WCP-5 rising above Iron Basin.
White Cloud Peak #5 (WCP-5) is an imposing twin-summitted peak located in the northern portion of central Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains
. Most peaks in the White Clouds can be reached using routes that are Class 3 or easier, but WCP-5 offers up a more challenging and exposed Class 4 scramble for climbers looking for a bit more excitement. The route isn’t obvious from a distance, which is probably a major contributor to why the peak has likely only seen a handful of ascents. Other factors that discourage be climbers are the massive fields of scree and talus that act as a barrier to the southern slopes, and access challenges involved with approaches from most other directions.
Standing at a respectable elevation of 10,597’, WCP-5 is the highest in a string of four peaks that form a ridgeline along the north side of Iron Basin. WCP-6
is located just to the east of WCP-5, with WCP-4
and Watson Peak
anchoring the west end of the ridge. It is also the tallest of the four corner-post peaks that surround the very remote Swimm Lake, the others being WCP-2
, and WCP-4
. WCP-5 weighs in at #19 on the White Cloud Peak List
|WCP-5 Summit |
|West Ridge. |
|11ers from WCP-5
A challenging scramble is not the only reward earned by climbing WCP-5. The scenery along the approach is pretty hard to beat, and solitude beyond the trailhead is almost guaranteed. But the highlight of the trip is the views from the summit. WCP-5 provides a commanding vantage point to take in the views of the trail-less Swimm Lake basin to the northwest. The Sawtooths
are visible to the west, and to the south lies WCP-7
towering above Iron Basin. Perhaps the most impressive view is the string of peaks (Caulkens
and DO Lee
) that form a stunning backdrop to Bighorn Basin to the southeast. In short, the WCP-5 summit views are excellent in every direction.
WCP-5 above Swimm Lake.
Climbing the south ridge.
All of the most likely approach routes used to reach WCP-5 begin in the Northern White Clouds at the Slate Creek trailhead. To reach the trailhead, make your way to the scenic town of Stanley
, and then head northeast on Highway 75 for about 24 miles (or 34 miles southwest from Challis). Just after the highway crosses the Salmon River, look for a turnoff to the right (south) for Slate Creek. Follow this dirt road for 0.8 miles until you reach a fork. Take the left branch and follow the Slate Creek Road (FS666) until it ends at around 7 miles from the highway. The trailhead is accessible by passenger cars.
At the trailhead you’ll find the Slate Creek Hot Springs to soak your feet. There are also some old mine buildings nearby that you should stay away from, as well as large mounds of silty mine tailings.
Start at the Slate Creek trailhead, and follow the infrequently maintained trail past Ocalkens Lake, through the Iron Basin saddle, and then scramble up the South Face route. The total round trip hike is about 11 miles and 3700 feet cumulative elevation gain
. Only the last three-quarters of a mile to the summit and 1100’ of elevation gain take you off-trail.
Swimm Lake Sunrise. WCP-5 above Iron Basin.
It is possible to set up camp at the Slate Creek trailhead, but there aren't many attractive spots to pitch a tent. Also, the sulfur smell and mine building might diminish the experience a bit. There are a few unimproved camping areas along Slate Creek Road that are better options. The nearest improved camping is at the Holman Creek Campground near the Salmon River, just off Highway 75. Lodging is also available down the road in Stanley. If you prefer to backpack in closer to WCP-5, great campsites can be made at Ocalkens Lake or Iron Basin (bring extra water).
Below are some good staring points for finding current conditions in the area:
When to Climb
The summer climbing season in the White Clouds typically runs from July until the snow flies in October. A visit earlier in the year may be feasible, but would require crossing a couple streams swollen by snow run off, and the approach could be longer depending on spring road conditions leading to the Slate Creek trailhead. A winter ascent would be very challenging due to the long approach.
No permits, parking passes, or any other kind or red tape to worry about. Just tread lightly and respect the fragile nature of the local ecosystem. Also steer clear of the mine buildings at the Slate Creek trailhead, they may not be structurally sound and are on private property.
Morning Pano from Swimm Lake.