|Peak 10,340 (Peak #1) in the background|
Dan Robbins, Tom Lopez and I had been talking about climbing the four 10K peaks that surround Little Falls Creek basin east of Ketchum, and with temperatures expected to be 108 in Boise, it sounded like a good time to be high.
After a nice, cool night spent in Phi Kappa campground, we drove up the rough Little Falls Creek road as far as we felt was necessary (7800 feet), and were moving a little after 6AM. We hiked up the road, which alternated between rough rocks and smooth gravel, for a couple of miles until we reached an old mining cabin at 9200 feet. With our first peak directly above us, Dan and Tom took a short break while I wandered around and admired the cabin.
We then dropped down and crossed the creek before starting up the open mountainside of Peak 10,340, eventually gaining the eastern ridge. Though it was in the low 60’s when we started the hike, it was now considerably warmer in the sunshine.
Once on the ridge, it was a nice walk up to the summit of peak 10,340 which we reached at 8:45AM. Even though there was a haze in the air, the views were outstanding.
After a short break spent eating, chatting and admiring the views, we started out for peak #2 directly to the north of us. Before we started down the ridge, Dan spotted a herd of elk spread out below us. They eventually detected us as we moved down the ridge, and moved into the thick trees, talking amongst themselves. I have always loved listening to cow elk talking!
|Close up of elk herd|
|Peak 10,356 (Peak #2)|
Peak #2 (Peak 10,356) was another straightforward walk up, which we reached at 9:30AM. From this peak, we had an excellent view of our third and most exciting looking objective – Peak 10,350. We didn’t spend too much time on top of peak #2 for two reasons: it was starting to warm up and peak #3 looked like it was going to be a bit of fun.
|Looking back at Peak #1|
|Peak 10,350 (Peak #3)|
We dropped down the 500 feet to the saddle between peaks 10,356 and 10,350, and stared up at the somewhat rotten looking cliffs above us. Unfortunately, the lighting wasn’t so good and the photos below do not do it justice. We'd gotten a good look at the cliff band from the first peak, and noticed that you could either drop down 100 or so feet to skirt them or just head straight up through them. Dan and Tom chose the first option, while I chose the second, and in my opinion, better option.
|Cliff band with Dan as a perspective|
After telling Tom I’d be careful, I picked the first obvious seam and started up. My second handhold crumbled on me, but my feet were firmly planted, so I shrugged it off and continued carefully climbing. Twenty feet higher and the seam ended. After a bit of looking around, I made an airy move over to my right and found another narrow seam. This took me up another 30 feet where I topped out on a ledge with a goat trail! I just followed this goat trail up along the edge of the cliffs to the summit at 10:45AM.
|Taking a break with the goat trail behind me (above my head)|
I was still feeling pretty good at this point, but the heat had taken its toll on Tom and Dan. After a short rest, they informed me that the fourth peak wasn’t in the cards for them.
|Peak #4 to the left|
Peak 10,300 looked to be at least a mile away, with a fair bit of ridge scrambling involved. So off I went, trying to keep up a brisk pace while also trying to stay cool. Luckily, the clouds blocked the sun for the majority of the uphill portion, and after 45 minutes I was on summit #4 for the day at 11:45AM.
|A look back at Peak #3 - Tom is on the open ridge in the sunshine|
|The final ridge|
|Great view of Mystery Peak from Peak #4|
Now it was just a matter of getting down. The original plan was to backtrack to the saddle between peaks #3 and #4 and drop down a less steep ridge. The only problem was this saddle was a mile back in the wrong direction. It was continuing to get hotter and the inevitable rain clouds were building, so I just decided to drop straight down. Other than skirting a couple of short drop offs, I boot skied down ¾ of the 1800 foot slope. The last ¼ proved tedious because the rocks were too big to slide and it was now damn hot. When I was several hundred feet above the road, Dan and Tom went strolling by. As it was, I ended up being about 5 minutes behind them.
|The straight shot descent route|
A cold creek on the feet and a cold beer in the hand never felt so good!