Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Sunday, July 16, 2017

South Twin (11,070')

After a planned backpacking trip fell apart due to the extreme heat this week, I tagged along for another obscure 11,000 foot peak on Alex's shortening 11'er list.  Alex, Steve, Doug (the math professors), Michael, Tim (the doctors), and I (neither) met up late Saturday afternoon to drive over to the Lost River Range for an attempt on South Twin at 11,070 feet.  One of my worst nightmares with snow climbing occurred on North Twin a couple of years ago.  I was hoping that South Twin wouldn't be quite as bad.

Since the forecast was for more heat, we agreed to start our hike at 5AM.  We  missed that time by 15 minutes as we all strolled up the Cabin Fork two track in the brightening sky.
After crossing the creek at 1.5 miles, we stopped to have a discussion on the preferred route.  I was excited to try the SE ridge route based on looking at the topo map, but after seeing the ridge in person, I realized that it was out of the question.  Doug had scoped out a route that would take us up the drainage to the north of the SE ridge, and without any other input the decision was made.
We initially followed an elk trail through the open forest, but it soon disappeared.  Actually it disappeared right about when the thick aspen grove appeared in the bottom of the drainage.  We thrashed our way through the thick aspens until we'd had enough before moving higher up onto the famous Lost River rock.  The walking wasn't too bad on the rock other than the occasional dead fall.
The occasional dead fall
We made reasonably good time through the rock, until it ended in another thick aspen grove.  By this point some of us were on the right side of the drainage, some higher up on the left side, and the lucky few just doing their best to trudge through.  Michael, Tim and I experienced some excellent aspen slogging that was made all the more better by the freshly shorn trees lying all around us.
An avalanche the previous winter had sheared hundreds of trees and we now had the pleasure of navigating through them.
The remaining tree stumps
 As the slope steepened, we moved above all the dead fall, aspens and loose rock.
Tim, Doug and Alex (L-R)
 At 8400 feet we took a left up through some tall limestone gates to obtain the west ridge below point 10,936.  After a short break, we continued up through the remaining trees following a goat path up the steep ridge.  By this point we were in full sunshine and it was getting a little warm for 8AM.  As we moved up the ridge, I took the opportunity to bounce into the shade as much as possible.
Alex coming up the goat path

Tim is just to the left of center 
I reached a spot below point 10,936 where it was time to traverse across a cliff band to the saddle between North and South Twin.  After a quick break, I put on my limestone gloves and carefully moved below the cliff band to the saddle.  Once across, I took an extended break to watch the others make the traverse and have a bite to eat.
The traverse with Michael skylined on the right
Tim, Alex and Michael eventually joined me at the saddle.  I was getting chilled in the breeze, so rather than wait for Steve and Doug to make the traverse, I started up the south ridge to the summit.
The ridge to South Twin with the summit on the right

 The 3rd class climbing was good with the normal LRR crumbly rock.  I reached the summit in a little over half an hour (10 AM).  I was followed on the summit by Alex, Tim, Michael, Doug and then Steve.  The breeze kept the temperatures mild as we sat around, admired the views, chatted and had lunch.
Red Cone and North Twin

Summit shot
 After our bushwhack through the aspen grove laden with dead fall, I was not keen on retracing our path.  Michael seemed to remember reading a route for South Twin that described coming up the drainage to our south, so the two of us convinced Tim to join us and make a loop out of it.  Alex, Steve and Doug thought better and decided to backtrack our route up.

The three of us started down the south ridge, before Michael made a decision to head down a scree filled gully that led to what looked like the bottom of the drainage.  After reviewing the topo map, Tim and I took the next gully and proceeded to do our best to boot ski our way down.  Unfortunately, the loose rock wasn't too conducive for skiing, but we did our best.

A look back up the gully Tim and I took down

We came down the gullies over Tim's left shoulder
Who is that guy anyway?
As we moved below 9800 feet we came upon a short band of cliffs blocking our way.  We found a path through a ledge leading through some jack pines.  This brought us to a point where several drainages funneled into another set of cliffs.  WTF!  The contour lines didn't look that close together on the topo map.

Michael traversing a cliff band
Looking back at the mess we came through
We skirted several more cliff bands before we finally made it to the floor of the drainage only to be greeted by... more aspens.  By this time it was really heating up and the breeze we had on the summit was non-existent.

We took the path of least resistance through the aspens and luckily found a nice game trail that took us on to the hillside and into some thick pines interspersed with aspens.  But, our luck quickly ran out as the trail petered out.  After fighting our way through this tangled mess, we headed back down into the bottom of the aspen choked drainage.  This was our third trip to aspen hell and our patience was really starting to wear thin. We made a move to the left and eventually exited the aspens only to find endless loose scree.

After what seemed like hours, but was probably only a half hour, we finally left the ankle twisting scree behind only to walk into a patch of stinging nettles!

