Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gettin' Older...

Last Friday was my birthday, or more properly the anniversary of my birthday. Last year I decided working on this day was unacceptable so I took the day off from work. As I am wont to do, I slept in and planned the day in an impromptu manner. I knew the weather would be questionable but upon waking up I realized that a short hike in the foothills would be possible.

By 10:30am I left the house and headed up the Rocky Canyon Road into the eastern foothills hoping to get close enough to my goal, little known Aldape Peak. We haven't had much snow since New Years and I was astonished that I could drive the Escape all the way to Aldape Summit. I stopped a little bit short (not wanting to push my luck) but hiking the road proved it would have been no problem. Highly unusual conditions for mid-February!

I, perhaps foolishly, didn't even bring snowshoes but fortunately they weren't really needed. I hiked the main road to Aldape Summit and had intended to follow the Boise Ridge Road to the summit. However this road was gated as private property, which I didn't remember from my last hike in the area in 2003. I thus took a detour and hiked to the summit. From there I followed a jeep trail to the vicinity of the peak. Despite fairly deep snow, it held my weight pretty well in most places. It appeared this path had been snowmobiled awhile ago which is probably why it was sufficiently compacted for boot travel. With minimal struggle I made it to the summit in just over an hour, taking in partially obscured views of the surrounding area. What surprised me the most about this peak was that it had a great view of downtown Boise, something not possible in many parts of the foothills. I had a quick descent and got back to my car in just under two hours. On the way home, a passing storm dumped snow over east Boise and made for an interesting scene.

After getting home and cleaned up, around 5PM I headed to Cafe Ole to meet some coworkers for our usual "beer thirty". I stayed for about an hour and then met Katie at The Front Door in downtown Boise for a birthday dinner featuring quality beer and delicious pizza. The pizza was half pepperoni and half artichoke and impossible to stop eating! The beer list at The Front Door is extensive and unusual and provided me the rare of experience of not knowing what many of the beers were. Fortunately, I took advantage of the situation and expanded my beer vocabulary by trying the Kostritzer Black Lager, an IPA whose name escapes me, and the Bridgeport coffee porter.

In short, it was a great birthday and while I'm not excited about being older, I wouldn't mind every day being like this one!

Hike statistics: 4.17 miles, 1360' elevation gain, 2 hours

Aldape Peak Pictures!
GPS Track

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Craters of the Moon Snowshoe 2011

Last year, Matt and I went snowshoeing in the Craters of the Moon National Monument. That was a great trip however we only visited three of the numerous summits we initially planned to visit. Thus we put together a follow-up trip this winter to allow us to visit some of the other summits.

We headed out around 5:45am and were moving by 8:45am. We started up the highest peak on our itinerary, Sunset Cone, which sits just above the visitor center. Quickly we were atop this peak and began our slow march around the park, proceeding to climb Grassy Cone, Silent Cone, "Big Crater", Inferno Cone, Paisley Cone, and finishing on North Crater. In total, we visited 6 named summits plus another unnamed point.

The weather was much better than our last visit and we had great views of Blizzard Mountain, the Pioneer Foothills, the Lost River Range, and the Snake River Plain. Snowshoeing alongside the edge of the North Crater Aa Flow was pretty interesting as was observing the hollowed out snow caused by the warmth emanating from the volcanic vents underneath the ground. The Big Craters area was the most interesting area we visited and we spent some time checking out the impressive depressions all adjacent to each other.

We were surprised how few snowshoe tracks we found... only Paisley Cone had a trail established and North Crater had a few tracks. Despite my heavy use of sunblock (see the pictures), I still managed to get a little bit of sunburn. Oh well, it was still a great day!!

Trip statistics: 7.42 miles, 2276' elevation gain, 6:26h

Craters of the Moon 2011 Pictures!
GPS Track
Matt's Trip Report

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Peak 9220' Snowshoe

The weather during the week was looking great and Dan asked if I was interested in taking a day off of work to snowshoe up a peak. After a (brief) period of contemplation I agreed. The peak would be the unnamed Peak 9220' near Copper Mountain on the edge of the Sawtooths. We left Boise just after 5:30am on Thursday and began the drive to Banner Summit near Stanley. A little after 8am we were parked and getting ready. Despite few storms since New Years, there was plenty of snow in the area. Temperatures were somewhat cold (an estimated 10 degrees) but not unusual.

We got moving through the forest and after starting cold I started to warm up. The snow was softer that we expected but had a good base and wasn't too much work to move through. We were a little worried about crossing Bench Creek due to deep snow and the depth of water in the creek but we eventually encountered a good snow bridge that held our weight. From there we reached the base of the peak whose summit was surprisingly in clouds. Of course we could only continue on and hope things improved by the time we reached the top. The ridge was steep but pretty straightforward and we made good time up the over 2000' of elevation gain. We even had an old ski track for the part of the way which was a nice help.

Upon reaching the top, we were greeted with perfect weather (in the 20s), no wind, and an incredible view. From the top we took in the incredible panorama of Sawtooth, Boise, Salmon River, and White Cloud peaks. We really enjoyed our time on the peak and didn't head down until we started to get cold. Our descent down the ridge was pretty quick but crossing the flats was a slog due to fatigue. Upon reaching the vehicle we enjoyed a beer (although mine was partially frozen) and began the trip home.

This was a great winter peak and is highly recommended!

Trip statistics: 7.08 miles, 2527' elevation gain, 6:48h

Peak 9220' Pictures!
GPS Track
Dan's Trip Report

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Three Peak Winter Outing

Dan suggested snowshoeing to Johnson BM on a ridge overlooking the Camas Prairie. Having not hiked in this area it sounded pretty interesting so I was in. To add some elevation to the day, we also added a couple of other more minor objectives: Flat Top Butte and Don BM.

We left Boise a little after 6am and reached the trailhead for Johnson BM shortly after 8am. It was 13° which was actually considerably warmer than the nearby town of Fairfield! The snowshoe trip over the ridge was great as the sun rose and revealed the fog-shrouded Camas Prairie. Snow conditions were surprisingly good despite the snowpack being thinner than usual. After a couple of hours we reached the end of the ridge and Johnson BM. After taking some pictures (and Dan updating Facebook) we headed back to the vehicle.

After finishing the snowshoe trip of Johnson BM, we made a quick ascent of nearby Flat Top Butte just across the Gooding County line. This was a roughly 30 minute trip which was accelerated by the windy conditions that made us head back to the vehicle pretty quickly.

On the way back to Boise on US-20, we stopped to make a quick ascent of Don BM right by the highway. This was a surprisingly nice peak which a great view of the surrounding area. After quickly heading down we were able to finish the drive home - and arrive before 4pm. Not bad for visiting three peaks in winter!

Trip statistics (total): 8.26 miles, 1751' elevation gain, 5:09h

Johnson BM, Flat Top Butte, Don BM Pictures!
Johnson BM GPS Track
Flat Top Butte GPS Track
Don BM GPS Track
Dan's Trip Report