OverviewThe pyramid like North Face of Williams Peak towers over the Sawtooth Valley and is the 6th highest peak in the Sawtooth Range. Although you can take a trail for 3.5 of the approximate 5 miles (one way), the summit sees few visits each year. The Sawtooths highest peak, Thompson (10,751 ft), sits just .75 miles south-southwest of Williams. The two peaks together make impressive guardians to the Sawtooth backcountry and provided a stunning backdrop for the valley's largest town, Stanley (Population 100).
The peak is quite accessible in Sawtooth terms, located just 5.5 miles southwest of the Stanley, Idaho and just 5 miles from the Redfish Lake Lodge. The mountain's southern slopes and ridgelines offer challenging and exciting scrambling, while the steep North Face offers the peak's classic alpine climb with over 1100 feet or 9 pitches of steep climbing..
The impressive East Ridge of Thompson as viewed from Williams
Here are some of the known routes:
1) The June/ North Couloir (III 5.7) - This prominent steep couloir cuts up the northeast face to a notch just below the summit. It's fairly easy access from the Alpine Way Trail trail near Marshall Lake. The couloir often has ice, rock, and snow and is blocked by a large cornice in the winter near the top. The first ascent came in 1986 by Kirk Bachman and B. Franklin.
Rope up at the base of the couloir and expect highly variable conditions on snow and ice. The route is straight-forward. At the top of the couloir, follow the ridge to the west and then the south to the summit. It's only 400 feet from the top of the couloir to the summit proper. The easiest descent is to utilize the south facing routes to get back to the trail.
2) Southeast Slopes (Class 3) - Easy access from the Alpine Way Trail make this method probably the easiest and quickest route on the mountain. Winter time offers great snow climbing and ski descents here.
3) East Ridge (Class 4) - A more challenging route involves up and down scrambling on the prominent southeast ridge above the Southeast Slopes route. There are sections of extreme exposure and steep, loose gullies to cross over. Mountain Goats were encountered on this route.
4) Southwest Couloir (Class 3) - This route is readily accessible from the Thompson / Williams Saddle (Thompson and Williams can be done together) or the Lake 8865 area.
The peak is named after Dave Williams, an early rancher who also delivered the mail from Stanley to Galena (the Sun Valley area). He is credited with the first known ascent of the peak in 1934 along with Robert and Miriam Underhill.
Snowy winter morning on the Sawtooths
Getting ThereWilliams Peak is located about 5.5 miles southwest of Stanley, Idaho. The peak sits on the eastern side of the range in the north-central section of the Sawtooths.
From Stanley, Idaho take ID-75 south for 5 miles and turn west (right) onto the Redfish Lake Road. Take this road 2 miles to the backpacker parking lot.
Hike / Scramble Approach
From the trailhead follow the Fishhook Creek trail until it branches right and take that branch toward Marshall Lake. You'll follow a prominent lateral moraine and soon you have some of the best views of nearby Horstmann Peak and Heyburn Mountain. To access the south facing or east routes (or Thompson Peak) leave the trail at the top of the moraine at about 8050 and enter the prominent valley south of Williams. To access the June Couloir, continue to follow the trail until Marshall Lake. From Marshall Lake, hike cross country west-southwest toward an unnamed lake at 8700. The June Couloir should be right above you at this point.
No permits of any kind are required. No fees or passes are required
When To ClimbStandard climbing season is June through October. Conditions vary greatly. The Sawtooth Valley can be one of the coldest areas in the nation during the winter. Negative readings are often common. Snowfall can vary and occur at any time. Summer days can still be hot, but you'll probably never experience 90 or above, especially once you get up higher.
The East Ridge
HistoryDave Williams came to the Sawtooth Valley and etched out a living doing various jobs. He had opened his own dairy and butcher shop, delivered the mail up and over Galena Summit (nearly 9000 feet and can still be tough to get over in a car!), and worked the Vienna Mine south of Stanley near the Smiley Lodge. Like many Swiss guide, his hunting of goats led him high on the mountains and developed into a love of climbing. He guided Robert and Miriam Underhill of the Iowa Mountaineers up many of the local peaks like Mt. Heyburn and the first ascent of Williams Peak. He was considered an expert in his time in terms of rock and mountain climbing skills and was always enthusiastic and willing to climb.
Sawtooth Web Cam can give you a good idea of the conditions in the area:
SNOTEL site gives latest snow depth readings:
Google Maps also gives snow depth maps:
- There are many drive-in camp sites near Redfish Lake (near the trailhead)
- If climbing the south facing or east routes, You can camp at the unnamed 9000 ft lake to the south of Williams or the lower lake at 7600 ft, just south of the Alpine Way Trail
- If climbing the June Couloir or any other north side route, Marshall Lake provides an excellent bivy spot.
Further Information Sources
Sawtooth Climbing Beta is hard to come by. There is no official book or publication that gives detailed description. Here are a few references that have some more basic information and photographs:
1) Climbing Magazine #15
2) Rock & Ice #44
3) Off Belay: The Mountain Magazine Feb 1975 #19 (Whole issue devoted to rock climbing in the Sawtooths, but hard to find)