With summer weather finally upon us, I was eager to get on a mountain without having to bring down jacket, gloves, wool underwear etc. The Spring was particularly cool and wet in the mountains of Idaho. There is a lot of snow on the peaks, especially the north and east aspects. I drove over and took the scenic way through Stanley and Challis. The other option is to go through Mountain Home and Arco. The half way point for me on this loop is close to where I needed to start. I saw plenty of Elk and Deer on the drive and when I arrived at Sawmill Gulch around 8am, it was already getting warm.
My plan was to ascend Peak 11967, an often overlooked peak because of it's named neighbors. 11967 is the 12th tallest peak in Idaho and I knew it would afford great views, especially with the amount of lingering snow holding onto the peaks of the Lost River Range. Previous ascent reports were from east, but I was coming in from the west and I knew it could be a rugged climb. I made my way up Sawmill Gulch to about 8200 feet. The last mile the road gets pretty rocky- like file cabinet sized rocks to drive over and around!
Right from the Jeep, I headed steeply up the slopes north of Sawmill Gulch. Soon enough I was on the ridge above, near Point 8267. From there I made my way north through a nice thicket of Pines and dropped into the east fork of Vance Canyon. I had the option of continuing directly up this canyon, but I wanted to get on the Vance Couloir. Plus that canyon takes you to the south summit of 11967, not the true high point. So I climbed up and out of the east fork and passed just north of Point 9957, which was a major blockage to the ridgeline.
Once on the ridge between the forks of Vance Canyon, I traversed across a really unstable boulder field to the Vance Couloir. I was at 9800 feet when I entered the couloir. It was pretty broad and narrowed about half way up and then divided close to the top. The snow covered most of the slopes still. The couloir was not very steep and if the conditions were good, it would be a quick way up. Avoiding the talus and scree is always a good thing. But with the heat, the snow was really soft and mushy making my travel not as easy as I had hoped. There was also a massive wet slide down the center that looked like it may have happened a few days back. Near the top, I chose the east side because the west side had huge overhanging cornices. I lugged along my big camera and lenses and stopped to take many pictures. The extra weight was worth it. The views today were great.
After leaving the couloir I scrambled Class 3+ through a rock band until I was just west of Point 11935. From here it was a journey across a ridge with lots of cornices. I stayed on the west side of the ridge to avoid dying. It was 50/50 snow and rock. After 3 false summits I gained the true summit. There was a 3 foot tall rock cairn and no previous summit register, but it could have been buried under the lingering snow. It was only at this point that I was chilled and needed more than shorts and a t-shirt. The views were really outstanding. To the north I could Borah, which stood out. Morrison and Mt. Idaho were not prominent as they were about the same height. To the south, White Cap, Leatherman, and Bad Rock were awesome. Far to the east I could see Bell and Diamond and far to the north Petros and Dickey stood proud. The descent was uneventful, but long because of all the ridge crossing and ups and downs.
Trip Stats: 8.4 miles, 5067 ft, 8.5 hours