Monday, July 28, 2014

Idaho: Handwerk Peak and Goat Mountain

Summit of Handwerk Peak
Mike and I have tried to make plans to climb Goat Mountain in Idaho for the past few years with nothing ever materializing.  This year we decided to get serious.  Usually one week each summer I find my way back to Idaho to get out on some peaks with my old climbing buddies.  This week I was lucky enough to have my Dad, Mark come over from Oregon and my two friends Mike and Loren from Idaho meet up with me for a few nights.  With a climb of Goat Mountain being over 5,000ft gain and 14 miles round trip it is quite a commitment. I thought that sounded like a lot of work for a guy like me to do in a day so we decided to backpack in about four miles and set up a base camp.
This trip starts at the North Fork Hyndman Creek TH.  Many Idahoans are familiar with this area since this TH is next to the Hyndman TH.  Don’t be mistaken and take the wrong trail, the North Fork Trail is at the end of the dirt road. 
Our plan was to pack into a camping area about four miles in, set up camp and hike Handwerk Peak on the first day.  The next day would be the climb of Goat Mountain (primary objective), then the last day was to hike out or try climbing the Spitzl if there was any juice left.  Me, Mike and my Dad headed in mid-morning on Wednesday.  Loren would be joining us later that evening since he had work obligations. 
Handwerk Peak
From what I can gather the North Fork Hyndman Creek Trail is primarily used for accessing Pioneer Cabin.  This was an old ski cabin built years ago that many locals hike to for a day trip.  I have been up there two other times previously, so this was not on the agenda this time.  Just a note, if you do plan to go up there an early spring hike is fun from either the Corral Creek side or the Hyndman Creek side. 
Day 1 – Handwerk Peak
The trail is well maintained and the Ketchum Ranger District is pretty good about keeping the trail conditions up to date on their website.  The first 2.8 miles is pretty mild.  The gain is not too bad, probably around 1,000ft so with a full pack on it wasn’t too bad.  There is a trail split here where switchbacks soon start for the trail to Pioneer Cabin or a trail to the east that heads out into the open meadow towards Handwerk.  The trail fades out since not too many people use it, and that is kind of what this group likes.  We needed to find a camp site that was flat, had water and Loren could find.  There are some nice rock slabs that raise a few hundred feet and are still visible from the trail split; this is the area we chose to camp.  Originally we wanted to camp in the basin below Goat, but I thought that would have been much more difficult for Loren to find late in the evening. 
Mark, Mike and Nick on Handwerk
My pack was overly heavy for two nights; Mike and I guessed it was around 50 pounds.  That beer was weighing me down, but it would be a blessing over the next two evenings.  I was happy we found a place without too much hard work.  We set up our camp and put a flag out for Loren to see in case we were still up on Handwerk when he arrived.
Our camp site wasn’t too far from the base of Handwerk peak.  There were a few small creek crossings, but we just followed the tree line around the east so there was no bushwhacking at all.  For those of you that haven’t climbed this mountain you are in for a real treat.  I would say this is the most unique mountain in the Pioneer Range.  It’s not often you find a sand dune with a few rocks here and there deep in the Idaho Mountains.  Be ready for hiking on loose sand for a long, long time.  From camp the summit rose about 2,000ft in about 1.25miles.  This took us an incredible amount of time because of the sand.  I spent some time checking out the geology of the mountain as well.  There was some magnetite and malachite that kept catching my eye as I was hiking.  As we reached the false summit the wind picked up but thankfully the sand ended.  The top of the mountain seemed to mainly be a slate rock which is interesting in itself. 
Some Old Friends
I would guess the wind was blowing in the upper 30’s (mph), with a couple gusts that knocked over the smaller guys.  Lucky for me I have a solid base and I just walked up the ridge.  I’m used to the awful Colorado winds on the high peaks I guess.  Maybe a half hour later we were all on the summit.  I was dragging ass, probably from the backpack in.  Either way I was glad to finally be on top.  The views were pretty clear and we had the summit to ourselves…man I love Idaho!
We did a little route recon for Goat and I was shocked at how far back it looked.  It wasn’t that bad, I think the hike had just kicked my butt a little extra today.  I want to say it was around 5pm when we were on the summit so we decided to start heading down since we thought Loren would get there around 7pm or so.  The beautiful thing on all our minds besides the beer in the creek was that soft sand we would be skiing down virtually back to camp.  It was a dusty, but sweet descent.  In no time at all we were back at camp enjoying some nicely chilled Idaho craft beers by the creek.
After a nice cool down by the creek we made our way out to a point on the rock where we would be able to see Loren on approach.  We sat out there probably about an hour till I saw a light flash by the far tree line.  We flashed him back and it seemed like he was up to camp in no time at all.  As I expected he greeted us with more beer, I guess he knows this crew pretty well…hahaha.  We all hung out for a while and enjoyed the stars.  I love coming to Idaho where you can see the Milky Way.  That is hard to find in the light polluted Denver area.
