Reconnecting with an Old Friend
I had been frequenting Facebook for a few months now and a couple weeks ago I was revisited by an old friend I haven't seen in about 14 years. When seeing the friend request and who it was, my mind was flooded with old memories and good times we used to have back in our 'wild' days'. Cruising the town of Boise, partying, mischievous pranks on each other, etc. was usually the norm for a couple summers of my life before becoming a parent, therefore when seeing Matt's friend request I HAD to accept and catch up on old times. In a message from him, he had stated how he was a huge outdoor fanatic and would absolutely love to go out on a hike with me.
'Oh really ', I thought….
Did Matt know what he was getting himself into? Conversing further revealed he had been working for the Forest Service fighting fires for the past 13 years and he felt he was up to the challenge. Nice! I had a perfect trip for us to attempt. I figured we would revisit Imogene Lake for an easy 9.1 mile hike, 1500 ft elevation gain that I'd done a couple weeks prior. (See Imogene Deathmarch Trip Report) There were two peaks I'd been eyeballing in this area, Mt. Cramer (10,716) and Payette Peak (10,211) with a couple of nice 9,500+ peaks scattered about. We decided we would take Friday off to allow for travel time and enough daylight to make the hike up to Imogene, yet let us sleep in a tad. Our departure time from Nampa would be 9:00 a.m., putting us at the trailhead at 12:00 on the dot. No other cars were on the trailhead so I believed we would be able to camp on the island at Imogene. We needed to set a good pace to ensure we got there before anyone else. Our journey now began…
Hiking up the switchbacks above Hell Roaring Lake, we decided to take a small breather. It was starting to get warm since it was now a little after 2:00 p.m., so fatigue was starting to set in. While sitting there, we could hear someone coming up the trail. Looking back it was an older couple on some pack horses which were loaded up with camp gear.
Matt and I threw our packs on and started hoofing it as fast as we could. I really wanted to get to the island at Imogene to camp. Not only was it a prime location, but rumor also had it there was a crapper located out there.
Can you imagine?
Being out in the wilderness with the luxury of a crapper?!?! And to think a toilet to be our motivating factor to beat a horse team up a mountain, lol! 30 minutes from Imogene we needed to rest again. We had pulled away to give us a 5-10 minute lead over the horses, but the burning in my legs was getting pretty uncomfortable, making a break necessary. As the couple caught up to us we started the usual chit chat. Ended up they were heading for the island as well, but once finding out we were heading there they decided we could have it. That was way cool of them. They seemed impressed with the pace we were setting since they stated they must've started at the trailhead shortly after we did. The conversation soon led to whether we were carrying any firearms, which we weren't. The couple then started talking about how they had been running into alot of wolves when they camped out. In fact a couple weekends before the wolves were circling camp after dark and scared them bad enough where they actually had the barrel of a shotgun hanging out from the saddle. I spose they were plum serious about killing something, regardless of what or who it was. We let them pass once we had claim to the infamous camp site, so we slowed our pace a little. After the horses were out of site, Matt and I were chuckling a little, wondering how much of their problem was sourced around their pack horses. If I were a wolf, pack horse = yummm.
Getting to Imogene, it ended up taking us another hour to traverse around to the island. An interesting logjam at the outlet made for some nice log hopping while the trail meandered through the forest along the lakeside. What a sweet little area! Surrounded on all sides by water with a small section of rock hopping to reach the island. We even had a fire pit and logs to sit on… awesome! The campground was sheltered pretty well too with nice granite windbreaks on 2 of the 4 sides.
While searching for firewood, I was shocked. The rumors were true?!?! A closer inspection really validated the rumors as truth! Of course, I had to take a picture so you all would believe me when I say there's a crapper on that island… so read it a weep!
After a dinner of FRESH chicken and noodles in marinara sauce (yes, I made from scratch!), Matt and I found a nice area lakeside and continued to hang out there for well over an hour. There was so much to look at… and as a matter of fact our horse team was directly across the lake.
