White Cloud Peak #10 (WCP-10) is located in the northern section of central Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains. There are a couple of potential route options, but the Northwest Face is the shortest distance and probably the least technically challenging option, although it still requires a handful of Class IV moves to reach the summit The peak is seldom climbed by any route (only four known ascent parties as of 2008) due to the steep terrain and loose rock found on the peak. However, the challenging climb and outstanding views make WCP-10 a very worthy objective.
Driving DirectionsReaching WCP-10 requires taking the long drive to the Livingston Mill trailhead off of the East Fork Salmon River. To reach Livingston Mill make your way to Stanley, and then go northeast on Highway 75 for almost 37 miles (or 21 miles southwest from Challis). Leave the highway about 4.5 miles east of Clayton, then turn south on the East Fork Salmon River road, which is paved for the first 15 miles from the highway, then turns to gravel. At about 17.5 miles from the highway, turn right on the road to Livingston Mill. After almost 5 miles, you will reach the Livingston Mill area. The main trailhead is just over the creek to the left. A passenger car will get you this far, but you can shave about 6 miles off the approach by driving up the jeep trail to Railroad Ridge. The road tops out at 10400’, which probably makes it the highest elevation road in Idaho. A high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle is probably required most years.
The ApproachPark your vehicle at the 10400’ saddle near the southwest end of Railroad Ridge, then climb the sheep trails to the top of "Gunsight Point" (10817’). This is a great vantage point to take in the views and study the north face of WCP-10 for potential route options. Next, briefly go southeast then make the 800’ descent down the southern slopes of “Gunsight Point”. The rock is kind of loose in places, and is most stable on a few ribs that are littered with occasional shrubs. Once in the lake basin, wander southwest over to Tin Cup Lake, while enjoying the flat ground and great views along the way.
The ClimbFrom Tin Cup Lake, head to the southwest, aiming generally into the back of a small cirque towards the saddle between WCP-10 and Caulkens Peak. Climbing through the boulder fields in this section is a nice warm-up for what is to come. Once at about 10400’ the slope on WCP-10 lessens somewhat, which is your queue to start climbing. There are a few snowfields in this area that often all the way through the summer, so crampons and ice axe may come in handy for this, especially early in the year when there’s more snow.
The slopes are steep and loose in this section, with the best bet being to climb just to the west of some ribs that run vertically up the face. There are a few Class IV moves required in this section, and caution on require because even larger rocks are often not stable. Once at the top of the ribs, you can traverse across the north face to the east, generally staying a little ways below the ridgeline. Eventually you’ll reach a substantial notch on the ridge. The notch is just east of the largest rib in the middle of the north face. From here it may be tempting to traverse the ridgeline, but the exposure is great on both sides of the ridge, and it would be very difficult to place protection. Instead, descend about 50 feet off the ridge then look for a steep chute full of loose rock that leads you to the east side of the summit block. This is the crux of the climb due to a lack of solid holds and a nasty run-out below. Once to the top of the chute, it’s a short scramble to the summit, which is to your right.
The DescentOnce you reach the summit, take as some time to soak in the views, but the work isn’t over yet. You can either retrace your steps down the nasty chute, or descend briefly to the east to a rock horn that has a couple rappel slings marking an alternate descent gully. This one is steeper than the other, but the rock is more stable which may make it more appealing. A 60-meter rope is long enough to get down this in a single rappel. The rope likely won’t be needed after this, but don’t relax or take any holds for granted as you make your way back across the face and return to the cirque below. You’ll also want to save some energy for the climb from the lakes back up and over “Gunsight Point”.
- Distance (round trip): 5.0 Miles
- Elevation Gain (cumulative): 2500 Feet
- Difficulty: Class IV
When to VisitThe summer climbing season in the White Clouds is typically from mid July until the snow flies in October. It is feasible to go earlier in the year, but may make the jeep road to Railroad Ridge impassable and add 6 miles to the approach.
Essential GearSome or all of the following gear may be needed:
- Helmet – A must due to the loose rock on WCP-10.
- Ice Ax & Crampons – Might come in handy for the snowfields at the base of the northeast face.
- Rope/Harness/Slings/etc – This will make getting off the summit much easier (and may be needed on the climb up too).