Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend - Lost River Range

Mt Donaldson and Mt Church - Sunday
We had a few days available this Memorial Day weekend and I figured we could get in a couple of our last 12ers.  With Dylan’s graduation ceremony over and his grandparents and aunt heading back home, Tamara and I packed up the trailer and headed over to Mackay Reservoir on Saturday.  Dylan and Taylor followed a couple of hours later in Taylor’s car.  The plan was to camp Saturday night with Taylor and she would then head back to Bozeman Sunday while Dylan and I climbed Mt Church and Donaldson Peak that morning.

Luckily, there were a couple of camping spots left at Joe T. Fallini campground on Mackey Reservoir when we pulled in at 6PM.  Imagine that on Memorial Day weekend!  After Dylan and Taylor joined us, we jumped in the truck and cruised north to find the road leading to Jones Creek.  We then continued further to catch a glimpse of Mt. Borah in the twilight.  There was still a bit of snow up high from the looks of it.

Dylan and I were heading up Jones Creek by 6:30AM in 48 degree temps.  Though the creek was flowing, we didn’t have to do too many gymnastic moves to wind our way through the deadfall and up the creek.  It seemed like we were going slowly but we reached the left turn at the 8440 foot contour in a little over an hour.  Now it was a straight scree slog up to the 10,000 foot saddle.  Upon reaching the saddle at 8:30, the wind picked up and it started snowing lightly.
Dylan at the saddle
Heading to the cirque

We put our crampons on a little bit above the saddle.  Initially the snow wasn’t too bad, relatively hard and crunchy, but as we reached the cirque at 11,000 feet, the snow became punchy.  There was a 2” semi-hard crust over 6-8” of unconsolidated sugar snow.  Below that it was either ice or rocks depending on where you happened to be standing.

We had the pages of Tom Lopez’s description of the approach to Donaldson and could just make out the class 3 ramps that lead to the summit. 

The "ramps" heading up
As we zigzagged up these ramps, the clouds moved in obscuring the view and the snow conditions worsened. 

Once you broke through the initial crust on the snow, it was difficult to get any grip with the crampons.  This wasn’t too bad lower down, but as we progressed up the steepness increased as well the exposure. 

After a move over some water ice and another couple of moves over frozen scree, I became stuck just below a small band of rocks.  As I struggled to get over this band of frozen scree, my feet kept sliding in the crappy snow below and I lost my confidence in progressing upward.  With less than 100 feet to go to the summit (I checked the GPS later) I called Dylan back. 
Dylan cautiously backed down the rock band, clearing away rock so he could front point the 30 feet back down to my position.  In a couple of minutes he joined me and I told him I was done.  We looked over at the ridge connecting Church to Donaldson and agreed that we would not have tried traversing it this day.
Ridge between Donaldson and Church
 I took the initial lead downclimbing to the first bench and then Dylan took over leading us down to just above the cirque to where we could turn around a plunge step. Whew!  Backing down in the unconsolidated snow was a bit hair-raising but I just took my time. 
Dylan downclimbing
Once down to the cirque we just followed our path down to Jones Creek.  On the way out we found the “trail” on the right side and gyrated our way back to the truck.

Trip Stats
Elevation Gain:  4800 feet (no summit)
Distance: 8 miles
Time: 4 hours to high point, 8 hours car-car.

Mount McCaleb - Memorial Day


Our original plan was to climb Mount Idaho on Monday.  After the crappy snow conditions on Donaldson and reading Lopez’s description of Mount Idaho we decided against it and chose Mount McCaleb at 11,682 feet instead.

Sitting above Mackay, Mount McCaleb is probably the most striking peak in the Lost River Range, at least in my book.

Dylan wasn’t too motivated this morning; don’t know if it was due to not making the summit the prior day or how tired he was.  But, he didn’t set his phone alarm and I woke at 6AM and roused him for a quick pancake before getting on the road.

We had scouted the area the evening before by driving the endless interconnecting roads and thought we had it figured out.  But after reading other trip reports today I see that we missed out on the high trail head.  Instead of starting at 8100 feet, we left the truck a little to the east at 7200 feet.  Oh, well.

In addition to Dylan being unmotivated, I was a bit tired as we left the truck at 7AM.  It seemed like we were making slow progress as we picked our way up the sagebrush slope and finally entered the trees, but we were making better than 1200 feet an hour.  Without a topo map of the area, we made the decision to not follow the obvious easy way up the gully to the ridge between McCaleb and Little Mac, but to head up a patch of snow that looked like it would lead us to the summit.

The snow was surprisingly hard, but considering it was 10 degrees cooler that morning than the day before, it made sense.  With the great snow conditions, we quickly progressed up until we reached the ridge. 

The ridge
Here, we ran out of solid snow and had to pick our way up the scree.  I mentioned to Dylan that climbing up this rock is a special kind of hell and he readily agreed.  At this point we only had 700 feet to the summit and it felt like it took another hour.  But by hopping to larger patches of snow we minimized our scree exposure and cruised to the summit at 10:30.
Scree Hell

Though we were in the clouds, the wind was minimal and it was actually a little warm as we sat down and had a bite to eat.  Occasionally the clouds would part and the sunshine felt great.  After 15-20 minutes on top, and the clouds again moving in, we headed down the standard route. 
Summit shot!
Mackey Reservior
Once down out of the scree, we got in a couple of long glissades and burned some altitude the fun way! Before we knew it we were out of the snow and cruising back down to the truck.  A great way to end the weekend.
The red line shows the route
Trip stats
Elevation Gain: 4500 feet
Distance: 5 miles
Time: Summit – 3.5 hours, car to car – 5.5 hours


Anonymous said...

3 of us did Lost River Peak on Sat (5/25) and all 3 of us made it but it took us 11 hours from trailhead to trailhead. Then the next day, Sun (5/26)all 3 of us did Mt McCaleb (2 of the 3 made it to the top). It looks like you picked the better day. The wind and snow was brutal for us. Nice to know that there are others out there that love the spring climbs as much as we do :)Irene

Fadgen's Adventures said...

Irene, 11 hours - that must have beee brutal for LRP. I think we followed someone in your parties footprints up through the last part of the talus. John

larry szurgot said...

Way to start out the summer guys. Dylan, congratulations on graduation.

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