Upper Elkhorn Creek basin on a warm spring day.
We were originally set to go in March. I don't recall why we had to postpone the trip and reschedule for April. I watched the weather reports continually. What's with the cold, wet spring? The closer we got, the more it looked like we might have a clear day. Neither of us had attempted Mt. Idaho before. Only so much information can be gleaned from guide books, trip reports and the weather.
We left the truck in a frigid but light breeze from the northwest. It didn't take long to warm up lugging 60 pound packs. Patches of snow lay on the ground through the sage, but not enough to ski on. We really didn't want to strap on our skis and hike in our plastic tele boots. After the first fork in the drainage, we headed up the middle ridge, thinking it would keep us out of the snow a little longer. Once on the snow, our packs were slightly ligher but now our feet were heavier with snow shoes. The snow started out crusty. Once in a while, we would break through into large, dry crystals but it got worse with every step. As the snow deepened and the temperature heated up, we knew we were in for the long haul. Off in the distance on the upper mountain, a slide would break loose. We couldn't hear it but seeing was believing. Seven and a half hours later, not even to point 9200' where the drainage splits, we set up camp knowing we wouldn't make an attempt for the summit in the morning.
Avalanche activity on the steeper slopes
It felt kind of wierd getting up when the sun came up. Every climber has a headlamp for the first portion of every climb in the dark. I believe this might be the first trip I went without using mine. After a hearty breakfast of powdered egg burritos with blackbean salsa, guacamole, salami, and cheese, we decided we should at least snowshoe up further in the basin to get a better view of the summit. Without full packs and good, crusty snow to walk on, it only took us about 30 minutes. What an awesome sight. There were close to 20 small slides off the steeper sections of the mountain on the west and south facing slopes. Needless to say, we were fine with our decision to stay off the mountain. It will still be there when the snow melts. Our primary objective is always to return home, not to summit at all costs. After packing up camp, it only took a few hours to get back to the truck. I guess it's a little easier following a broken trail.
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