The Beaverhead's Sacajawea Peaks are a distinctive group of three summits rising on the eastern horizon above Salmon, Idaho. Overlooking the Lemhi valley, the birthplace of the Shoshone woman Sacajawea, they are known locally as the 'Three Sisters', and have an elevation of 10160', 10390', and 10365'.
Officially named Sacajawea Peaks in 2001 by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, these summits are found in Tom Lopez' Idaho A Climbing Guide
as the North Doublet (10390') and South Doublet (10365').
Sitting on the Idaho/Montana border, the Idaho side is hot and dry with classic sagebrush covered foothill terrain while the Montana side has plenty of vertical rock, unforgiving dead end scree slopes, and lingering snow as the Sacajawea Peaks rise from the Upper Miner Lakes.
Like many places in the Beaverheads, the basin below the summit shows the remains of a mining era long past. Abandoned cabin sites, rusted machinery, and an old ore transport system dot the landscape, all succumbing to the ravages of time and the forces of nature. Some would consider it rich history to be reflected on and admired. Others would consider it to be a brutal scar on the landscape. Each will have to come to their own conclusion.
You are likely to find these Beaverhead summits as 'the road less traveled' due to their location. The Pioneer, Lost River, and Lemhi ranges which contain all of Idaho's 12000' peaks, along with the Sawtooths, attract most of the southern Idaho crowd. Likewise, Missoula and Bitterroot valley residents are more apt to pursue objectives in Glacier National Park or in the Bitterroots.
Nevertheless, the Sacajawea Peaks are challenging summits and certain to reward those who take them on.
From the Mormon church in Salmon, travel south on Hwy 28 for 4.8 miles to Geertson Creek Road. The Mormon church is clearly visible and an easy landmark to spot.
Turn onto Geertson Creek Road and travel 5.5 miles to a left turn at 5200'. Travel up into the foothills for 0.9 miles on a rutted road to a right turn at 5600'. This is the beginning of the Mail Truck Road.
For reference both turns at 5200' and 5600' are found in Quad 33 on Topozone.
The Mail Truck Road has some serious ruts and washouts around the 5700' mark and you will need a 4WD. Once past these, the road improves and you can drive up the twisting switchbacks to about 8100' without any difficulty. Beyond this, the road is rougher, but with a 4WD and some persistence, you will be able to drive to the end of the road. Otherwise there is good parking at the 8100' switchback.
There is one gate along the route and the very personable cattle wrangler has asked me to remind people to please shut the gate once you go through. He has been having trouble with some 'sub-adults' as he calls them and I was glad to do some 'CIA' work for him up the road. A second gate further up the road is open and does not need to be closed.
On a note to the Idaho crew, Baugher's description (page 328) is accurate. The left turn at 5200' is located a few hundred feet before the locked gate. As to the Mail Truck, it is still there. On its side, gutted out and rusted, it's fate seems to be to endure names and dates scratched into any part of what remains of it's metal exterior.
Take the Miner Lakes campground exit located about 1/2 mile south of Jackson. Travel approximately 11 miles to the campground. From the west end of the campground continue about 3 miles to where the road ends in a large circular parking area.
Trail 54 starts here and after a very short distance forks. The right fork leads to the Rock Island Lakes while the left fork will take you to the Upper Miner Lakes.
From the end of the Mail Truck Road you have three choices on attaining the highest summit. First would be to attain Peak 10160 and then work the ridge up to the summit. This is an up and down, in and out ridge traverse.
Second would be to drop 200' into the basin and then ascend the broad and surprisingly stable gully just to the north of the summit.
Ascent gully Highest Sacajawea summit 10390'
The third option is to traverse to the far SW side of the basin and then work an ascent route. This route appeared to be the popular choice and I suspect that for those who can get access beyond the gate up Geertson Creek Road, this becomes the most direct summit route.
Option 1 - toughest, most challenging route
Option 2 - most direct, all 4's scramble
Option 3 - a little longer route
It may be possible to scramble from the Upper Miner Lakes to the saddle between Monument Peak and Peak 10160. It is also possible that you may encounter some Class 4 and above on the effort up to the saddle. Once on the saddle, climb over Peak 10160 and continue along the ridge to the highest summit.
This effort to the saddle is based on a photograph that I have seen and on some personal reconnaissance from a couple of different vantage points.
Your best choice may be to approach from Hamby and Geneva Lakes and gain the low saddle between Center Mountain and the South Summit. From here work your way north picking up the South Summit if you choose, and continuing on to the highest Sacajawea summit.
OptionsSouth Summit 10365'
The description in Lopez' book indicates a rappel off the highest summit. Otherwise, if you descend to roughly 9700' you will find terrain that will allow you to drop into the gully separating the two peaks. For the impatient, you may be able to descend only 100' or so and work more difficult terrain down to the saddle. From here, pick your best route to the South Summit. At a minimum, expect some Class 3 on any route.
South Summit 10365'
Just as you turn from Geertson Creek Road (5200') into the foothills there are two large circular parking/unloading areas. Although uneven and on a bit of a slope, your only competition for overnight space is likely to be some range cattle.
You might also choose to drive up the Mail Truck Road, pull off the road at an appropriate spot, and set up camp looking down on the Lemhi valley.
Miner Lakes campground administered by the USFS would be the closest.
No private property issues from the Idaho side and as always the state of Montana is the access czar.