But, it all worked out in the end as we pulled up to the vehicles a little before 2PM a little foot sore.  I sure hope the other three had a better descent than we did!

Distance: 10 miles
Elevation Gain: 4400
Time: 8 hours car-car


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Shoshone John Peak, Aka Peak 11,212

With a planned hike/climb of Mt. Olympus the first week of August approaching quickly, I needed to get out and put in some miles.  My first idea didn't pan out, so when asked to tag along for a Lemhi 11,000 peak, I jumped at the offer.

Michael, Alex, Doug and I where on the freeway dodging the 4th of July holiday traffic Friday evening for the short 4 hour drive across the state.  We arrived unscathed at the junction of Badger and Bunting Creeks a little after 10PM and set up our sleeping bags under the stars.

After a quick, cold breakfast, we were walking up the two track along Bunting Creek at 6AM.

Alex, Doug and Michael (L-R)
 There are several mines in the area, and usually where there are mines, there is other paraphernalia lying around.  Not sure how this old truck ended up crashed in the creek bed, but...

After several creek crossings that required some maneuvering to stay dry, the two track ended but was replaced by a faint single track trail.  

 We followed this single track further up Bunting Creek, and surprisingly, minimal bushwhacking was required.
The "Pearly Gates"
We followed Bunting Creek as it turned south. After an hour, 3 miles and 1000 feet of gain, we reached the gully we planned to use to ascend the peak.  From here, it was a 2800 foot straight shot to the summit of Shoshone John.

Though predicted to be quite warm in the afternoon, the morning was very pleasant.  The peaks behind us were lit up in the sunshine, while we enjoyed the shade of the west face.
After a very short break, we moved onto the loose rock, put our heads down and started up.  The rock was very loose for the first couple of hundred feet.  But once the slope steepened, the rock became smaller and surprisingly stable.

We all picked our separate paths to negotiate the scree, and after 1200 feet, we met up for another short break.  Here we split up.  I selected a rock band on climbers left to follow to to the ridge.  Michael elected to stay off the rock on climbers right, while Alex and Doug decided to head straight up the rock.
My selected route
Alex scrambling up the rock seam
After a short bit, Alex and Doug decided to get off the steep rock seam and follow Michael's path.
Michael is in there somewhere
With great handholds almost always available on my left, I progressed up through the steep, loose rock without an issue.  In another hour, I was in the bright sunshine on the main ridge between Big Boy and Shoshone John peaks at 10,700 feet.
The ridge in the sunshine
Meanwhile, Michael, followed later by Alex and Doug, traversed left and found some great rock slabs to ascend to the ridge.
Michael enjoying the great rock
Once on the ridge, I turned right and negotiated a series of ledges and rock ribs to catch up to Michael.  As I got within 50 yards of him, the sound of rocks crashing came from my left.  Michael had scared up two big horn sheep and a big old billy goat.
Michael looking at the sheep and goat he scared off the ridge

After the adrenaline subsided, it was back to getting higher.  Though loose, the ridge to the summit didn't provide any real obstacles and I joined Michael at the summit at 10AM.

Alex almost to the summit
Alex and Doug joined us a few minutes later and we sat, had something to eat and enjoyed the outstanding views.
The Riddler, Big Boy and Diamond peaks (L-R)

Smiles at the summit!

Me and Michael (Alex F photo)
After a 30 minute break it was time to head down.  Michael and I contemplated doing the traverse over to Big Boy peak.  We had the usual excuses - it was getting hot, we wanted to be home earlier to see our wives, etc.  So after weighing all sides, we decided to save it for another time.
Starting down (Alex F photo)
On the descent, Alex and Doug followed their ascent path, while Michael and I chose a large gully to the north of my ascent route.  To our glee, the scree in the gully allowed us to boot ski/plunge step most of the way down.  I think Michael and I had the better deal, as we had to wait for the other two for 15-20 minutes at the bottom.
Our ascent routes (Me red, the others blue)
Once back together, we simply followed the trail back to the truck, arriving at 1:30.

This was my first time on the west side of the Lemhi's but I'll be back.  I already have a couple of future trips in mind!

Distance - 9 miles
Elevation - 4100 feet
Time - 4 hours to summit, 7.5 hours round trip

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Mount Church Ski - May 29, 2017

With three Lost River Range 12,000 peak ski descents on our resume, Dylan and I set our sights on number four – Mt Church.  At 12,200 feet, Mt Church is Idaho’s 3rd highest peak and the best skiing to be had on Church is on the north face, which necessitates the slow, bumpy drive to the West Fork of the Pahsimeroi River.

