Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Another Ruby Mountain Peak - Verdi Peak (11,077')

A week after my first foray on a Ruby Mountain peak, Dylan and Nicole invited me to join them on a return trip to the Rubies.  The plan was, a backpack to Verdi Lake and a climb of Verdi Peak.  Rather than an overnighter, I decided to join them for the day.

We met up Friday evening at the Star Hotel, in Elko, for a Basque dinner.  The 30 odd people standing out front had us thinking of going somewhere else, and the lack of masks convinced us to go.  

After a nice meal, at Odeh's Mediterranean, (where most of the patrons had masks), we made the short drive up Lamoille Canyon in the waning light looking for a place to park.  We found a relatively level place just off the road and prepared our beds in the back of our respective cars.  Ahhh, to live like I'm 20 again! 

After a decent night's sleep (I was pleasantly surprised) and a quick breakfast, we were heading up through the thick aspens toward Verdi Peak.

Our route

Active beavers in the area

The "trail" was slightly brushy

Once through the aspens, the going steepened as we picked our way through the sagebrush and slide alder.

The head of Lamoille Canyon

We continued Northeast, gaining altitude quickly. It was steep!  I was glad Dylan and Nicole had backpacks, as it allowed me to stay close to them.  That or they just slowed down to make the old guy feel good.
The granite made for easy walking

We hit our first ridge at 9900 feet and stopped for a quick break to discuss the route and soak in the amazing views.

Looking back up Lamoille Canyon

And back down the canyon

We continued angling upward along the base of Verdi Peak to the 10,800' saddle above Verdi Lake.
One of Verdi Peak's summits

Me picking my way toward the saddle (DFadgen photo)

Once at the saddle, we dropped our packs and continued up toward the summit.
Nicole enjoying the view while Dylan checks the rock quality

Nicole heading up.

We stopped at the closest (Northern) summit first and carefully climbed the exposed summit block.  From this vantage point, the southern summit looked slightly higher so we walked over and scrambled up it as well.  From this vantage point the Northern summit looked higher...

A little shaky here (DFadgen photo)

Southern summit Splattski

After a short time enjoying the summit views, we climbed back down to our packs and then picked our way down to Verdi lake.  Surprisingly, there was no one else at the lake.  

Once at the lake, Dylan pulled out the two fishing poles he'd brought and quickly set them up.  After all, the two of them were planning on spending the night and needed something for dinner.

While the two of them fished, I wandered around a bit before kicking back to watch.  After a while Dylan caught a nice trout on his fly rod.  He mentioned that it was probably the biggest high mountain lake trout he'd ever caught, but I think this trout from Goat Lake in 2007 might be as big. 
He hasn't changed a bit!

Nicole even got in the action. (DFadgen photo)

After lunch, I bid the two of them goodbye and started back.  It didn't take long to climb the 600 feet to the saddle and an hour and a half later I was back at the car enjoying a slightly cold Angel Creek Amber Ale.

Looking back up at Verdi Peak (DFadgen photo)

Distance: ~ 5 miles
Elevation: 2700' up, 600' on the return climb

Monday, June 15, 2020

My First Visit to the Ruby Mountains - Mount Gilbert - 11,120 feet

With the NOAA predicting a 70% chance of precip in the Lost River Range for Saturday, it was time for a change in venue.  Michael suggested we head south of Elko to climb in the Ruby Mountains, and with sunny skies predicted Dave and I were in!

We left Boise at 5AM and did our best to dodge the thunderstorms to the west. With Dave driving, we made the four hour drive to Elko in 3.5 hours.  After a quick stop in town, we were soon driving up Lamoille Canyon toward the trailhead.  I had last been in the canyon in February of 2018 to ski Terminal Cancer with Dylan.  Though the area was green, the charred, leafless aspens showed the remnants of the fire that had devastated the area in the fall of 2018.

The skies were relatively clear and the wind was blowing pretty good as we walked the road through the church camp before finding Right Fork of Lamoille Creek trail.

Our first view of our peak while approaching the church camp
Michael hadn't told us much about Mount Gilbert on the drive down, and I was stunned when it came into view.  It looked like it was going to be a good day!
Beaver ponds in the creek

We stayed to the left of the creek for a couple of miles until the trail leveled out in the glacial valley.  With the wind still howling, we found a spot to cross the creek.  Dave hopped across the creek while Michael and I chose to stimulate our lower legs with the snow melt.

