I decided to do a climb of Observation Peak in the Sawtooths without using any trails. The ridge traverse linked up Points 8059, 8703, 8916, 8688, and Observation Peak in a giant loop that provided some steep and interesting terrain, and some truely unique views. My only concern was water, and by the time I was back to the valley, I was pretty thirsty on a warm September day. This climb provided tons of ups and downs over mostly Class 2-3 terrain, with nothing too extreme and the route finding was fairly straight forward on the connecting ridges.
From the Grandjean hikers parking area I ascended the steep south ridge just above the corrals. This long ascent was never too extreme, but it had some giant drop offs near the top and it was a healthy 2850 feet of elevation gain in just 1.2 miles. I was pretty toasty by the time I reached Point 8059 even though it was a cool Fall morning. From here I descended slightly into a small meadow before climbing up to Point 8703. Once on top of this section of the ridge I had great views of the west side of McGown, Regan, and Observation Peak.
From Point 8703 I followed a terrific ridgeline with amazing views of rocky ridges in the hidden north section of the Sawtooths. Before reaching Point 8916 I had to climb steeply down a rocky ridge before ascending 8916. In this section the traversing was the most steep and rocky, but it was never beyond Class 3. I descended the east ridge of 8916 down to the upper reaches of Elk Creek where I expected to find the pack trail. No such luck in this this prominent saddle as I figured the terrain was so open, rough, and seldom used that the trail marked on the USGS was no where to be seen. No worries though as I figured it went with the nature of my outing today: trailless.
I climbed to the saddle south of Point 9028 when I spied a great rock formation that I had only seen once- Hanson Spire. This sheer fin of rock is impressive when viewed from the south and isn't visible from any road or even trail. After taking some pictures, I climbed the ridge toward Point 8689. This section of the ridge traverse was pretty easy and straight forward. Further south on the ridge is a nice meadow before reaching Observation Peak. Atop Observation I observed a small dust devil. I found this a bit odd as there was no other wind to speak of all day. The early afternoon light on the Monte Verita ridge did not make for the best photos- something I've noticed before. The peaks in that area have some dark rock and they seem to hide out when viewed from this direction.
The summit of Observation had a nice new ammo box and register with tons of signatures. I noticed that a few younger people had made it up. As the only Sawtooth peak with a trail, it didn't surprise me. This peak does make for a nice hike up the trail for all. I enjoyed the views and descended the southwest ridge to Silver Creek. I made it back to Grandjean fairly thirsty and the complete traverse took me 8 hours at a fairly leisurely pace. It was a great, warm Fall day in the mountains and I enjoyed the relatively short 1.5 hours drive back to my house.
13.3 miles and 6133 feet gain (roundtrip)
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