Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Braxon Peak Climb

Dan and I decided to climb a peak in the Sawtooths. We decided on Braxon Peak, which noted author Tom Lopez states has the "best 360 degree view in Idaho". Plus it is accessed from Redfish Lake Creek, an area neither of us had visited before.

We were scheduled to meet at 6am, however Dan missed his alarm and we didn't get going until 6:45am. We drove up in Dan's new Chevy Equinox, a nice ride which included the XM Radio for our entertainment. On the way to Redfish Lake, Dan informed me that he recently suffered a broken rib playing basketball and was on painkillers. I was surprised to hear this and my concern about this news would later be validated!

We caught the Redfish Lake shuttle just after 9:30am. The boat ride across the lake was enjoyable with incredible scenery, however we were both surprised by the casual nature of the operation - no life jackets nor any other bureaucracy required! We paid our money and were immediately taken on the boat. After taking a few pictures on the shuttle, we were on the trail just before 10am. After a brisk hike up the trail, we followed John's instructions and started hiking uphill just before a small footbridge. From here the going got much steeper and eventually required navigating around various cliffs and other obstacles. As we got higher, Dan was feeling worse, getting dizzy from the exertion. We decided we would evaluate whether to continue at the lake just above 8900' elevation.

After some work we reached the lake at 8900'. We ended up deciding that Dan would stay at the lake while I finished the climb up Braxon Peak. My goal was to climb and descend the final 1400' in 2 hours. I headed uphill at a pretty brisk pace but ultimately was slowed by the terrain beneath the summit ridge. After two failed attempts over class 4 terrain, I finally found a class 3 route up to the summit ridge. From there it was a steep but straightforward climb to the summit. The views from the summit matched Tom Lopez's description - a complete panorama of Sawtooth peaks that was actually somewhat overwhelming to take in! Because of my compressed time line, I didn't spend too long on the summit - I caught my breath, rehydrated, took a few pictures, signed the register, and was soon heading down. The terrain, while a little loose on the ascent, provided the perfect terrain for descent and I was able to make pretty good time back to the lake basin where Dan was waiting. In the end I was 30 minutes late which made up for Dan missing his alarm in the morning!

Dan had a leisurely time at the lake, relaxing and even taking a brief swim. Once we met up again, we descended the boulder-strewn and cliffy terrain back to the trail. There was actually a good deal of route-finding required to get back down! Once on the trail, we moved briskly to attempt to catch the earliest possible shuttle back to our car. Arriving at the dock at 6:10pm, we ended up having to wait until 7pm for a shuttle to arrive. The return shuttle was totally full (12 people on the boat and 3 others left at the dock) and the driver had concerns that we were going to run out of gas. However we did make it back to the vehicle, where we enjoyed Alaskan Ambers (courtesy of Dan) before beginning the drive back to Boise.

The drive to Boise was highlighted by XM Radio surfing, including various comedy shows, grunge, hair metal, and freestyle rap. Before we knew it we were back in town and sadly forced to get ready to go to work on Monday...

Trip statistics: 8.55 miles, 4129' elevation gain, 8:16h

Braxon Peak Pictures!
GPS Track

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mount Idaho Climb

On September 2, 2001, I climbed Hyndman Peak. Of Idaho's nine 12000'+ peaks, this was the first whose summit I reached. Last week, I climbed Lost River Mountain, which was number 8. I had a plan to climb my final "twelver" - Mount Idaho - with some people from Rupert this past Friday but it turned out that they couldn't make it. Ultimately I decided that instead of rescheduling I'd rather take Friday off and finish the quest by making a solo ascent of the peak.

After leaving Boise around 3:30am, I arrived at the trailhead around 7am. Surprisingly, three other vehicles were there too - a rarity for a somewhat obscure peak. From the trailhead I had a brisk hike up the forested creek bottom of Elkhorn Creek. After reaching treeline I was greeted with my first views of the peak and a steep climb of mostly good rock to the summit ridge. The summit ridge also yielded the day's first incredible views of the surrounding county - including Borah Peak, the highest peak in Idaho.

The summit ridge is blocked by three towers which add some climbing and route-finding to the ascent. For the most part, a trail identifies the easiest way around these obstacles but finding the trail sometimes took effort. Once to the base of the face, the route climbs a mixture of solid rock and usually good talus to the summit. It was quite a bit of effort to finish the climb, but ultimately I reached the summit in just over 5 hours! The view was incredible and the conditions were perfect! I spent about 45 minutes atop the peak relaxing, taking in the views, and sending a few text messages.

During the entire climb I was expecting to run into others due to having seen the vehicles at the trailhead. However upon leaving the summit I still had seen no one. I descended a loose talus line from the summit, a route that got pretty steep and forced me to cross a few patches of steep, rotten snow. Upon getting back to the base of the face, I ran into the group of seven that were just beginning the ascent of the face. Apparently I passed them somewhere... maybe in the forest? We chatted a bit and then headed our separate ways. Later I saw them atop the peak and eventually I found out five of them made the summit. From the base of the face the descent involved a mixture of solid rock, loose rock, and kind-of-loose rock on increasingly tired legs and aching feet. Once my dogs are barking my hiking pace slows dramatically and it took me quite a while to descend from the basin to the vehicle. Needless to say, ten hours later I was very happy to be back to the car!