Entering Goat  Mountain Basin
Day 2 – Goat Mountain
It was nice sleeping in for a second day after the drive from Colorado.  We were in no hurry to get out since the weather was supposed to be near perfect and we were half way up the mountain.  Somewhere around 9am we started making our way into the basin below Goat Mountain.
Idaho is called the Gem State, and I think this was one of those gems.  This area is an amazing glacially carved valley.  If you head this way plan to camp in the upper valley, you just have to make it up about 800 more feet of elevation from where our camp was.  The valley opened wide and it was like something from the Sound of Music, a wild array of flowers, waterfalls and lush green grass that seemed to go on forever. 
After making our way to the end of the valley we finally reached some rock.  It is easy to spot a route around a very large rock face and a ramp leading to the first summit of Goat.  We followed the grass and slab rock as far up as we could till jumping into the boulder field.  These boulders are very large and were great for climbing on.  The vertical gain comes quick, but so did my heart rate.  Needless to say I took my time.  After gaining a few hundred feet through the large boulders it is a walk up the ramp to the first summit.  What I mean is there is no more scrambling up the boulders, the boulders gets smaller so in a sense it’s a walk up from here.  As you do this climb don’t forget to look behind you every now and then, the view is stunning.  Old Hyndman keeps rising through a notch in to the east of Duncan’s Ridge. 
View Towards Johnstone
Our group got together near the first summit as the real scrambling was about to start.  I haven’t been on a good class 3 route in more than a year, so I was excited to get going.  Loren was reading Splattski's report…I think.  He told me what side to go around and I was off.  I just found my own way from there as all climbing adventures should be.  I thought this was very tame and not too difficult at all.  There wasn’t much exposure that I ever saw.  The climb down to the mini saddle between summits was the only hard part.  Climbing up to the top of the main summit was quick and direct.  Now, if the rock was wet or there was ice and snow this would be a different story.  Still doable, but it would be a little nerve racking in a few spots.
The summit was unreal, definitely on my top 5 list.  The surrounding views of the mountains were one of the better views I have ever had.  It made me really appreciate Idaho, because if I was home in Colorado there would be at least 50 other yahoos up there with me.  It was nice to share the summit with my Dad and some good friends. 
The Boulder Field
I seemed to forget I was starving in the excitement of the scramble, so I had to eat some food before the climb back.  I would suggest some leather gloves on this one.  I sliced my hands a few times on the rocks, but scars are cool too.  It was just after 1:30pm and we were heading back down the mountain.  The weather couldn’t have been much better for this climb.  Jackets came off for the trip back down and the wind died down and heat increased with every step.
East Side of Goat Mountain
We took a more direct line down into the valley.  The boulders were steep, but we weren’t in them as long by taking the more direct line.  Once down on the grass we took a long break and enjoyed the view looking towards Johnstone Peak and the Sun Valley Ski Area.  Loren said he could stay there all day, and I would have to agree with him.  I polished off the last of my water, so we made our way down to the creek in the valley to replenish our supplies.  The valley seemed to keep going on going, but that was a good thing for once.  I enjoyed the breaks along the creek and for once being able to take as much time as we wanted.  No thunderheads like back home, so I figured I better enjoy it.
Beautiful Day
After the last break I could feel my ankles and feet tightening up so I did one solid push back to camp.  There were lots of game trails we could utilize here and there which made the hiking a bit quicker.  Once back to camp I grabbed my camp towel and headed to the creek. 
The cool mountain water was very refreshing on my feet.  The beer was even more so.  I was looking at my toes and they weren’t looking too good.  My big toe nail ended up popping off from an injury I had in Utah a few months prior.  A little duct tape and I was good to go.  We all sat around the creek soaking and getting cleaned up a bit.  Next thing we knew the sun was behind the mountain and it was getting dark.
Day 3 – Hike Out
I was pretty beat after the past two days in the mountains so I knew I would be heading out in the morning.  Dad had to get back to La Grande to work an evening shift at the hospital, so we planned on a 7am departure.  Mike joined us on the hike out but Loren stayed another day in the valley and climbed the Spitzl by himself.  I heard he got a nice summit nap in…lucky, I wish my body could have lasted another day.  Dad and I got back into Hailey by 10am and found some biscuits and gravy at Shorty’s.  Not as good as the Pickles breakfast from a few years ago, but it was damn good.

