Sawtooth Traverse in a Day

Sawtooth Traverse in a Day

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 44.22257°N / 115.00832°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 23, 2012
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Summer

The What

Grand Traverse Start
I wanted to see the entire Sawtooth Range, but I only had a few days in Idaho. So I resolved to run from the Iron Creek trailhead in the north to Pettit Lake in the south. The distance according to National Geographic TOPO Software was around 50 miles with 12k of vertical gain. However in my experience both with GPSs and time on foot TOPO is a bit conservative. I estimate it was closer to 60 miles.

I had been training for a 100 mile ultra-marathon so I was in the appropriate fitness for such an endeavor. I was drawn the the remoteness and commitment of the undertaking However I underestimated the difficulty of the terrain and how much time it would take.

In all around 22 hours worth of constant movement.

Am I just slow? Nah, I've ran 50 mile ultra-marathons with more vertical gain than that in less than half the time.

The Journey

I started from the Iron Creek TH at 0500 and started running up towards Sawtooth Lake in the beginning hours of daylight.
Baron Creek Falls
In an hour or so I made it to the beauty that is Sawtooth Lake. I marveled at the persistence and hardness of the snow up there. In Colorado, the snow year had been so lame that few peaks had any snow by this time of year.

I was moving alright at this time, but pushing down into the South Baron Creek drainage I ran into lots and lots of overgrowth that slowed my progress to a crawl.
Sawtooth Overgrowth

After exiting the overgrown drainage I moved at a better pace up to Baron Lakes, but still not at a pace I would have prefered. Too much walking and gawking, but not enough running if I wanted to finish before the middle of the night.
Sawtooth Lake

I made my way up to Cramer Lakes after talking with a couple backpackers about what I was doing. One girl commented that she would have been interested in the idea of an entire traverse in a day, except for the whole running out of food thing and not enough clothes thing. We will get to that later though. I bummed some bug spray from some dude from California around the upper Cramer Lake.
Cramer Lake

I made an executive decision to turn left towards Edna Lake instead of towards the Payette River. I had left my maps on some rock earlier while I was SteriPen'ing some water and I was unsure of where I needed to go upon leaving the Hidden Lake valley. Luckily I ran into a couple backpackers who let me take a gander and score some pictures of their maps.

Around this time my GPS watch was telling me that I had ran 38 miles, which should have been only 32. The day was winding down though and I was beginning to worry about finishing in daylight or even in a decent time.

Originally I was thinking I would finish in 10-14 hours. But as I climbed up the pass between Toxaway Lake and the Alice Lake basin at around 7pm I thru the 14 hour estimate out the window. I had roughly 10 miles to just get back to the trail head, and then another 5-1 million miles to get back to the cabin my family was staying at.
Twin Lakes Sunset

Bam its dark!

I passed by Twin Lakes at turned on my headlamp. Now for the most part I don't think that the Sawtooth Wilderness Area trails were that technical. The rocks were for the most part not super big, or rough. Nor were the trails steep at all, frequently I cursed the broad, easy sloping switchbacks that seemed groomed specifically for horses. Not for the mountain runner used to grinding up 14ers.

However the trail from Alice Lake to Pettit Lake was rough! Also it had a lot of water crossings which in my calorically deprived and exhausted state made for a tough time. I walked pretty much the entire way even though it was downhill.

Seeing the light of my headlamp shine off the eyes of the deer(?) was a bit unnerving too. The most unnerving part was practically running into a very large porcupine.

Sometime around 2330 I finally arrived at the Pettit Lake TH. Hey only 5(?) miles left! That is only an hour left of running! Unfortnately I was too tired, hungry, cold and worn out to really run much more. The next 5 or so miles would take around 3 hours to complete.

I finally pushed to the family cabin around 3am after a long, cold slog through the valley which was much colder than the mountains. I kinda collapsed into a couch and promptely fell asleep.


I was pretty wiped from the whole ordeal. I should have brought more food and more clothes. Once I got into the Stanley Basin and out of the mountains I got much colder. Probably the only thing that prevented me from getting into a much more serious position was the space blanket that I had. A pair of tights would have made a world of difference. A few more gels and maybe another PB&J too. What I was really craving was some awesome ramen noodles.

Feet were pretty torn up from the constant creek crossings, I actually had a few large pieces of dirt embedded into my toes. It was gross. Pretty sore too.

Gear used

Salomon Slab 5- should have just used the water bottles in the chest pockets and not the bladder. There is water everywhere, no need to bring much.
La Sportiva Vertical K. Great minimalist shoe for long runs, but a rock plate would be bomber. Especially for more technical runs.
Brooks Shorts
Mountain Hardware T
Golite Long sleeve shirt
Golite rain jacket
Some Nike gloves and other BS.

Bunch of GU and Stinger Energy bars.
SteriPen Adventurer. Awesome, I love it.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-2 of 2

awilsondc - Dec 8, 2012 12:25 pm - Voted 10/10

Long Day...

60 miles in 1 day is pretty insane. My longest day this year was about 1/3 of what you did in 10+ hours and the last 2 hours were miserable for me. I can't imagine the level of exhaustion you felt. Looks like you had a good trip though! Thanks for sharing!


crussellbowden - Aug 20, 2014 2:16 am - Hasn't voted

sounds rough

Great trip report! Really made me want to check out the entirety of the range, not just a couple of peaks. I might want to take my time a little more though...

Viewing: 1-2 of 2



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