Trip statistics: 7.52 miles, 10:05h, 5369' elevation gain

Mount Idaho Pictures!
GPS Track

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lost River Mountain Climb

I joined Matt Durrant and Mike Fox for a climb of Lost River Mountain, Idaho's 6th highest peak. Matt and I left Boise a little after 6pm on Friday and after stopping for dinner at Wendy's in Mountain Home, we headed over to the Joe T. Fallini campground to meet Mike. We got there just before 10pm and shot the breeze for a bit before going to bed. After a fitful sleep in the Escape, I (along with Matt & Mike who slept outside) was up early and ready to go a little bit after 6am. We had a quick drive over to the peak which was highlighted by an abnormally high amount of water in the irrigation canal on Upper Cedar Creek Rd. After questioning the sanity of the endeavor, I drove the Escape through the approximately 2' of water without incident. It was easily the deepest water crossing I've attempted in a vehicle!

We got going just before 7am and made great time up the open slopes to the lower treeline, through the trees, and to the upper treeline. From there we caught a surprisingly good trail into the famed Super Gully which only had about 500' of snow left. We had a surprisingly easy time reaching the base of the snow on pretty good talus. The snow was soft but we kicked steps and made good time up the steep terrain. Once above the snow, we ascended approximately 200' of some of the worst talus in Idaho. Gradually the rock improved and soon we were on the ridge leading to the false summit. From the false summit, it is a fun ridge walk over the summit.

We enjoyed perfect weather and incredible views atop the peak, spending approximately 45 minutes relaxing and naming neighboring peaks. On the descent, we enjoyed some great talus skiing and made it down the softer snow without any problems. From the bottom of the snow, it was mostly a hike down to the vehicle.

After dropping Mike off at the campground, Matt and I embarked on the long drive back to Boise, getting back home that evening.

Trip statistics: 4.46 miles, 4854' elevation gain, 8:33h

Lost River Mountain Pictures!
GPS Track

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mt. Rose Hike

As part of our Reno trip, I managed to squeeze in a hike of Mt. Rose, a county highpoint and a peak that dominates the Reno skyline. I left the hotel just after 6am on Independence Day and was on the trail before 7am. Reno was having daytime highs in the 90s so I was surprised to find the morning temperature at the trailhead to be in the 30s - I wasn't dressed for that level of chill!

Once moving and into the sun, the temperature was no longer an issue. I moved quickly up the trail which still had quite a bit of snow on it. I didn't see a single person until halfway to the peak, where I found myself behind at least a dozen hikers, most of whom appeared to be Russian. After getting around that group, I sped up to the summit and was able to peaceably enjoy the incredible views of Reno and Lake Tahoe from the top! After enjoying the summit for a little while I headed over to nearby Church Peak, which featured very similar views to its bigger neighbor.

On the way back to the trailhead I passed what could only be described as a horde of people either climbing the peak or just hiking the trail. There must have been several dozen at least, and quite a few families. I made it back to the hotel around noon, in perfect time for lunch and the rest of our day of sightseeing and bowling!

Trip statistics: 13 miles, 2700' elevation gain, 4:40h

Mt. Rose Pictures!

PS: I forgot to bring my watch on the hike (despite packing it) so no detailed trip data this time!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Reno Vacation!

In the spirit of last year's Las Vegas Trip, we decided to use the Independence Day holiday for a short vacation. I had Friday off so I used the day to clean up around the house and try out the new pizza place near our house. The pizza place passed muster and I also managed to get most of the cleaning done. I picked Katie up from work just after 5pm and we were in Reno for dinner. While renting a car I again got upsold to a Mustang... maybe Katie should take care of those duties in the future?

We had a nice patio dinner at the Silver Peak and both enjoyed our meals and brews! That part of downtown Reno had live music going on by the river - it was a great place to spend an evening. After dinner, we checked out downtown Reno a little bit then headed over to the Grand Sierra, our chosen hotel/resort. For whatever reason we got a room upgrade (the "summit") which was on the 20th floor and quite nice. We were also pretty impressed with the resort - lots of restaurants, a bowling alley, a movie theater, a driving range, a go-kart track, a bungee jump, and stores in addition to the usual gaming accoutrements. Katie was happy that the hotel was dog-friendly, so we got to see lots of pups, including a little dachshund puppy & an Old English Sheepdog! We also happened to be there the same weekend as the West Coast Scrabble Championship which enabled us to see ballrooms of people playing Scrabble for the first time.

Saturday we had a nice day checking out the cities of Reno and Carson City. Mostly we just did touristy stuff, like checking out the various historic sites and what-not. We had a couple of nice meals at the Island Cheeseburger place in Reno and Briscola at our hotel. Island Cheeseburger actually had an incredible beer selection which I wasn't expecting. We really enjoyed our driving tour of both places!

On Sunday I got up early to hike Mt. Rose just outside of Reno, while Katie took a walk around the casino & checked out the pool. After I returned from this nice hike, we had lunch at the Lodge Buffet (Katie's first casino buffet) then headed down to Lake Tahoe to see that area. We were both blown away by the scenery of the lake and also how crowded it was! Lake Tahoe has a huge fireworks show on the 4th and we were right in the middle of it - think Spring Break atmosphere! We drove most of the loop road, stopping at various points to check things out. On the way home we drove by Squaw Valley and up to Truckee, CA - which was yet another scenic drive.

On Monday I picked up my sports bet winnings (I won both bets on Rafael Nadal and the BC Lions), which was the only bright spot amongst our gambling adventures. We had a nice lunch at Deli Towne USA, which may be the best gas station cuisine we've had yet. From there we took in a Reno Aces game at their stadium near downtown. The game started well for Reno but eventually the Sacramento Rivercats took control and won the game. It was a day game and we managed to get some of the few (and popular!) seats that were shaded the whole time. Despite being in the shade, we still managed to get a little bit pink! After the game, we hit the Trader Joe's (so Katie could bring back a few items) and had dinner at BJ's. From there, it was back to the airport, ultimately Boise, and work the next day.

Reno Pictures!