Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

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 thee 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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Goat Creek Peak (Peak 8754)

Goat Creek Peak, aka Peak 8754
John had a free weekend and wanted (needed) to get out.  I'd visited his webpage last week and re-read the Sister Creek Peak trip report ( http://www.splattski.com/2016/pk_8530/index.html ) we'd done last spring.  The trip report reminded me of a peak we opted not to do during that snowshoe trip, since were a bit too wiped out to attempt it.  The area looked like it would be a good ski, so I offered up this peak to John.  He was all in!

We met up at 7AM, outside of Cascade, with both skis and snowshoes.  At this time of year you just don't know if it can be a ski or will end up being a slog.  As we drove over Big Creek summit and saw all the fresh snow, I was thinking only about skiing. Screw the slow shoes!

With skis on our backs, we were climbing up through the dead fall and buck brush a little after 8AM. 

It wouldn't be an outing with John without some dead fall
We had a bit over a mile and 1000' feet of frozen, bare ground before we reached a point where we could transition from hiking boots to skis.
Moon over a ridge on the other side of the road
Still climbing through the buck brush
Note the handy coat rack!
It was a pleasure to get the skis and boots off our backs and onto our feet.  No more dead fall or buck brush to wade through!  It was cold by April standards, but the sun was out and the wind was non-existent.  It was turning into an awesome day!
John moving quickly up the ridge
More John, more ridge
 As we moved up, the fresh powder became thicker and a bit heavier.  What should have been an easy skin up the open ridge, started to get a bit more difficult, but the views were fantastic!
Looking across the valley to the east

We traversed this ridge to the high point in the center
After a couple of hours of steady uphill, our peak finally came into view.
Goat Creek Peak (just to the right of the thicker cloud) way back there
And a close up view of the peak
More of John's rear end
Once up and over Point 8355, the view of the Goat Creek drainage came into view. By this point, I was singing the my theme song for the day - "Everything is Awesome" from the Lego Movie. The views were that good!  Unfortunately, we had to drop a few hundred feet from Point 8355 to get down to the ridge that would allow access to our peak.  John, always thinking ahead, took an angled route down so we could use it as a skin track on the way out.

Goat Creek drainage

After a not so short traverse around a cliffy section to our left, we took a short rest to fuel up for the final 300' push to the summit.  With clouds moving in from the west, we moved as fast as we could to try and get to the summit while still in the sunshine.
Getting steeper
Looking back at our skin track in the gathering clouds 
We skied to within 30 feet of the summit, dropped our skis and booted to the top.  From the picture below, it looks like we beat the storm.  But if you look closely at the photo, you can see the snow falling. Oh well.
All smiles on the summit
We spent a few minutes on top enjoying the not so clear views before clipping into our skis for the descent.  This would have been a great place to ski laps as the area is open and has a 30-35 degree angle.  I mentioned to John that if we were 20 years younger we could probably do a few laps.  He agreed and added we would probably also try it if our IQ's were 20 points less.
Looking back from the summit
The initial descent off the summit provided a few turns in some nice powder, but we mostly traversed our skin track out.  Once we reached the uphill section, it was time to stop for some lunch. Though cloudy with light snow falling, it was not windy, and lunch was pleasant.

John following the skin track
 After short break refueling, it was time to make the short 300 foot climb up to Point 8355.  Though the idea of using the descent ski track as an uphill skin track was good in theory, the only person that could have used it was Larry Craig (think wide stance)!

It was all downhill after we climbed back to point 8355.  The snow was fantastic for 600-700 feet and we both enjoyed some nice April turns in the buttery snow.   After a bit the snow thickened, and the turns required a bit more concentration.
John getting his April turns in
As we progressed lower, more obstacles showed up.  We did our best to ski/slide around the stumps and rocks sticking above the snow, until we reached our boots.  We tucked the boots into our packs and then continued to cautiously slide our way down as far as we could.  After another couple of hundred feet, we ran out of snow and it was time to put the skis back on our backs.

All smiles as we make our way down to the truck
The last mile down was the same as the uphill; dead fall and buck brush.  Before we knew it we were back at the truck feeling great but tired.  Another awesome day hiking (skiing) to an obscure central Idaho peak!

Distance: ~9.5 miles
Elevation: ~5000 feet
Time: 7.25 hours
Theme Song: "Everything is Awesome" from The Lego Movie

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Windy Ridge - 4653'

Tamara, Shadow and I spent the last weekend of spring break down in our old stomping grounds by Oxbow Dam at the head of Hells Canyon.  As a family, we have spent many a fall weekend here prior to Taylor and Dylan growing up.  The plan was to hike and fish, but the amount of water flowing through the Snake River made hiking the better choice.

After the wacky weather we had Thursday (>1.5" of rain in Boise!), Friday was clear and breezy with moderate temps.  We got off to a relatively early start just above Oxbow Dam, following an old mining road that has been blocked from motorized used for the last ten years.

Looking back at Oxbow Dam
The overall grade was moderate and would make for a good mountain bike ride. Though it would be a long grind this early in the season.

Getting higher
We reminisced about hiking and fishing with the children as we walked up the old road.  This area brings back a lot of memories of hiking, hunting and fishing with our children.  Can anyone say bass-mass-con-tass?

The going was relatively easy, with the only difficulty crossing swollen Blue Creek.  But a tangle of old aspen branches allowed us to precariously cross the creek and stay dry.
First view of our peak - just to the left of center
As we moved up to the 4000' level, we spotted a few elk lounging around enjoying the sunshine.

Contemplating life

Tamara staying warm with the Oxbow behind her
We tucked out of the wind, stopping for lunch and enjoying the views of the "Oxbow" just before the final ridge.  Once on the summit ridge, we were treated to view of more elk out enjoying the sunshine.  In addition to all the elk, both whitetail and mule deer were abundant.

Summit ridge
We reached the summit of the aptly named Windy Ridge after about 3 hours.  It was sunny, cool and blowing 20 mph.  A gorgeous spring day!
Windy - 4653'

Happy folks almost ready to celebrate their 27th anniversary 

Looking north into the southern Seven Devils

Looking west to the Wallowas
We spent a few minutes on the summit before heading down the west ridge to make a small loop out of the hike.  Though a bit longer than I figured (and told my wife), it was a great spring day to be out with Tamara.

Distance - 10.2 miles
Elevation - 3100 feet
Time - 6 hours

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