My interest in the Seven Devils Wildnerness started off in 2003 after reading the related section in Tom Lopez's guidebook. I remember thinking to myself, "That would an excellent trip to climb all 7 of them in a few days". In May of 2004 I brought up the idea to Paul Klenke, a climber from Seattle that I had done a couple climbs with. We tentatively thought about an early August target date. Plans materialized, and we agree to meet at the Park in Lewiston, Idaho at 3:30PM on 8/6/04.
2. Getting There:
Paul was bagging some county highpoints in southeastern Washington on his way over. I got lost a little in Lewiston, but after finding a spot in the Safeway parking lot for Paul's car, we were finally underway by 4:45PM. We reached the small town of Riggins about 7:00PM, and stopped for a really nice meal on the patio of a small restaurant. After that, we drove the 17.4 miles of some paved, mostly dirt road to the Seven Devils Campground at 7,600 feet. It was late and getting dark for we pitched a tent here for the night.
3. Day 1:
We awoke shortly after sunrise to find clouds enveloping the high peaks. Hoping it would clear off soon, we got underway at about 7:30AM. We hiked along the road to the upper campground, then to the back of the campground where the trail starts. After a short 150 yards we arrived at Seven Devils Lake then began the steep hike up to the ridgeline to the east. The class 1 / 2 trail is pretty easy to follow after you pick it up. There were a couple of sections of short class 3 rock to scramble to get to the ridgline. We got out first good view of the Tower of Babel on the way up.
After reaching the crest of the ridgeline we traversed this towards the north end of the Tower of Babel of class 2 terrain. The view down towards Mirror Lake on one side and Sheep Lake on the other were excellent, as the clouds started to clear.
We looked up at the North Ridge on the Tower of Babel, and decided it looked worth trying. After traversing some scree we found ourselves at a gully system heading up to the notch between the Turret of Babel (North Summit), and the Tower of Babel. The gully was loose class 3 scree. On the way up, we scouted for lines up the north ridge of the main summit. We noticed 2 goats scaling the near vertical looking northwest face. Impressive!
After reaching the notch, we decided to climb the north summit (Turret) as well. This started with some class 3 and 4 scrambling on the southwest side of the tower. After a short class 4 chimney we reached a spot below 2 towers. I traversed an exposed class 4 ramp system which wrapped around the south tower to the east side. From there, a couple of 3rd class moves brought me to the top. Paul scrambled up the north summit which had a slabby class 4 finish.
We downclimbed back to the notch, then started up the face between 2 chimneys on the North Ridge route. The climbing was enjoyable low 5th class, and we did not feel the need to rope up. After this we scrambled up some 3rd and 4th class to the base of a angled chimney.
I started up the chimney encountering a hard section about halfway up which required some strength and slithering as my pack was rubbing on both sides. I made it through, then Paul started up. He was stuck at that section I had difficulty with. He had attached my tent sideways to his pack, making it wider than mine, and this was really impeding his ability to get past the constriction. He backed down and got out the rope. After handing it up to me, I hauled his pack up. He came over and helped me on the last portion.
We scrambled up some third class than traversed a ledge to a notch. From here some third and 4th class scrambling brought us to another notch below a very interesting looking vertical chimney with stemming. I got up a move or two into this finding it to be about 5.6. After several hard moves (in boots and a full overnight back) it relented to 4th class rock. Paul followed (still unroped) finding it challenging as well.
From here we scrambled 2nd and 3rd class rock to the main summit. Dang, no register! There were some really nice views from the summit, and we got a chance to scope out the rest of the route for that day.
We started down the standard South Ridge route towards Mount Baal. The downclimb moved the the left of the first tower then to the right of the second tower of loose terrain. It was mostly class 2 scree with a couple solid class 3 rock sections. How that route is graded as a top ten scramble is beyond me. From the high saddle, we scrambled up the easy class 2 and 3 slopes to the summit of Mount Baal. This was our first view of our campsight that night at Brimstone lake. It looked nice.
Next was easy easy scramble down towards the high saddle with She Devil. This was straightforward and decent. The climb up the other side to the summit of She Devil was unpleasant loose scree. She Devil is more of a pile of loose garbage than a mountain. We downclimbed some good class 3+ rock from the summit towards the saddle with He Devil, before descending into a gully. The gully was horrible loose, steep scree, which was tedious.
After dumping our packs, we scrambled up the start of the East Ridge on He Devil. We saw a group of three going up a 4th class chimney that looked fun, so we followed them. After that the route went around a buttress on the right side.
The route turned the corner a followed a loose 3rd class gully to the top. Paul started up, but this looked boring to me. The steep blocky face to the left looked much better. I started up this face on low 5th lcass terrain with lots of holds. The climbing was really nice until a blank section with a really wide stem and two finger cracks. This took me a while, but eventually I grunted through it. The two or three moves of 5.8 were quite exhilerating for being unroped. After that, I scrambled some loose 3rd class to the summit.
Paul and I were eyeing the north summit and the cool looking fin of rock going over there. I went directly over the fin encountering some 4th class rock and a nice position. On the way back, Paul decided to join me for a romp accross this. After completing this, Paul and I eyed up the south summit of He Devil. It looked fun, so we downclimbed some class 3, then climbed some class 3 up the other side.
We downclimbed to a notch, then traversed a ledge system over to the He Devil / She Devil col. I encountered a couple of hard downclimbing moves (not exposed) when my ledge petered out. After a couple interesting 5.7 to 5.8 downclimb moves, I got to the lower ledge and traversed it back to our packs.
