Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Copper Basin

The Pioneers from Lake Creek Sunday morning
I'd been itching to get back to Copper Basin for the last couple of years but just hadn't had the chance to do it.  With a free weekend, Tamara and I decided to make the long drive over Trail Creek Summit into Copper Basin for a little hiking and biking.

We had a leisurely 7AM start Saturday morning, arriving at Star Hope Campground a little after noon to set up "camp".  After a quick lunch, we were on to our first adventure - climbing Roundup Peak.  Though the day started clear and calm, as we started the hike, clouds started building from the west, and the wind started blowing from the same direction.
Peak 10,225 aka Roundup Peak
We started the hike following an old road that moved through a sage meadow interspersed with lupine that would be blooming in the coming weeks.  As we moved higher, we entered a whitebark pine forest.  Though these trees are on the decline, there was quite a bit of new growth amongst the giant dead whitebark pines.

As we moved up through the forest, we eventually gained the ridge overlooking the Lake Creek drainage.  Here the wind sounded like a freight train as it passed over the ridge and through the trees.  Along with the wind, the clouds were becoming a bit darker, but they were moving so fast that thunderstorms seemed unlikely. So, we continued on up.

While Tamara stayed down out of the wind, Shadow and I quickly dashed up and touched the summit.
Shadow working on her LoJ peak numbers
After rejoining Tamara, we took a gentle connecting ridge back down to the truck, and were heading back to camp 3 hours after we started.

Unlike Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning was all bright sunshine without clouds or wind.  After a couple cups of coffee and a big breakfast, we loaded the mountain bikes in the back of the truck and made the short drive to Lake Creek Recreation Site.

Our plan was to bike a 13 mile loop through Lake Creek, that started at approximately 8200 feet and would climb to a series of lakes at 9600 feet.  With some beta we received from a guy who had attempted the loop Saturday, we weren't confident that it could be done, but were up for it giving it the "old college try".

After leaving Shadow in her kennel in the shade, we started up the ATV two track that would be our trail for the day.
Psyched at the start

Entering Lake Creek

For the first four miles, the trail meanders through the rocky valley floor while gaining approximately 800 feet.  Nothing too strenuous if you're cycling at 2500 feet, but at this elevation the breathing gets a little difficult.  We stopped frequently to take photographs and catch our breath.

At about the four mile mark, we started up a series of very steep, muddy switchbacks that required a bit of hike-a-bike.  Nothing too bad and we were still smiling, so we continued on.  We eventually reached Long Lake at 9600 feet to some stunning views of the Alcyon Peaks.
Long Lake with some of the Alcyon Peaks in the background
Still smiling!
After a short break admiring the views, we were off to try and complete the loop.  So a bit more climbing up the steep, muddy trail.  While above 9000 feet, we were able to bypass the majority of the snow on the trail by following the ATV ruts that went through it,  but apparently no one had been on this section off the trail yet this year, so we ran into a few large snowbanks blocking our path.

Tamara bypassing some snow
No worries though!  A bit of high stepping through the soft snow in half a dozen places, and we continued on.

Eventually the snow petered out, and we were heading down a series of steep muddy switchbacks that eventually led us back to the trail we had started up on.  A few bone jarring miles(with no falls) later and we were back at the truck with huge smiles on our faces.  The 13 mile, 1500 foot mountain bike loop had taken us 4 hours to complete, but it was absolutely awesome!  

Tamara getting a bit loose in the rocks

Monday, June 6, 2016

Leatherman Peak (12,228') Ski

Saturday afternoon I scooted away from the IS spring outing as soon as I could, to meet up with Dylan and his GF Bailey, at Amy Lou’s, in Mackay.  After a nice bacon cheeseburger, we loaded their gear into the truck for the drive to the Leatherman Peak trail head, on the West Fork of the Pahsimeroi River.  After the long, bumpy drive, we reached the trail head and set up camp in the dark.  Without much negotiation, we settled on a 5AM departure and tried to sleep. I’m not sure if it was being dead tired (me), the anticipation (Dylan and me) or the creek (all of us), but sleep was hard to come by.

Dylan woke me out of a sound sleep (huh?) at 4:30AM, and after a quick bite we were heading for Leatherman peak with our skis on our back.  We found the two log “bridges” in the dark and were soon moving quickly up the trail.  Well, he was moving quickly.  I was struggling to keep up with his pace, but was doing my best.  Knowing how bad the snow was on yesterday’s climb, we were hoping to be off the mountain by noon.

As it lightened up we came to the only other creek crossing.  Unable to find a way across in the gloom, we headed to our right and started to bushwhack.  As we moved up we eventually hit snow.  And wouldn’t you know it, as the wet mushy snow became thicker, so did the trees.  Nothing beats bushwhacking, except bushwhacking with skis strapped to your back in snow!
Yours truly bushwhacking
After 30 minutes or so, we gained a rocky ridge, and then I heard him shouting with glee.  We had reached the upper cirque and were out of the trees!  At this point Leatherman was towering above us with the top in bright sunshine.

