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

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