After about 20 minutes of so we found ourselves at the campsight at Brimstone Lake. We set up camp, and filtered some water. We were bored so went went off in search of some nice alpine bouldering. We found about 15 problems from low 5th class to 5.10C that we played on for a hour or so.
4. Day 2:
After waiting for the sun to hit our tent, we got a start around 8:30 the next morning. We started scrambling up a gully between Fire Point (the buttress between the south summit of He Devil and Mount Belial) and He Devil. We gained the ridgeline than scrambled up some nice class 3 rock to the top. The views of the excellent looking south ridge of He Devil south and accross the range were really nice.
We scrambled down the east side of Fire Point on good rock, then prepared to traverse the multiple summits of Mount Belial. This mountain was a big dissapointment, nothing more than a couple piles of scree and loose rock. One of the summit blocks had some some good rock near the top atleast.
We decended the south ridge of Belial on class 3 rock all the way down to the low saddle between it and the Devils Throne. The Devils Throne is a big mountain. It might not be as tall as He Devil, but it is much more imposing with a lot more vertical relief on its north flanks. Paul and I were eyeing doing the North Ridge route here. It looked pretty straighforward. The low part of the ridge was very steep and had some hard technical climbing. We scouted higher up and located a ledge system where we could traverse onto the ridge about 1/3rd the way up.
After getting to base of the mountain, Paul started scrambling up a lower face section to see if we could get on the ridge lower. The climbing was nice and blocky for about 20 feet, but this gave way to some spicy looking sloping slabs. He decided not to continue.
We found the ledge system and traversed it accross to get on the North Ridge. The North Ridge was really nice with some solid class 3 to 3+ rock on the crest. We downclimbed a couple bits of 3rd and 4th class rock only to discover a large notch and vertical 30 foot wall in front of us. The wall offered a fingercrack that looked to be 5.9 or 5.10. Without technical gear, or another way accross, we decided to bail and rap down the chimney on the east side.
After rappeling, we traversed a class 3 ledge to gain the Northeast Face route. After scrambling up a class 4 chimney the rest of the route appeared to be a nasty scree filled gully.
Fortunately we found some nice class 3 to 3+ rock to the left of this gully which Paul scrambled up on. I tried the gully, got frustrated with it, then finihsed on the nice rock. From here we scrambled scree up to the summit. The views to the Imps and the peaks to the north were excellent.
I had developed some painful blisters on the way up. Should have duct taped them at the start. I told Paul who decided to head off a give the north summit of the Twin Imps a go. I took a nap on the summit as Paul descended down the south ridge and climbed the North Imp.
I decended the Northeast Face route encountering some hard class 4 downclimbing near the base, that we had avoided before. The downclimbing was not difficult, but definately kept my attention. I traversed accross some scree slopes to the saddle just east of Mount Belial. After dropping into the basin, I climbed the 200 feet back up to our camp at Brimstone Lake. I arrived at 3:00 and took a nap. Paul joined me shortly after five, and we made some dinner and went to bed early. The heat and long day yesterday were starting to deplete our energy.
I was thinking Monday would be a piece of cake, and my blisters would be no big deal on the hike out. Little did I know...
5. Day 3:
We got up just before the sun hit our tent, and were packed up and moving by 9:00. We scrambled up some rocky slopes then started scrambling our way up the West Ridge of The Ogre. Paul followed a direct line up the ridge, which was class3, instead on the loose class 2 normal route. We reached the summit quickly, and got our first good views of the day. We checked out the traverse over to the Goblin and it looked good. We were annoyed to find another large cairn built at the summit. Kinda ruins the experience if you ask me. We also got a good laugh at the large steel pipe that houses the register. Someone wanted something bombproof!
We decended the East Ridge on the Goblin, which was straightforward class 3 rock. After getting to the high ridgeline connecting to the Goblin, I took a short break and admired the view.
We traversed some nice class 3 terrain then scrambled up some easy rock to the summit of the Goblin. Another huge summit pipe! The way down to the ridgeline to the east looked to be moderately challenging. We saw a low point in the ridgeline to the northeast, and thought this would be a cool "shortcut" back to the car.
We split up a bit on the decent, each trying our own gully. Paul found the easist one, and mine had a couple of interesting class 4+ to low 5th class sections to downclimb. I was tired at this point, and had a 35 pound pack on. Next we decended down the scree gully back into the lower basin. This thing was really loose and nasty! We surfed many sections of it. We reached the basin below, washed up at the creek, and started up the other side.
My blisters were killing me at this point. Every step was a teeth clenching affair. Upon reaching the ridgeline, we checked out the first ravine, it was about 400 feet deep, and didn't look too bad. The next ravine was about 500 foot deep and took a lot out of me. Thinking we were almost at the car, my expression upon seeing the last 1,200 foot ravine was "Oh, shit!" I was in pain big time, and quite tired. Paul was a little tired as well. We decended into the ravine, refilled some water, then struggled up the other side in the heat. I just sat down on the trail several times.
We finally found a trail and hiked up to where the road was. I was praying it was near my car at this point. I get to the road and low and behold: There is my car about 30 feet in front of me in the parking lot accross the street!
1. Paul Klenke is in much better long trip shape than I am.
2. I really enjoy climbing low 5th class rock unroped in the mountains.
3. Wearing only thin synthetic sock liners, and no duct tape or wool socks, with mountain boots is really dumb on long trips covering a lot of ground. :-)
4. Taking shortcuts accross drainage ravines is a really dumb idea!