Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Newman Peak

Close up of the summit with Newman Peak on the left
Last Saturday morning John Platt, Dave Pahlas (Super Dave) and I found ourselves on the road to Ketchum for a winter attempt at Newman Peak,elevation 10,171 feet.  These plans came together quickly earlier in the week (after 20 emails between us!) with Newman Peak being on Dave's wish list.  One of these days I'll need to get a wish list together...
The plan was to access the peak from the northeast ridge, a route that I was told could be a bit iffy.  With the high avalanche danger over and the sun shining it looked like it was going to be a great day for an adventure.

Snow blowing off the summit of Boulder Mountain
We left the truck and hit the hard pack snow in our boots at 9:30AM.  The sun was shining and the wind was blowing a bit from the northwest as we looked over our proposed route.

Our peak's back there somewhere
Come to find out later (from Dave via Matt Leidecker) the ridge we travelled on was a proposed ski area at one time.  If you look at the picture above you can see where a proposed ski lift was cut through the trees.

After the first thousand feet, we started post holing a bit so it was on with the snowshoes and the gradual uphill battle continued.

Contemplating the beautiful day (D. Pahlas photo)

We traded leading and were averaging a little over 1000 feet per hour, which seemed a bit slow for our normal pace.  It must have been to all the gawking that was occurring due to the views of the Boulders.  A little after 12:30 we made Newman's Nose at 9,897 feet, and our objective finally came into view.  From this distance it was hard to tell if there would be a route from our approach.

Newman Peak on the left
John hadn't been feeling too good on the ascent so we found a place in the sunshine and out of the wind for a leisurely lunch break. 

John waxing philosophically
After our sumptuous lunch John decided he was feeling good enough to continue on, so we started the gradual uphill jaunt again.

John approaching point 10,016

Dave on point 10,016 sizing up our objective
Once we reached the next high point at 10,016 feet John decided he'd had enough, so after agreeing on a 4PM turn around, we parted ways.  Dave and I were eager to get closer since it still wasn't clear that there was a safe path to the peak.  We continued on a bit, dropping down a couple of hundred feet, all the while getting a better view of the summit.  It was almost looking like there might be a possibility.
The Northeast Ridge
Once the ridge narrowed, it was time to get out of the snowshoes.  We dropped off a knoll and though we didn't say anything at the time, we both smelled a strong musky smell.  As I was undoing my snowshoes Dave called to me softly and I turned around to see this beautiful mountain goat.

After snapping a couple of pictures, something startled it and it took off across the ridge toward the summit.  It might have been us or the snowmobile way down below us, but the wind was blowing in our faces so he definitely didn't smell us.  After a few minutes Dave pointed the goat out as it crossed a snowfield just below the summit.  We looked at each other and said, "He just showed us the way to the summit!"
Dave starting across the ridge
By following the goat's tracks we made relatively quick progress across the narrow, undulating ridge.  Still, it took us almost 45 minutes to reach the first obstacle - a steep gully on the first summit block.  We started up the center of this, but quickly traversed over to the left to get out of the snow and on top of the rock.

The steep gully
The climb up this gully and rock was definitely class 3+ and was the crux of the climb.  The rock wasn't too bad, if you paid attention, it would only occasionally fall apart in your hands.  There were ample hand and foot holds along the ledges that needed to be traversed as Dave led the way.

A ledge on the first summit block (D. Pahlas photo)

Some more scrambling (D. Pahlas photo)

The final summit block
Once above the gully, we came upon a snowfield across a short ridge that needed traversing.  We thought it prudent to pull out the ice axes as the run out on either side would have wrecked a great day.  With axes in had we crossed the snow and started up the rock on the final summit block.  After 15 minutes of some great scrambling we were on top at 10,171 feet, and it was only 3:30.

Summit Splattski
Dave commented that this was almost a perfect day.  The sun was out, the wind had died down, and we were on the summit, but - John wasn't with us.  I was feeling a bit tired at this point, so as we sat on the summit admiring the views, I fueled up with the remaining food I had on hand.

Looking back at our tracks across the snowy ridge
My GPS showed that we had travelled almost 6 miles during the last six hours to reach this summit.  A bit of hard work was still left as we had to down climb the two blocks and traverse across the long ridge to get back to our snowshoes.  We took our time and in places had to try two or three potential routes to get down without traversing across some of the ledges we used on the way up.

Heading up to get down (D. Pahlas photo)
By 4:45 we had made it back to our snowshoes without any mishaps.  At this point I was feeling pretty tired and we only had to drop 3,000 feet and 5 miles to get back to the truck.  I figured we'd make it back by 7:30 and with the time change in effect we wouldn't need headlamps.

Dave heading down
As it was, we arrived at the truck at 7:15 and wearily told John all about it before heading into Ketchum for a well deserved burrito.

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