The Selway is nearly the Holy Grail of river trips; during the spring runoff (the only time it's typically raftable) only 62 private permits are issued to the lucky few of the thousands who sign up for the annual lottery, and invariably every year some of those trips get cancelled because the flow comes up too high during that window (and it's notorious for high water carnage, so canceling is sometimes the wise move). But the permit season ends July 31, and if you have a craft that floats higher than a raft (ie a ducky, packraft, or small raft) you can sneak onto the river before the flow plunges to near-zero. This past winter's snowpack was unusually good in those parts, so the river's been flowing about 30% higher than it typically does this time of year, so the window continued to remain open.
This packrafting trip was a little outside the packrafting norm, because it's very well known that one can drive to the Selway put in (in fact, most people probably don't even know that you can hike into the put in!) so on one hand the excellent opportunity that packrafts represent to be able to carry our vessels was somewhat moot, but we felt like it'd be fun to tromp up, over, and through the mountains first before heading down the river. And if that weren't enough, the trail that was the most logical didn't really get up high enough into the Bitterroots - just up one valley to a pass then down another valley - so we decided to head straight up into the mountains and then stay above alpine, moving cross country for a few miles before dropping down the pass. Seemed like a good idea at the time, and it turned out to indeed be a good idea.
Thus Jim, Paul, Jim's friend pro skier/firefighter Kalen Thorien and I found ourselves at a trailhead (with a shuttle driver who thought we were nuts...or maybe stupid.....the line is very thin) ready to grind up nearly 4000 feet to the top of 10,000 foot Trapper Peak with a week's worth of food and our boats....and feeling very far from paddleable water.
But we cheerily marched upwards, and soon enough got the excellent bird's eye view of the mighty Bitterroots:
I realized that adding 40 or 50 pounds to legs that are accustomed to 160 pounds manifested itself in a far slower pace than trail running, but ever-so steadily we made it to the top:
|the summit looms|
The Google had indicated that it was pretty straightforward ridge and basin-running west off Trapper Peak, but what The Google hasn't quite perfected is showing the sizes of the rocks in the talus fields.
It was pretty challenging going, and memories of punching a bone-deep hole in my shin by a rock flipping up in the Sierras on similar terrain some years ago kept me moving pretty carefully.
|We are heading for that little col in the upper left corner of the pic|
|We used our throw bags to ease our way down a steep slab|
we were in no hurry, the weather was fine, and we made it to a beautiful lake well before the sun set.
|pretty classic mountain lake|
|I drank from the stream in the background before taking a few steps and seeing this goat/sheep scat; further testing of my gut!|
|Paul very pleased with his $6, 3 oz shelter that worked quite well, as long as it wasn't too windy|
|Huckleberries kept us fueled on the fly|
|this was one big doggie (wolf) in the middle of nowhere!|
|The energy bar: the new standard for size referencing|
|bridge out; should we give it a go?|
|Jim testing his luck on the damaged bridge. |
We were hoping to possibly be able to paddle this "major" trib, but it was a trickle
|interesting that nearly 15% of the wilderness designated in the '64 Wilderness Act was contained in this one Wilderness|
We were surprised to see the famously-clear Selway running dark:
|The blending of clear White Cap creek and the main stem|
Kalen got hit by a rock dislodged on the hillside by the rain:
|that's a real rock!|
But of course the thunderstorm blew itself out and the next morning we were drying out and ready to put on. Our timing seemed perfect; the local rangers had closed the river due to fires downstream, but had taken down the sign earlier the day that we had arrived:
but Earl did tell us that the fire we knew had been going near the takeout was still in full force and the possibility existed that our shuttle driver would not be able to get in to the takeout. Ah well, not much to do besides hop in the boats and merrily bob downstream.
|ready to belay the 5-pound boat down!|
|That "toenail polish" on her left foot is sub-nail blood....|
I feel pretty confident now that boat can run class 5 stuff; at least, lower-volume class 5 (driving home along the North Fork Payette it was difficult to imagine the Yak shredding the meat of that).
|A typical awesome Selway beach camp|
|that black dot is the swimming bear blasting out of the river after spotting me|
Moose Creek supplies the infamous "Moose Juice" that comes in and doubles the flow as the Selway makes an abrupt turn to the west, which not only funnels the Pacific storms coming in creating an even deeper green Northwest feel:
|They don't grow cedars like this in Utah!|
|Jim in the heart of the gorge|
|Paul with his pack frame "roo bar"|
Our last camp was appropriately at "Jim's Creek"; a fitting end to Jim's cool idea. We moseyed on down the final morning not knowing if the car would be there, sniffing as we went for the smell of smoke. But sure enough it seemed the rain from two days' prior had snuffed out most of the fire and sure enough our car was ready for us at the Meadow Creek takeout. After a final dip in the cleansing waters of the mighty Selway we headed for home, dropping Kalen off at her parents' place in McCall, where we were keen to be privy to her showing her dad her tattooed sleeve that he hadn't yet seen! But alas, he was out, and the remaining three of us headed for home. I had to get back to help Ash feast on the August harvest!
Thanks again to Jim for coming up with a great idea and to him, Paul and Kalen for being most excellent adventure pards on a stellar trip.
here are a slew of pretty remarkably good photos by Jim: