Nick Peak is one of the more visible summits from McCall, Idaho. You can see it as you drive past the airport on Highway 55, just south of town. But Nick is also one of the harder peaks to reach, requiring a long hike and considerable off-trail navigation in steep terrain.
Climbing Nick requires a 7 to 8 mile hike (each way) with a 3800' gain. This makes for a long day.
The McCall area gets lots of winter snow, so the roads to access this peak are closed from roughly late November until late May. Also, this is a popular big-game hunting area (including the trails walked to climb the peak). Check before you head out.
8 miles each way, 16 miles round trip
Considerable cross-country navigation
First 5 miles is Class 1
Last 100 feet is easy Class 4
Getting ThereFirst, get to McCall. Either take Highway 55 north for about 100 miles from Boise, or come south from Riggns and New Meadows. From downtown McCall, take the Lick Creek road, also signed as the turn for Ponderosa State Park. Turn right after the golf course, then take another right off the pavement (signed) in about three miles. You are shooting for the Lake Fork campground, a total of about 10 miles from downtown.
Once across the creek, hike up the East Fork of Lake Fork Creek (good trail) for about 3.5 miles and 500' elevation gain to the Idler Creek trail (faint at first). If you aren't sure if you are at Idler Creek, you have three clues:
1. From the trail, where it opens into a meadow, you can see Nick.
2. There is an old trail sign, minus the sign.
3. Check your GPS.
Wander down the meadow and look across the East Fork. You should see Idler Creek coming down the hillside. There is another clue here, a signpost (again, without a sign).
Cross the East Fork and find the trail just downstream from Idler Creek. Currently, there are couple trees down right on top of the trail.
Follow the Idler Creek trail about 1.5 miles and gain another 1200' of gain to roughly 6500'. From here you are on your own- no trail.
Watch the map and climb to Fitsum Summit (pass) in about 1.25 mies and 1700'. From the pass, follow the ridge in a southerly direction. The top of Nick is about one mile and 800' more climbing.
The last 70 feet or so involves a Class 4 scramble. If this looks like too much, you can try to drop down and circumvent the summit cone (not done by the author, so can't vouch for this route); the south side is Class 2.
Note that trail conditions in this area vary from wonderful to undiscoverable, sometimes in the space of a few hundred yards. Although the map shows a trail going from Idler Creek to Fitsum Summit, you're probably going to spend that whole distance bushwacking. Basically, the Payette National Forest doesn't expend a lot of energy toward people who aren't using motor vehicles.
Red TapeNo red tape.
Parking at the trailhead is limited.
CampingThe trailhead is actually in the Lake Fork Creek campground. The campground is quite nice (although primitive), but also quite popular. Normal Forest Service fees etc. apply.
External LinksPayette national Forest
City of McCall
Trip report with pictures
Brundage Mountain web cams (including McCall)
Idaho road conditions
For additional information on this climb and other peaks in the area, please see Tom Lopez's excellent book, Idaho: A Climbing Guide.