By Idaho standards, this was solid rock. We did this in 7 pitches, but that could have been less if we had gotten in the gullies- since the ribs and upper face was solid, we decided to stay on rock. Along with the really short hiking approach and other climbs in the basin, this is a great area to explore.
Trip Stats: 6.3 miles, 4226 ft, 7 roped pitches, 7 hours