The view from the top is unrivaled and commonplace for those who often find themselves frequently at these heights. Even in an October snow squall, with the sun above the horizon but dimmed from the thick black clouds, beauty abounds.
The descent is painful. Remember the steep switchbacks through the trees? The little round rocks that roll through the thick dust as gravity pulls your boot down the mountain with every step? That's why we take photographs. To remember the high sense of splendor we felt at the top when we get to the trail head and feel every step in every muscle fiber. Even more so after the drive home and those muscles have been stiffening for hours. Chalk up another state highpoint and enjoy the memories.
The trip down was uneventful with the exception of a few slips and self-arrests in the softening snow. We broke camp quickly and headed for the truck. The boulder field was even better on descent. At least going up, our hands could help. Gravity seemed to be worse bouncing down the boulders. Before we knew it, the truck was in sight and after a short, rough ride, we were headed south. Back to civilization, cold drinks and warm baths. Another wonderful trip.
We slept in a little too late the next morning and reached the saddle off the southeast ridge of the summit around 11:30. Being his first big trip and the isolation of the area (the only other person we saw was the sheep herder), we dicided to had back to camp. I have to admit, he was a trooper at age nine on his first major expedition. I figured we did about 14 miles in two days as we dicided to head out to the truck after our failed summit attempt and enjoy the sand and water at Red Fish Lake.
I guarantee he will have a kid's pack for next year, and of course a supply of Kit Kat's.
0 for 1 on Mt. Idaho
Upper Elkhorn Creek basin on a warm spring day.We were originally set to go in March. I don't recall why we had to postpone the trip and reschedule for April. I watched the weather reports continually. What's with the cold, wet spring? The closer we got, the more it looked like we might have a clear day. Neither of us had attempted Mt. Idaho before. Only so much information can be gleaned from guide books, trip reports and the weather.
We left the truck in a frigid but light breeze from the northwest. It didn't take long to warm up lugging 60 pound packs. Patches of snow lay on the ground through the sage, but not enough to ski on. We really didn't want to strap on our skis and hike in our plastic tele boots. After the first fork in the drainage, we headed up the middle ridge, thinking it would keep us out of the snow a little longer. Once on the snow, our packs were slightly ligher but now our feet were heavier with snow shoes. The snow started out crusty. Once in a while, we would break through into large, dry crystals but it got worse with every step. As the snow deepened and the temperature heated up, we knew we were in for the long haul. Off in the distance on the upper mountain, a slide would break loose. We couldn't hear it but seeing was believing. Seven and a half hours later, not even to point 9200' where the drainage splits, we set up camp knowing we wouldn't make an attempt for the summit in the morning.
Avalanche activity on the steeper slopesIt felt kind of wierd getting up when the sun came up. Every climber has a headlamp for the first portion of every climb in the dark. I believe this might be the first trip I went without using mine. After a hearty breakfast of powdered egg burritos with blackbean salsa, guacamole, salami, and cheese, we decided we should at least snowshoe up further in the basin to get a better view of the summit. Without full packs and good, crusty snow to walk on, it only took us about 30 minutes. What an awesome sight. There were close to 20 small slides off the steeper sections of the mountain on the west and south facing slopes. Needless to say, we were fine with our decision to stay off the mountain. It will still be there when the snow melts. Our primary objective is always to return home, not to summit at all costs. After packing up camp, it only took a few hours to get back to the truck. I guess it's a little easier following a broken trail.
Success on Hyndman
Church and Donaldson
It started out well even though there wasn't much of a trail. We crossed the creek a few times, fumbling our way up the bottom of the drainage. There was a fair amount of water coming down that made the creek crossings slow. We were making good time so I thought, but the higher we climbed, the more time clicked off the clock and I started to worry. I tried to crack the whip, mildly at least, to end our lunch break at the saddle before we headed across to the bowling alley or the stair case. We passed the lake, climbed the steep scree beside the snow field and started scrambling up the proverbial "solid" rock. Charlie was a climber and Heidi had done a lot of hiking. She had even felt good on Hyndman Peak last year but the loose rock was rattling her nerves and draining her energy reserves.
Still several hundred feet below Donaldson Peak, we decided it was time for Heidi to camp out on an awesome perch and Charlie and I would dash for the summits. After tagging both, we returned about 2 hours later to find Heidi well rested and ready to descend. Here is where the clock sped up and our pace slowed down. Charlie and I both had experience skiing down scree but Heidi was terrified. We finally made it but our daylight was burning out fast and I soon learned that I was the only one with a headlamp.
Descending from the saddle, Heidi's legs and back started giving out. She had to concentrate on every small step. We barely made it down to the creek before the sun went down. When darkness fully enveloped us, I was trying to scout our path then turning around to light the way for my partners in crime. After three agonizing hours, and hardly any distance to show for it, my patience was gone with nothing in my reserve tank. Charlie was amazed to know I had a lighter in my pack. We found a comfy spot for Heidi to sleep and built a fire while I hiked back to the truck for more flashlights. I made it in record time - 25 minutes! Not wasting time (I had to work in the morning, oh yea, it is morning) I started up the drainage again. I had given Charlie the responsibility of keeping the fire going. I didn't want to miss them on my way back up the canyon. About 30 minutes later, I saw the glow - rescued at last! It only took another hour and a half to get back to the truck the second time. We made it!
Thank goodness, we survived the drive home. I drove to around Mackay and pulled over to sleep but when I turned the truck off, Charlie woke up and drove til Blackfoot. I was then able to get us home from there. I slept in the tub for an hour and then went to work. I think Heidi will be ready for the next one and I bet Charlie brings a headlamp. I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of Heidi lying in the dirt next to the fire.