Sunday, August 19, 2018

Backpacking the Sawtooths

I feel like I've been hiking a lot this summer. Between early season charges up Mts Wire/Grandeur some memorable days hiking up the coast from the Alsek to Yakutat, the DuMor pack raft trip, and post-snow steep hikes in the Wasatch I've probably done more hiking than running or riding.  And even though the pack rafts are a revolution in hiking to rivers, it's still on the heavy side, so when Ash suggested a quick "fastpack" (New School for "backpack") in the Sawtooths sans any other gear I was pretty keen.  And the Sawtooths are quite appealing for multi-day trips; they are small enough to be doable for 4 days, but most of the potential loops are just far enough that doing them as an unsupported run is a bit daunting, but driving the upper Salmon valley and ogling at that jaggedy horizon makes diving into the heart of them quite appealing.  I did get a taste of it last summer when Ash and I did one of her old-time favorites as a run - the 20 mile Alice/Toxaway/Pettit lake loop - and it was definitely enough to pique my interest.  So when Ash organized a mid-August 80th birthday party for her dad in Ketchum:
Ash with Uncle Jim (left) and Big Al 
 everything came together well for us to do a bit of pre-function adventuring.

Looking at a map, the most obvious loop to "get into the meat" (Ash's favorite mountain term) is the terrain to the east of Redfish lake, and this also offered up a handful of scramble-up peaks en route.  So we marched off from the summertime melee at the Redfish lake lodge and.....within a mile missed our first turn and carried on up Fishhook creek instead of going up the adjacent ridge, which was soon rectified by a steep bushwack up to the ridge that heads up towards Mt Williams and the Williams Yurt.  Near the latter we ditched our packs and blasted up Mt Thompson, which is (by a tiny bit) the highest peak in the Sawtooths.
Thompson is the block in the distance.  
Some good packless scrambling by a coupla beautiful lakes and a sawtoothy ridgeline
Between Mts Thompson and Williams is a high pass, and the most common route is to circle around the back (north) side of Thompson and then up the southwest side.  We hadn't seen anyone, until we saw these folks, who decided to do a short cut:

One of the two women in the middle of the slope is trying to talk the other into continuing on up.  It wasn't super steep and as the pic indicates there's a pretty good runout, but the combination of the potential for a good ride and the bumbly scree fest above just to "save time" seemed weird, and they were so sketched and blown by the time we saw them on our way back down that I doubt they made it.  I'm not sure why people head out for a day in the mountains and then try to figure out ways to shortcut their routes?

The top was as glorious as expected:

Mt Williams.  A few years ago a few of us skied out of the Williams yurt and skied some of those runs off the mid-mountain flank down to the lake.  Glorious skiing....when it's stable.  
We ended the day at Marshall Lake:

The other side of Williams peak, also home to great skiing
where Ash proudly became a new member of the Team Tyvek:
Team Dork?
The next day we saw this Salt Laker trotting down the trail:

And we correctly guessed that he was one of those "every monthers" (I'm sure they have a better name for it); he's on his 46th consecutive ski month.  He had run up to Goat Lake the day prior and seen a skiable line.  Later I saw the "line" and it was....a bit lean and I guessed it to be about 400 vertical, but good on him for an excuse for consistent adventures!

The Joey factor had remained pretty low so far, but then we got to Sawtooth Lake, which is not only ridiculously beautiful, is also only 5 miles from a trailhead (a different one than we started at) so we found our fellow recreators en masse:
But we ditched our packs and hiked up the adjacent Alpine Peak
that again offered up some nice views from on high:
We decided to leave our packs for half a day and do a trail run:
 to Observation Peak, which looms high above the Payette drainage, then re-loaded and headed down into the more-remote Baron Creek drainage, leaving our day hikers behind.
We dropped deeply into the Baron Creek drainage  via the North Fork and camped:
We are so cool!  BTW - it's really hard to find a suite that's smaller than an XL....that said, this suit was only $7...and seems to be better than my DuMor suit.  
before turning up the main fork on long grind that got more and more dramatic:

pointing our her route for the next trip!

 towards the sublime Baron Lakes
practicing my Jesus walking
I gave up; it was too refreshing
And up and over Baron Pass
Baron Lakes

some fun scrambling at the pass
And down the drainage past the Elephant's Perch to finish at Redfish Lake and a zippy boat ride back to the wilds of the Redfish resort. 

As Ash pointed out, the Sawtooths are every bit as rugged and beautiful as the Tetons, but even though they are popular, the crowds are a tiny fraction of the big national park to the east. 

The last 10 or so years has seen a lot of the outdoor industry vendors lightening up and compacting their products to the point where by the end - when we were about out of food - we were basically carrying the equivalent of a daily ski pack.  It lends itself to far more energetic hiking, and eliminates the need for burly boots or extra shoes.  That said, some old schoolers insist on slogging around with way too much shit:
Note the shoes that he should be wearing....he's carrying.  
For reference, here's our pretty modest loop; probably 50 mi?

We spent the next coupla days mountain biking; sometimes riding:
and sometimes not:

Boundary Creek is a good addition to "The Places I like to carry my bike"  
When we got to Ketchum and connected with the Patterson Clan we found out that young Sam Patterson - all of 4'11" and 80 pounds of blue steel - was true mountain kid, and he was super keen to hike up 12,000 foot Hyndman Peak.  I was pretty reluctant to take anyone's kid out without their parents (we can barely be trusted to dog sit), but when we went out for a "practice" hike - 8 miles with a couple-thousand feet of vert - he not only raged both up and down the trail but did so barefoot!  So he was worthy of a bigger outing.  So off we went.
Ash with her little shadow.

Getting Sam up high, where he belongs!
 The summit will have to wait for another day, but the Team Stoke was high regardless

Thanks to Sam for being a hard charging pard, and of course thanks to Ash for putting together a great party for Big Al and the rest of the family and for thinking up yet another fun adventure.  

1 comment:

  1. Tom, excuse my ignorance, but what is the purpose of the white full body straightjacket suits? weather/cold protection?