It’s always great to get back to Idaho and do some climbing where it all started for me.  Nothing beats Idaho, Colorado is nice and all but the solitude that you can find in Idaho is unmatched.  I’m not sure when I will be back there for another adventure, but there were talks of Longs Peak next summer…so stay tuned.
Full Trip GPS Track
Handwerk and Goat Route

Date: 7/23/2014 to 7/25/2014
TH Elevation:  7,085 feet
Handwerk Peak: 10,860 feet
Goat Mountain:  11,913 feet
Total Gained Elevation: 7,330 feet
Class: 3
Distance:  17.4 miles
Climbing Partner: Mark (Dad), Mike, Loren
Picture Link:  Handwerk and Goat

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Whale Peak

Whale Peak
I have some serious climbing plans in Idaho in a few weeks, so I had to try and get a decent peak in.  I’ve been curious about the area near Kenosha Pass since it is pretty close to Denver.  Whale Peak via Gibson Lake looked like a good trip, so I rounded up a posse.  I was able to get Kristi out there along with Boyd, Jenny and Joel.  We had a solid group, which always makes these peaks a lot more fun.  You know, so we can all suffer together. Hahaha.
I’ll warn you the road isn’t pretty.  I would give it a class 4 rating; meaning it’s a bitch of a drive the last 2 miles.  High clearance 4WD is mandatory.  Directions from the Denver area is to head south on 285 turning north on Hall Valley Road.  This road is well marked and is about 3 miles past the town of Grant.  From here the road turns to dirt, the road stays in good for about 5 miles till meeting up with the Hall Valley CG.  From here it is a little less than 2 miles to the Gibson Lake TH.  Follow the signs heading to Gibson Lake; park your car here if you don’t have a high clearance vehicle.  The next bit is a really rough section with one creek crossing.  I didn’t have issues with my Chevy Blazer, but I have driven that into many places it shouldn’t have been before.  There are some campsites up there, but the use seemed pretty heavy.
Drainage to the South
Once we got to the TH, we took a few minutes to ease the nausea from the rough ride in.  It was around 7:30A and we were the first to the TH.  I read so many mixed reports of distances to Gibson Lake from the TH I didn’t know what to expect.  The sign said 3 miles, where my GPS tracked us at 2.48miles. 
The trail is in really good shape.  Once crossing the creek (bridge) and getting out of the wet morning dew on the willows the trail opens up to double wide most of the way.  I didn’t think the grade was too bad, so I would say its kid friendly to the lake.  We were in no rush, but I felt we made good progress getting to the lake.  Another warning is to bring bug spray.   The mosquitos and flies were pretty bad whenever we did stop.
Tree line is around 11,200ft.  The rock fields sucked in a little of our time.  There were some really neat pegmatites and gneisses to check out.  The trail continues through the willows and it became quite muddy.  After a short trudge through the swamp I ditched some items I didn’t think would be necessary for the push up the mountain.
Glissade Snow Field
We decided on the direct route, making our way through the snow fields.  There was a nice ramp that took us right to the summit.  This route is rather steep, but that’s kind of how I prefer it.  There was some serious huffing and puffing.  The elevation gain from the lake is about 1,200ft in about 0.65 miles; we kept it as direct as possible.  Every snowfield we passed we ogled at the thought of a glissade on the way back.  You got to keep those spirits high at points of suffering. Haha.
Boyd led the way and owned the mountain.  We eventually caught up to him on the ridge.  From there it was a few hundred feet to the summit.  Coming into this climb I didn’t think we would see anyone out here, we ran into a group of four at the summit.  And two other solo hikers during the day.  So, this mountain was a lot busier than I anticipated.  It still beats the people on 14ers, which is ridiculous these days.  We enjoyed the views, still crystal blue sky.  Some clouds were starting to develop, but nothing that would affect our climb.  I had a hunger and a thirst for a frosty cold one; I left those at the lake so it was time to head down.
Gibson Lake
I felt energized on the route down, probably looking forward to that glissade.  For once my knees didn’t hurt, so I just rolled with it making great time down the mountain.  Once I made it to the snow field I waited for Jenny and Joel to catch up.  The snow was nice and soft, which is perfect for glissading with no tools.  The slide was fast and amazing as always.  This is where a GoPro would come in handy.  Snow flying in your face is a good feeling on a hot day.  Joel came next then Jenny.  For some reason Jenny can’t get any speed, I think we need to bring a sled for her.  After the glissade the lake was a stones throw away.  We made it down there in no time and cracked open our climbing beers.
The Crew
We rested for quite a bit enjoying sandwiches and beers.  The clouds were getting puffy, so it was time to roll out.  The beauty of the mountains is walking down the trail while still enjoying a cold one.  Truly, the freedom of the hills. 
There were many groups of people heading up to the lake.  With it being so hot I was kind of surprised.  We were making good time on the trail back to the car.  With that ugly drive to look forward to, I wanted to get that over before any rain hit if we could make that happen.
This was one of my favorite climbing trips in Colorado so far.  My body didn’t get beat, the company was amazing and the scenery was out of this world.  It was a fun way to celebrate Joel’s birthday and he got his first ever summit…awesome, a 13er to boot.  I hope to get out with everyone a few more times this year, there are many more mountains to climb!
GPS Track
Date: 7/12/2014
TH Elevation:  10,316 feet
Whale Peak: 13,078 feet
Total Gained Elevation: 2,800 feet
Class: 2
Distance:  6.29 miles
Time:  3:56 moving, 2:14 minutes stopped
Climbing Partner: Kristi, Boyd, Jenny and Joel

