The west face of the Peak of the Unknown
This interesting peak located in the Pioneer Mountain Range of Central Idaho offers a great cross country route to a unnamed, and rarely, if ever climbed peak that sits at about 10,230 feet. This large rounded peak sits directly to the West of Jacqueline Peak
, a prominent 11,000 foot peak that is quite visible in the Hyndman Creek drainage, and in the drainage of the East Fork of the Big Wood River. Jacqueline Peak, and the Peak of the Unknown make up a very rugged, but walkable east-west summit ridge that towers above Big Basin.
Unfortunately, there is not much known about this peak. At the time that I climbed this one on August, 31st, 2008 I had not seen anything about this peak on the web, in Tom Lopez's Climbing Idaho book, nor did I know anyone that ever tried this peak. So, as far as I know this peak is unnamed, and unknown, hence the name Peak of the Unknown. It also does not have any name on the USGS quads, even though it is a prominent peak, with a pyramid like summit block similar to Jacqueline with very steep gully's leading to it's summit on the west, east, and south ridges.
The Peak of the Unknown is in and by itself, a stunning peak that has a loose steep scree slope that comprises most of the west ridge, and a very solid north ridge that borders around class 2 to class 3 in some spots. The pyramid like summit block is about 2,850 feet above the East Fork Road. So, climbing this route involves a 2850 foot elevation climb in a little under a mile and a half. So, yes, this route is rather steep and straight up, but quite rewarding, especially as you land the saddle between Jacqueline and the Peak of the Unknown that provides a stunning view of Cobb, Old Hydman, Big Basin Peak, and the Big Basin.
I'm quite sure people have climbed this peak over the years, as a mining remnants sit around the base of these mountains on both sides of the East Fork Road. However, for now, I will refer to it as the Peak of the Unknown, because i'm sure many unknown miners, as well as unknown locals have bagged this one. From what i've seen, this peak has had zero exposure on the web, or in climbing guides. Also, from my ascent, I didn't notice any recent human activity (no footprints, no trash, no signs of human trails etc).
Overall, the climbing on this peaks rock should be cautionary at best, as most of the rock terrain is quite fragile, and broken. Kicking large boulders down the slopes is quite possible, as on most mountains in the Pioneers. The west ridge is solid in spots, but the north ridge is very stable, so rock fall would be minimized on this route. Also, there is no trail leading to this peak. All of this route requires a combination of hiking in overgrown aspen forests, sage brush, pine forests, and scree and talus. At times there are goat, mulie, and elk trails to follow, but most of these peter out after a short distance. There is a noticable goat trail that splits the face between the west and north ridge on the peaks western summit block. This trail, should be used to obtain the solid ridge on the north side, in order to avoid the west ridge gully, which could be a bad chute for rock fall.
At the summit, well... you get great views of the Little Basin, the Big Basin, the Wood River Valley...and of course, the summit towers of the Pioneer Triple Crown.
Hyndman, Cobb, and Old Hyndman from the summit of the Peak of the Unknown.
A panoramic of the Big Basin and the surrounding peaks, taken from the summit of the Peak of the Unknown.
In order to climb this peak, you must have a high clearance vehicle. Half way between the towns of Hailey and Ketchum, lies a mountain canyon called East Fork. This area is a drainage of the East Fork of the Big Wood River, which gets it's start in the rugged Pioneer Mountains. Once on East Fork Road you will pass a small town called Triumph, and then enter the dirt national forest road. About a half mile on the dirt road, the road forks, however, stay straight on this road and head toward's the Federal Gulch campground and PK Pass Trailhead area, which is approximately 8 miles from Triumph. Once you are on the dirt road, a 2wd vehicle is fine, up to the Federal Gulch Campground. However, from Federal Gulch Campground to the PK Pass area, it is wise to use a 4wd vehicle to pass on this rugged section of road. I'm guessing a 2wd car could make it to this trailhead, but only if you are willing to white knuckle it over boulders trying not to crush your oil pan.
About 4 and a half miles past the Federal Gulch campground you will start to see the long ridge of Jacqueline Peak looming in the distance. Once you get to an open drainage that splits between Jacqueline, and the Peak of the Unknown, find a place to park. This drainage is where you will want to start your hike. Don't look for a trail, because there is none.
The only red tape is that once the snows hit around late October that most of the East Fork road is left unplowed, and it stays that way until after the roads have melted out, which usually ends in the middle of May. Trying to climb this peak during winter would be a daunting and avalanche prone path, however the skiing on the upper bowls around Jacqueline and the Peak of the Unkown would be a great experience.
Also, there are some private residences in the East Fork area, so please obey the "No Trespassing" signs around the mines.
Camping can be had at the Federal Gulch Campground, which is about 4 and a half miles from the start of the gully that separates Jacqueline from the Peak of the Unknown. Anything else, is true back country, and there are many nice flat spots that would make nice camping areas along this route. Especially in the upper hanging valley that is about a half mile into this hike (although, you must first climb approximately 1200 feet up in a half mile to get there).
External LinksIdaho Climbing Guide