He Devil and She Devil are the tallest mountains in Idaho's Seven Devils Wilderness near the west border of the state (just east of the Snake River Canyon*). The two peaks are equal in height (neither having been officially triangulated) with a maximum 9,400+ contour. Some books and maps use a spurious value of 9,393 ft for He Devil and 9,280+ for She Devil. These should be disregarded. They were based on erroneous values in the USGS database. These errors have since been corrected.
He Devil and She Devil are also the highest officially named summits
of Idaho County. There is an unnamed Pk 9439
on the eastern border of the county that is probably higher and, until an official triangulation gets done on He and She Devil, will remain so.
Taken as one because of their equal height, He Devil-She Devil also have the distinction of being among the 57 peaks in the Contiguous United States with over 5,000 ft of prominence
. There are only three such points in all of Idaho (Borah Peak
and Diamond Peak
being the other two).
The Seven Devils are an expansive uplift of aged andesite in a sea of otherwise flat, boring basalt. In fact, a look in any direction from the wilderness begets views of the telltale striations of the countless highly viscous basalt flows that inundated the Columbia Basin and Snake River Plain long long ago. What a world this would become if the fissures burst anew.
Climbing in the Seven Devils is of the rugged nature with most of what you'll be up against being Class 3. However, plenty of Class 4 and 5 exist for your pleasure/displeasure. The drainages are frequently occupied by lakes. Some of these lakes drain their waters to below their outlets, thereby drying up their outlet creeks and setting up an evaporative situation. In fact, while we were camped at "Brimstone Lake"
, we noted that it dried up by at least three inches in about 36 hours.
The slopes between valley bottoms and upper rock walls are generally the realm of the talus and scree fields. Exasperation will be the order of the hour as you ascend, descend, and traverse the many such fields. In this regard, climbing along ridge crests may well be the most aesthetic way to go.
* Information courtesy of IdahoKid
: He/She Devil sit on the eastern side of Hells Canyon in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Hells Canyon is the deepest canyon in North America, contrary to the common belief that the Grand Canyon is the deepest. He Devil officially rises with no intervening saddle or mountains 8,043 vertical feet from the canyon bottom. Moreover, there is a 5,632 vertical-foot rise on the Oregon side of the canyon.
Access to Windy Saddle Trailhead is via Forest Road 517, which leaves Hwy. 95 just south of Riggins, Idaho. This 17-mile road climbs 6000+ feet to the Windy Saddle trailhead. It is about a 30-minute drive from Riggins to the 7,600-ft trailhead. The road is excellent gravel except for the first few miles. Not too many potholes.
There are then two ways to get to He Devil and She Devil from the trailhead. One is by way of the Goat Pass High Route and the other is by way of the Loop Trail. Both go to Sheep Lake on the peaks' north side. The High Route is much quicker (about 7 miles shorter) and the recommended approach. If your intent is to scramble He Devil or any of the higher peaks in the area, then you will be able to handle the High Route approach.
Approach 1: Loop Trail to Sheep Lake
From the trailhead, the trail begins by descending about 300 feet northward to a junction. Going left at the junction, continue about 9 miles to Sheep Lake. In about 2miles from the junction the trail will pass around a ridge
. In another mile at roughly 6,800 ft the trail will come to West Fork Sheep Creek
. It might be possible to leave the trail here and continue one mile southward up the drainage to Sheep Lake. This will cut off about four miles but there may be some brush to contend with.
Approach 2A: High Route to Sheep Lake
The Goat Pass High Route is supposedly only a 2-mile approach to the lake, much shorter than the loop route. It is the recommended route.
From the Seven Devils Trailhead (7,600 ft), walk the road to the campground and take the short trail to Seven Devils Lake. On the north side of the lake find a climber’s path west into the basin beyond. A trail climbs steeply up to a slanting ledge leading right. The trail reaches a saddle north of Mirror Lake in about a quarter-mile. The Tower of Babel
will be visible from this saddle. The trail then contours the south slope of the ridge and shortly arrives at a second saddle WNW of Mirror Lake. This saddle is characterized by two crags on its north end. A rough trail then descends westward off the ridge to the lake.
There is one short section of Class 3 above Seven Devils Lake. There may be a little more Class 3 leaving the ridge for Sheep Lake. I can't say because my partner and I left the trail heading for Tower fo Babel.
= 3 hours max to the lake (1,000 ft of gain, 700 ft of loss).
Approach 2B: High Route to She Devil
The climbing on She Devil's East and West ridges is straightforward Class 3 kind of stuff. Because of this, the most feasible day-trip (or carryover) route for He Devil and She Devil is by this route:
From the Seven Devils Trailhead (7,600 ft), walk the road to the campground and take the short trail to Seven Devils Lake. On the north side of the lake find a climber’s path west into the basin beyond. A trail climbs steeply up to a slanting ledge leading right. The trail reaches a saddle north of Mirror Lake in about a quarter-mile. The Tower of Babel will be visible from this saddle. The trail then contours the south slope of the ridge and shortly arrives at a second saddle WNW of Mirror Lake. This saddle is characterized by two crags on its north end. Leave the trail here and contour the ridge southward to the obvious 8,700-ft saddle immediately below Babel’s North Ridge. You want to aim for the saddle between Tower of Babel and Mt. Baal
, which is only about 0.5 miles to the south of your position. You will have to drop a couple of hundred feet to safely skirt Babel's West Face.
From the saddle between Babel and Baal, a sidetrip can be made up Babel's Class 3 South Ridge.
= 3 hours max to Babel-Baal saddle (1,600 ft of gain, 200 ft of loss).
There are no fees or permits required to climb in the Seven Devil's. The road may become impassable in the winter due to drifting snow.
When To Climb
The recommended time to climb in the Seven Devil's Range is June - October. Snow on the road will bar convenient access to the trailhead. It would be fool's errand to attempt to climb these peaks all the way from the town of Riggins.
The Seven Devil's campground is located 1/2 mile from the Windy Saddle trailhead, which is an ideal option if arriving late. Hiking into superb camping at Sheep lake is an obvious choice while Gem Lake (located just West of Sheep Lake) is also an option.
Other than that, camping is permitted anywhere you can find a flat enough place to do so. The perimeters of lakes are often marked with grassy flats but use these only with the understanding that repeated use may well deaden this grass over time.
Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
(nearest town but may not be representative of weather conditions in the Seven Devils)