Picture Link: Whale Peak

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Royal Mountain

Cole Rockin the Summit
Heading to Summit County for Fourth of July weekend had about as many people roaming around as back home in Denver.  So, I guess we weren't really getting away.  The drive time up to Frisco was awful; leaving at noon on Thursday it took us almost 3 hours which is double the standard drive time.  We heard reports of 5 hours later in the afternoon.  Crap like this makes me really appreciate Idaho.  But, we still wanted to get up to the cool mountain air and we often find ourselves just dealing with it.
As it turned out my friend Cole was up in Breckenridge doing wildlife surveys over the weekend, so a small peak sounded like a fun idea.  Wanting to keep it short I decided on Royal Mountain which is the first peak of the 10 Mile Range starting in Frisco.
Mount Guyout and Bald Mountain
Getting to the TR is pretty easy.  Head south on HWY 9 turning west on Main Street in Frisco.  Follow Main to 2nd Ave, following the road to the end.  There is a construction site where the road used to go through to the TH so you will have to park on the street.  Being a good boy, I was looking for a way around the construction site since it was littered with NO TRESPASSING signs, but we couldn't find a way through so eventually followed everyone else cutting through the construction site.  Once at the TH the trail is easy to spot on the northwest side.
The trail is reported to be 1.8 miles to the summit with 1,400ft vertical gain.  We took an “off the beaten path” approach for a while then made our way to the standard trail.  This is a steep climb that had me dripping of sweat and smelling like a brewery in no time.  Don’t underestimate this little climb, for a little mountain it gets the blood pumping fast.
Bristlecone Pine Trees
Once near a small saddle there is split in the trail, head to the right for Royal Mountain.  From that point the trail eases up and the views to the northwest are finally visible.  I enjoyed the bristlecone pine trees on the summit ridge.  We found the high point and took a much needed water break.
This is a heavy traffic trail, which is always unfortunate.  But this can be a nice short summit with descent views to the north and west.  The views to the south and east are blocked by a lot of the trees at the summit, but can be viewed at various parts along the trail.  I’m glad we got out for a lung burner, next stop Backcountry Brewing!
GPS Track

Date: 7/5/2014
TH Elevation:  9,095 feet
Royal Mountain: 10,500 feet
Total Gained Elevation: 1,400 feet
Class: 1
Distance:  4.07 miles
Time:  2:10 moving, 35 minutes stopped
Climbing Partner: Cole