Another great dry and warm October Fall week had me driving to the upper Hell Roaring Trailhead for some backcountry fun. I was doing 2 or 3 climbs for the last couple of weeks after some down time in September (fractured foot). After driving the 5 miles of awful road in about 25 minutes in my Jeep, I reached the trailhead and was the only vehicle there. The new trail starts south of the creek and is slightly longer, but it avoids a tough or cold creek crossing. Soon enough I was at scenic Hell Roaring Lake and navigating the south side. The trail above here has been redone and utilizes a wandering plethora of switchbacks to ease the grade. The problem is the grade is too gradual and long- perhaps they redisgned the trail with horse users in mind or such. After 6 miles I was at Imogene Lake.
Imogene Lake is a jewel of a spot for backpacking or day hiking. The trail here was rerouted to the east and south side of this lake. I had good memories as I went by here as my son and I backpacked to here this past summer. We swam from island to island in the frigid water, making our way to an island about half way across the lake. It was the greatest adventure according to him, and I concurred. At the southwestern end of the lake, I left the trail before it turns and climbs steeply south over Imogene Pass. There's a prominent backpack spot with a waterfall near here. Some easy slab climbing had me on a relatively easy cross country fisherman's trail. I passed one lake after another and above Lake 8700 at Lake 8940, I stopped and got water for the climb up.
From the lake I could see my main objective, Peak 10,336. I could also see most of Payette Peak directly above, but the true summit is not visible from here. I climbed rather easily just east of Pt 9838 up the slopes toward Point 10336. Point 10336 is a recognized point and on the Complete Sawtooths list. Soon enough I made it to the summit. The drop off on the north side was immense. I had a problem though; I looked across the northwest ridge and Point 10336 was clearly NOT the high point, even though the USGS map indicates it is. My guess is the high point in the distance is just 39 feet taller than where I was (40 foot contour intervals on a USGS map). So I scrambled down to the ridge proper and made my way across this rugged ridge bypassing and climbing over some Class 3+ towers.
I was at the base I what I thought was the high point and I was confronted with a blank 30 foot wall. The slopes to the north dropped off, so I scrambled down a steep and loose gully and found a thin ledge to traverse out onto the south face of this ridge, which is dubbed "Hidden Ridge" due to it's proximity to Hidden Lake and the fact that you can't see this peak from any road or approach trail. I was clearly in Class 4 terrain and as I traversed out onto this thin face, the ground below got further away. I came to a point where I had to make some tricky moves that looked low 5th class to get higher. And getting higher didn't look to guarantee any easier climbing. If I had my 30m rap rope which I often bring, I would have made the move. It was the down climb that concerned me. I decided that since I was alone, the consequences were too great and I backed off. I found another ledge, but had the same problem. So after 45 minutes of trying to find a way up this without gear, I was stumped and retreated.
I still had time to traverse over to Payette Peak, so I quickly made my way across and up the ridge, staying just east of the ridge. At the top of Payette Peak, I had terrific views of Hidden Ridge, Mt. Cramer and Imogene Peak. The summit register was missing, though and I could see exactly where it was in a small pile of rocks. I descended more directly down to the upper lake and made my way back to the trail. I couldn't have asked for better weather- 55F and sunny in mid October- simply amazing for here. After a long hike out on the trail I made back just at dark.
Trip Stats: 17.4 miles, 5937 ft, 9.5 hours
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