Once across the creek, we just picked a line on climbers left, trying to stay out of the many small waterfalls to our right.  The going was steep, and it was a route finder's dream picking our way up through the many rock outcroppings.
Michael coming up a steep chute
Dave negotiating the rock outcroppings
 Three hours after starting, we arrived at the upper snowfield, at roughly 10,000', and transitioned to crampons and ice axes.  We knew from past trip reports that the "direct route" entailed crossing the snowfield from left to right before heading straight up.  And that was just what we did.
Upper snowfield - we crossed just above the trees
The snow was in good shape for mid June.  Though the cool/cold temperatures, stiff wind and now high cloud cover, definitely helped out.  It was also surprising steep!
Good snow climbing

After carefully crossing the snow, we removed our crampons and started the scrambling section.  I popped over a small rock rib and startled a nanny and kid.  They were gracious enough to pose for the camera before walking out of sight.

Now it was just a matter of picking your line and heading up the remaining 600 feet.  Dave and Michael stayed left, while I chose a line to the right.  A couple of class 4 moves mixed in with the steady class 3 climbing had me thinking I should have stayed with the others, but I eventually pulled over one last rock and saw Dave standing on the summit. 
Dave contemplating his next move
A minute later I was on top enjoying the views.  Michael joined up a minute after.  Surprisingly, the steady wind we'd had all day had stopped.  Michael played name that peak as we sat on top eating lunch.  It had taken us a little over 5 hours to reach the summit and I was a bit famished.

Summit Splattski

Mt Fitzgerald and Snow Lake Peak (along with a few more)
Seitz Lake with the town of Spring Creek on the valley floor
Since neither Dave nor I had been in the Ruby Mountains, we were stunned by the beauty and number of peaks.  Then, as if on cue, the wind started blowing again and it was time to head down.
Carefully heading down
Going down took about as long as going up.  We had to carefully pick our way down the class 3 rocks, walk down the steep snowfield, and then continue down the rock outcroppings all the while trying to stay erect.

We all breathed sighs of relief when we made it back to the creek.
Our route up
This one had it all - beaver ponds, mountain goats, a creek crossing, steep/solid rock, snow climbing and good friends!

Dave's trip report can be found here.

Distance: 9 miles
Elevation: 4400 feet
Time: 9 hours car-car

Sunday, May 17, 2020

White Knob Peaks

With a great NOAA forecast for Saturday, Michael and I decided to climb a couple of obscure White Knob 10K foot peaks - White Knob and South White Knob.  The road up Alder Creek was in good shape and we were making good time, until we hit a patch of Qwyhee gumbo at 7800'.  Unable to proceed without traction, we gently slid back into a "parking spot".  Might as well start walking, perhaps it will be dry when we return.

We followed the road up until it split and decided to go left, up Stewart Canyon.  It wasn't long before we could no longer skirt the snow patches in the road and had to walk over them.  Ahhh, let the postholing begin!  With our snowshoes back in the truck, we decided to forego the pain of knee deep snow.  So, we crossed the creek and headed up to gain the ridge that would take us to our first objective - "South White Knob".
South White Knob on the left

Our route to gain the ridge
There was a fresh dusting of snow covering everything, but we didn't let that stop us as we moved through the aspen thickets only to be confronted with thick Mahogany.  Luckily, we found a game trail that angled up through the tangle of Mahogany, which eventually led us to the rocky ridge.
Taking a break in the Mahogany

Once we gained the ridge at 9100', we had clear sailing.  No more Mahogany and the snow was supportive.
South White Knob peeking out

Michael heading up

The broad ridge to the summit
A cold wind was blowing on the top of South White Knob so we didn't stop.  Just touched the top and dropped down the wide expanse heading toward White Top.  Just past the saddle, between our two peaks, we found a spot out of the wind and stopped to have some lunch and gawk at the sights. 
White Knob Mountain
Unlike the previous Saturday, it was cold above 10K feet, so we didn't linger too long for lunch.  White Knob was only 1/4 mile and 350 feet above us, so we powered up it to stay warm.
Summit of White Knob (10,835 feet)

Looking back at South White Knob with Shelly and Redbird in the background

A nice ski line off of Lime Mountain
 After a couple of summit photos, we retraced our steps over South White Knob and back down the ridge.  Since we are a couple of educated guys, we took a slightly different route getting off the ridge and bypassed the tangle of Mahogany.
Looking back up
We walked back down the mining road, crossing paths with a half dozen side by sides before reaching the truck.  Thankfully the soil was dry, we pulled right out and headed home.

