Cirque Lake Peak is part of the Cirque Lake "complex" just East of the Warbonnet in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains. Climbing in this area is truly a backcountry adventure complete with solitude and incredible views.
A map of the area, such as the (1:48,000) 'Sawtooth Wilderness Hiking Map and Guide' put out by Earthwalk Press, is quite helpful.
From Ketchum head North on Sawtooth Scenic Byway (Hwy. 75). A stop at the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) Visitor Center (approx. 7 mi N of Ketchum; 208-727-5000) is highly recommended, if only to view the stuffed wolverine and voice your opposition to the fee demonstration project.
Continue N past Galena and Obsidian, turning left (West) on Redfish Lake Road (approx. 4+ miles South of Stanley). Pass Little Redfish Lake on your right (N) and continue to Redfish Lake (6547'). There are several campgrounds along the way.
From Redfish Lake Inlet follow Redfish Lake Creek trail to Flat Rock Junction, then turn right (NW) on the Baron Divide Trail (#101) to Alpine Lake (approx. 5 miles total). Continue just past Alpine Lake and cut W to a saddle (somewhere around the tail end of the 2nd significant switchback up from the lake, this is a pure xcountry section, stay out of the initial boulders/sm. rock bands as much as possible). Reaching the saddle you can look to the North and see Baron Lakes. A faint trail leads South slightly uphill at first, passing point 9769 on the NW side, then heading (South) steeply downhill toward Warbonnet and Little Warbonnet Lake. Just prior to hitting Warbonnet Lakes start to contour West and head toward Feather and Bead Lakes (approx. 2 miles from Alpine Lake)
Note: a more thorough description of the approach to Bead Lakes may be found under Warbonnet Peak.
From Upper Bead Lake traverse the talus field to the North, heading NW, and slowly gaining altitude to the base of several gravel chutes.
CAUTION! Wear a helmet!
At a cairn (just before two small trees) scramble up into a gully (3rd) for 50-60' then traverse over to the right onto a rocky spur (3rd). This avoids some of the looser sections in the gully. Continue the easy, blocky scramble up the spur to a lower angle sandy section.
Continue up and left (NW) for 30-40', noting a climbable breach in the next spur on the left. Traverse to this spur and scramble up to its top (3rd/easy 4th). Scramble up along the spur for another 30-40', until it becomes easier (feasible) to climb into the next chute to the left (3rd/easy 4th). This narrow chute is marked by its step-like, black rock (intrusion), which makes for fast vertical gain, but poses a serious bowling alley threat! At the top of the chute look to the left (W) to see the base of the climb (large corner with short rounded overhanging left face and less than vertical right face).
The approximate coordinates for the 'South Rib' are 44.0772 N, -115.0521W.
Overnight trailhead parking at Redfish Lake requires a fee (Fee Demonstration Project) and taking the shuttle across the lake is also fee based. A free wilderness permit (self-issue) is required.
6/13/05 - It seems that at least part of the fee demonstration program has been rescinded. Thanks to Andy for providing the following link in the SP news section:
When To Climb
Best time to climb is late July through August/September although dry years will offer access quite a bit sooner.
Redfish Lake Lodge hosts room and cabin lodging, in addition to a little store and a restaurant. They're usually open from Memorial Day through the end of September and also operate a shuttle service across the lake that cuts 5 miles and significant time off your walk in/out. Other services include boat rentals and horseback riding.
There are 9 campgrounds within 2 miles of Redfish Lake, including 5 within easy strolling distance. For reservations call 877-444-6777.
Alpine Lake (also a popular day trip/fishing destination) has a few nice tent sites on the North shore and camping is readily available at Feather or Bead Lakes.
Climbing in the Sawtooths is a secretive affair. While some route information is available, the focus is on a few areas (Elephant's Perch, Warbonnet, Finger of Fate, etc.) Many routes have been done elsewhere and are described in a collection of topos that can be purchased individually at the 'local' climbing shop in Ketchum - the Elephant's Perch (www.elephantsperch.com; 208-726-3497).
While Sawtooth climbing information is a bit sparse a number of books offer a rich historical perspective. Three books worth mentioning are:
Idaho for the Curious - a guide; Cort Conley; 1982
Sawtooth Tales; Dick d'Easum; 1990
Stanley - Sawtooth Country; Esther Yarber with Edna McGown; 1976