Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Lat/Lon: 44.20582°N / 115.0684°W
County: Custer
Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering
Season: Summer, Fall
Elevation: 9820 ft / 2993 m


Peak 9820  
From Alpine Peak
Looking north at McGown Twin, just left of the climber
lies in the northern end of Idaho's Sawtooth Wilderness, part of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Although it is easily visible from the highway and has about 600' of prominence, it does not have an official name. Because it shares a lake basin, east-facing cirque, and connecting ridge with McGown Peak, it has sometimes been called McGown Twin. The ideal trip would include both peaks.

Climbing McGown Twin requires navigation and bushwackiing skills. Combined with its lack of an official name, these are possible reasons why this peak is seldom climbed. However, it is a fun peak to climb and the summit ridge is particularly fun. The ridge is long, offering lots of gendarmes, rocks to scramble, and trees creating a lengthy gauntlet. All the while offering up great views of the Sawtooths, Salmon River mountains, White Clouds, and for the sharp-eyed climber, even Idaho's tallest peak, Mount Borah.

McGown Twin also appears to offer a challenging, yet rewarding ski descent. This author is not aware of such at this time. But check out the big, top-to-bottom gully on the right of picture at the top of the page!

Getting There/ Routes

Map of both routes
this peak, there are two approaches and three routes. Both approaches begin at the western edge of the rustic western town of Stanley, Idaho, on Idaho Highway 21. All mileages are approximate.

Stanley Lake approach (two routes)
Standard route
Head west for 4.5 miles to the Stanley Lake turnoff. Turn left (west) and proceed 3.6 miles on a paved road to the trailhead just west of the lake.
Saddle up and start hiking. The first 1.1 miles are very flat. At the intersection for Ladyface Falls and the Alpine Way trail, turn left and follow the Alpine way trail as it crosses the meadow and starts to climb.
After 3.78 miles and 1300’ gain, the trail reaches a saddle. Leave the trail and head up the ridge. As the ridge peters out, follow the drainage to Lake 8609. From the saddle, it's 1.2 miles and another 900’ gain.
Once at the lake, look for a saddle to the south of the lake. Climb to the saddle in 0.5 miles with 640’ gain.
From the saddle, turn east and follow the ridge to the summit in 0.4 miles and 560’ gain. 
Basin north of McGown Twin
Basin between McGown (right) and McGown Twin

Summary: Class 2, 7.5 miles, 3400' gain

Snow climb
Follow the standard route, but when you get to the big waterfall, turn left and climb steep snow heading south. After a short section, you'll be able to see the entire gully. Pick your poison: head up and scale the cornices on the left, or go right and do some dirt cramponing up the ridge. Don't try this one if it isn't full snow, but also be aware that it slides.
Face gully
Snow route

Iron Creek approach
Head west for 2 miles to the Iron Creek turnoff. Turn left (west) and proceed 3.5 miles on a rough dirt road (passable to any car) to the trailhead.
Saddle up and start hiking. After 1.2 miles and 300' gain you will see the Alpine Way trail branching on the left. Stay to the right and head for the intersection to Sawtooth Lake in another 0.6 miles. At the intersection go right and follow the Alpine Way trail north.
After 1.6 miles and 700’ gain (followed by a 600' drop), the trail reaches a creek crossing. Leave the trail and head up the drainage. Climb to a saddle at the top of this drainage in 1.2 miles and 2000' of gain.
From the saddle, turn east and follow the ridge to the summit in 0.4 miles and 560’ gain.
Summary: Class 2, 5.5 miles, 3700' gain

Red Tape

SE face
SE face
9820 is in the Sawtooth Wilderness area. To enter the wilderness area, you must have a wilderness permit, which is self-issued on the trail.
No further permits required.

Snow Country
Due to the large amount of snowfall in this area, both access roads are closed for the winter and into the spring. The Stanley Lake road is gated and locked. The Iron Creek road is not gated, but a "Road Closed" sign is posted to keep non-residents off the soft and muddy road. The road to the residences leaves the Iron Creek road after about a mile (and the remainder of the road is not plowed anyway), so during the winter season it is recommended to park at the highway and walk this mile.
Check ahead for road conditions by calling the Stanley ranger district of the Forest Service (see Links below).


Both trailheads (see Getting There) have Forest Service campgrounds. 
Looking down the Iron Creek approach
Southern approach

External Links

Splattski trip report
Sawtooth National Forest
Stanley cam and current weather
Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center

For additional information on this climb and other peaks in the area, please see Tom Lopez's excellent book, Idaho: A Climbing Guide.