From the same point of view, Payette Peak was to my right. Here's a shot of the ravine we would hike up the next day to reach the peak. Payette Peak is right from center and in the background. (Yes, the pic is sposed' to be B&W). While sitting here, we decided we would forego the Mt. Cramer attempt for another day. This was due to Cramer being back the way we had come and quite frankly we didn't feel like backtracking downhill just to have to come back. That left a great opportunity to attempt a lower peak as well as Payette Peak (which I would be happy with!)
Climbing to Peak 9,777
Matt isn't one who wakes up and cooks breakfast, and neither am I. We had discussed the previous night about our game plan for summit day which was to wake up as early as possible, get dressed, and go. Unbelievably, this 'plan' actually panned out and we were on the trail by 7:30 a.m. We were on the go, and I was even eating while trying to keep a brisk pace. Hell, the sun hadn't even come up yet, but the morning colors were really starting to shine. In fact, one of my favorite pictures from this trip was this sunrise shot overlooking Imogene that very morning as we departed.
We decided to hike to the unnamed lakes above Imogene so we could access the bowl below Payette Peak. This was pretty fun since I had never been up to any part of this area, so everything from Imogene forward was a new experience. We did some serious bushwhacking/route finding through this area until we got out of the tree line. As we started inching closer to the basin, we were starting to think of our plan of attack. After remembering Splattski's trip report and SP page of Payette Peak, I proposed we hit the highpoint on the right of the ridgeline (Peak 9,777) and follow the ridgeline to the saddle which leads up to Payette Peak. Shortly before breaking out of the tree line, we stumbled across a nice flat area with a small lake. What a nice little area for a campground/base camp! Payette Peak is on the left, Peak 9,777 is out of view on the right:
Climbing up towards Peak 9,777 the boulders were extremely large, the terrain was getting steep, but this was sure fun! We would climb for about 5 minutes, take a break to catch our breath, then start going hard again. Here's a look again across the basin to Payette Peak, but kind of gives a perspective of how steep things are getting:
Before we knew it, we were soon running out of rocks and boulders to climb. Wow, we were at the top already??? Oh yea! What a view! Here's a shot looking down towards the Stanley side of Peak 9,777. The feeling at this point was sheer liberation!
The Push for 10,000 ft
Now the climb got interesting. We needed to follow the ridgeline to the saddle we were scoping from the basin. However, looking towards that direction revealed a mean ole' drop-off that I really wanted absolutely NO part of.
We down climbed below this section to avoid the notch, then started picking our way along the long ridgeline towards the saddle. We knew once we reached the saddle that the chances of bagging the peak was pretty good, but the terrain along this whole cirque was pretty knarly. Sliding down boulders, rock hopping, crawling, and climbing we finally made it to the saddle. Riding along the spine, our route was pretty straight-forward.
We stayed below it for a short section before Matt shot up to get a peek over the other side of the spine. Wow, what a view! Here you could see down to Hidden Lake and over to Elk Peak. From the same vantage point, I took another picture looking down to Imogene where we had just come from. Remember, we are the island on the furthest lake, with Peak 9,777 being left from center. You can also see the drop-off we were faced with. Unfortunately pictures cannot give you the perspective of how high we really were, but we were at 10,000 ft at this section. Sweet, eh?
After taking the pictures, there was only a short section of straight uphill to go. It wasn't too difficult, and the adrenaline really helped for the final push. Once to the top, we searched for a summit register, but could not find one. LOL, we sat there for a good 30 minutes soaking in the views from all directions. The wind was blowing out of the West pretty good, making it a good idea we brought our windbreakers. It was truly amazing and a totally memorable time of my 1st trip up to 10,000 ft.
Looking West, we could see a storm brewing. We decided we would get off the mountain and pack up camp. It was a good thing because the night we left got pretty cold. Overall… I'd say it was a SWEET trip to end my year in the Sawtooth Mountains. I've had a good one!