After the tortuous drive, we arrived Sunday evening and set up camp at what we assumed was the trailhead.  While looking for a spot to cross the creek, I met up with the only other camper in the valley, Dan, a bat biologist from Pocatello.  While pointing out the creek crossing, Dan told me that there had been 6” of fresh snow on the ground a few days prior and that he had seen quite a few wet slides while out ski touring.  With this knowledge, and bellies full of KFC, we hit the sack in anticipation of a pseudo-alpine start.
Looking enthused!
Our pseudo-alpine start ended up being a bit leisurely, a little after 6AM.  After the precarious creek crossing, we wandered through several sagebrush filled moraine meadows before entering the trees.  With skis on our backs and no trail to follow, we picked our way through the trees trying to minimize the amount of overhead obstacles.
Precarious creek crossing first thing in the morning. Can you see the log?

We eventually reached the first patches of snow and found some footprints to follow.  At this point in the morning the snow was relatively firm, with only an occasional posthole.  Until it became much more than the occasional posthole – at this point we transitioned to skis and ditched our boots to minimize the cursing.  It felt great to get the skis and ski boots off our backs.

During our conversation the night before, my bat biologist friend, Dan, had mentioned encountering a waterfall on the way to Church.  We passed several smaller waterfalls earlier in the hike and were a bit perplexed when we came upon the forty foot headwall featuring, “the waterfall”.  
"The Waterfall"
We slipped off the skis, threw them over our backs and climbed the steep scree to the right.  After getting above the waterfall, we scrambled down through the trees and were on what looked like continuous snow at 9200 feet.
Bypassing the waterfall

Mt Church coming into view
Now that we were out of the trees and on good snow, we made relatively good time skinning up into the cirque. The views of Church were pretty intimidating.  It looked steep and the recent slides on the surrounding peaks and face we were climbing and planned to ski raised some goosebumps.
Damn, that is steep!
When we reached the 10,600 foot level, we removed our skis, attached crampons to our ski boots, strapped the skis and poles back on our packs, pulled out the ice axes and started booting up the face.  By this time (10AM), the north face of Mt Church had been in full sun for the last three hours.  The firm snow we had been traveling on was starting to soften considerably.  Though becoming soft, the snow was consolidated enough to ease any fears we had.
Heading up...

And up...

Tele boots and crampons don't mix
In the bright sunlight we, too, were starting to melt and our pace slowed.  This was one of those great days in the mountains when there was no wind, but with the sunlight bouncing off the snow, we were getting very hot.  As clouds started moving in, we both hoped that they might block the sun.  The mountain gods did not grant us our wishes though.  So we took turns leading up the steep north face in the softening snow.
Note the vented pants.  These resulted in sunburn!

Still more up
With about 50 vertical feet to the summit ridge (12,100 feet?) , immediately below the last band of rocks, Dylan encountered some unconsolidated snow that raised an alarm.  This snow, which had been in the shade of the rocks, was sticking to his ski boots, rendering his crampons useless.  We looked to the left and realized we would have to down climb quite a bit to bypass this band of rocks.  However, there were other rock bands to the left.  To the right we had untouched snow on a 45-50 degree slope with a cliff band 50 feet away.  Facing into the slope, I started to the right.  After a few steps I wasn’t feeling too sure about this option, so retreated.
We stopped just below the rock band above Dylan
We looked at each other and decided that this spot would be our summit for today.  Dylan dug us a nice long ledge in the snow and we sat down to have some lunch and admire the views.

Our "summit for the day" shot

Getting ready 
After lunch it was time to pack up, strap on the skis and go for it,  After a quick tap of our ski poles, Dylan dropped in for some Mt. Church buttery mashed potatoes!

I followed Dylan and though a bit steep and soft, the turns were not all that bad.  We leap-frogged one another down the 1800 foot face and the skiing only got better.

A tele-turn!
Once we reached the cirque the snow turned to slush and it was difficult to maintain any speed.  We had the option of trying to pond skim on a partially frozen body of water, but the lack of speed and "partially frozen" pond made the decision for us.
Looking back.  Notice Dylan in the bottom center.

Our tracks are up there somewhere

Slip sliding up 
We did our best to remain upright through this slush and eventually found ourselves at the top of "The Waterfall".  Time to drop the skis and walk down around the 40 foot drop off.  A quick ski after this brought us back to our boots.
Glad that is over
The rest of the walk out was as pretty close to hell as you can imagine.  The morning's hard snow had turned to mush and it was impossible to not sink knee deep.  We quickly realized that we would not be able to keep our feet dry and just plowed through the wet snow to get out as quickly as possible.
Damn pants are too hot
We eventually reached the creek and crossed it "Brett Style" - just waded right through, boots and all.

As I mention in the first paragraph, this was our fourth and probably final 12er ski.  The four we have achieved: Church, Mt Breitenbach, Lost River Peak and  Leatherman Peak all had relatively easy approaches.  The other five will be more of a challenge to get to and/or ski off of.  At least for me!

Time: 10.5 hours car-car
Distance: 13.5 miles
Elevation: 4100 feet

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A team of adventurers consisting of John, Tamara, Taylor, Dylan, and Shadow Fadgen