Distance - 8.75 miles
Elevation Gain - 3750 feet
Time - 6 hours car-car

Monday, May 11, 2020

Mt. Borah- West Face

After seeing some info on the West Face of Mt. Borah being in good condition, I suggested to Nicole on a Saturday afternoon we should go take a stab at it. She agreed, and we loaded the car and headed for Mackay. After finding a "camping spot" at the Mt. Borah trailhead, we made a nice dinner of pasta and mushrooms and went to bed around 9. A 4am alarm comes soon.

We awoke to a full moon, made some coffee and oatmeal, and headed out exactly at 5am.

The first thousand feet up the COR (Chicken Out Ridge) trail passed quickly, and soon we were at our turnoff, the saddle at 8,600'. We trended north, headed for the West Face valley. Time for a typical Lost River off-trail adventure- deadfall, scree-in-trees, and postholing. As we tried our best to stay on the 8,600' contour, it became apparent we needed to drop down to the creek to avoid the worst of the trees. We did, and were quickly rewarded with patchy knee deep snow. About an hour of plugging up this valley got us to the West Face cirque (I'll call it).

Looking up. Now where are we going?
Looking down-valley. Note how supportive the snow is. 
We could now see up to COR, and the snow looked great. Knowing our route curved up and left, we stuck to the left side of the valley, skirting old wet slide debris and keeping off the rocks in the valley bottom.

My recollection of a route photo informed me that to get into the long arcing couloir on the right side of the face we needed to stay right (duh) and go through a tight slot. The right slot had a nice big water ice bubble in it, and figuring we could connect to the upper face through the leftmost couloir, we chose left. 

Going up. And left.
The next two thousand feet of climbing went relatively easily. Head up the couloir, avoid the sun, etc. 

Luckily for us, at about 11,500' things get interesting. The main couloir ends, and a variety of chutes and towers emerge on the upper face. Knowing the summit was a little to the right, I kept us trending up and right, staying on snow as much as possible. There were, however, some nice rock steps to practice our mixed climbing. 

We kept it up and eventually gained the trail as it crosses right below the summit. Now to traverse a few snowfields and try not to posthole...

Are we there yet?
The summit had a nice light breeze. It was 12:45.

We took a long break up top to dry out our socks and call our moms. It was Mother's Day, after all. 

Nicole's new foot warmer

Do we have to go down??
We picked our way down the summit block, across the saddle by Sacagawea, and over to Chicken Out.

The upper West Face. We did not take any of the obvious lines in this photo
By the time we got to COR, it was around 2:30. Late, especially with the warm May sun baking since 7am. Going over the top wasn't an option, there were soft melted cornices in both directions. Going around didn't seem a safe option either, with both aspects steep and the snow too soft to support weight. Shit. Well, we knew the couloir below us led back down to the West Face valley, and that would, eventually, lead back down to the car. We headed down the couloir at around 3pm. 

We downclimbed, sidestepped, and glissaded down to the bottom of the valley. Now, I can write that all in one sentence, but it took the better part of two hours. 

Now to walk out the valley and get back into the trees. Remember how supportive the snow was at 6am? We did. And it sure wasn't anymore. Taking baby steps helps reduce the jarring from a deep posthole when you aren't expecting it, and it has the added bonus (not) of being excruciatingly slow. And that only works when you don't expect every step to be a wade. 

Two more hours elapse. We're finally down in the valley again, looking for the right chance to turn up  to get back to the saddle and meet up with the trail. There is about half an hour of light left, and we know we need to make it to the trail before dark.

We do. 

The rest of the hike out was painful on the toes, but otherwise uneventful. 

The car was waiting for us, alone, at 9:11pm- 16 hours, 6,000 feet of gain and loss, and 7 miles after we had left it.

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