We took a short break at the base.  I was feeling pretty puny at this point, as the bushwhack had taken a bit out of me.  Looking up at the scree that needed to be climbed made me feel more tired. I didn’t want to say anything to Dylan as he was really feeling good, so good he was hooting and hollering about the views.
Dylan heading up
Looking back down the valley
We started up, zig zagging through the steep scree before we eventually reached the snow.  Surprisingly, this snow was relatively solid and allowed us to move upward a little easier. 
Transitioning with Leatherman lit up
Once we reached 10,000 feet it appeared that the snow was more contiguous, so we transitioned to skinning.  Skinning up the mountain was much easier than walking up and we made good time. 
Dylan starting the skin
As the slope steepened at about 10,800 feet, Dylan told me that he had a problem with the heel riser on his binding.  Apparently, it had been bent for some time, but now wasn’t usable.  So he MacGyvered it with a rock and a ski strap.  We headed onward and upward.
Dylan working on his binding
The end result!
Looking good!
Dylan skinning
Me catching my breath
We eventually reached a point where it was too steep to skin and transitioned to booting.  Dylan took the lead as I struggled to stay behind him.  Unfortunately, the warm temperatures the past few days hadn’t allowed the snow to set up, and we were sinking to our knees as we booted up the final 1000 feet.
Looking up

Dylan nearing the summit
The bright sunshine and lack of a breeze made it feel like we were in an oven, but we eventually reached the summit at 10:30AM.  The views from the top were phenomenal with Mount Borah and Mt Church looking like you could reach out and touch them.
Hero shot!

Mt Borah (high point on right)
Mt Church
We took a short break, snapping photos and pounded out a platform to transition to skiing mode.  After getting all our gear in order, we shouldered our packs, clicked into our skis, and smiled at each other.  Afterwards, we talked about how both our hearts were beating in anticipation and fear.  The mountain wasn’t too steep, but we knew the conditions weren’t too good either.
One last look down
With a, “WooHoo!”  Dylan was off for his first turns and they didn’t look too good with the sloppy snow. 

After he stopped, it was my turn and I pushed off.  Yep, the snow definitely wasn’t in too good of shape, but this is what backcountry skiing is all about.  You take the good with the bad, and being out with my boy on a gorgeous day in the Lost Rivers at 12K feet, skiing in June is a pretty damn good day!

We yo-yo’d down the mountain, doing our best to stay on our feet in the mash potato snow.  At one point I caught an edge, lost my ski and did a short roll down the mountain.  Thankfully, I couldn’t go too far in the mushy snow.

Dylan way down there
We quickly made our way down to where we had left our hiking boots, loaded them in our packs and then picked our way down the remaining snow patches.  We eventually ran out of snow at about 9400’ feet.

We were all smiles as we transitioned back to hiking boots and loaded our skis back on the packs.  Looking back up the mountain, we could just make out our tracks, they weren’t the prettiest, but they were ours!

We followed the trail out and found a great log to cross the stream, seeing where we went awry during the hike up.  We made it back to camp and Bailey at 12:40.  Smiles still on our faces!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Scorpion Peak - Idaho Summits Spring Outing

Scorpion Peak from Pincer Peak
Saturday (June 4th), I spent the day with 19 of my closest friends climbing in the Southern Pioneer Mountains, on the annual Idaho Summits Spring Outing.  The majority of us met up Friday evening at Copper Creek Campground north of Carey, Idaho. Here we enjoyed some excellent Jambalaya produced by George Reinier (through In Da Wild Chef) as we got acquainted (or re-acquainted) with each other.

Surprisingly, we were up and hiking around 7:30AM Saturday morning in clear blue skies. It is usually hard to get this large of a group coordinated, but Dan did a great job. The route started up an old mining road and made for easy walking.  Unfortunately, this road ended abruptly at the first creek crossing.  The snow melt fed, swollen creek didn’t have an obvious crossing point and the group took a hard left up the steep hill to try and bypass the creek.  In theory, this route might have worked had our objective been a different peak (Antares) rather than Scorpion.  But, eventually everyone dropped back down to the creek and had to endure some major bushwhacking and a couple of creek crossings (or not) before Scorpion Mountain came into view.

At this point the group split up, with 6 of us (Tod, Bill, Carey, George, John and me) electing to go straight up a snow filled couloir we had spotted, while the majority stayed left to gain the west ridge. 

After separating from the group, we quickly gained the snowfield at about 8500 feet and proceeded to head straight up toward the summit.  With the warming temperatures, the snow varied from slightly mushy to slurpy (those are climbing technical terms!) as we moved upward.  At about 9700 feet we moved right to obtain the couloir we had noticed from below.  This necessitated a bit of snow swimming until we reached a rock band that allowed us to drop down into the couloir.

Here Tod led the five of us up the 35-40 degree couloir, kicking steps in the slightly firmer snow.  It was hot at this point, with the sun bouncing off the snow creating an oven-like affect. 

John R.

Eventually we reached the end of the snow, a couple of hundred feet below the summit.  After a short break, we continued up the rocky ridge to a false summit.  At the false summit Tod and I noticed a set of footprints crossing a snow filed below us.  We were both a bit dumbfounded as we assumed that we were the first ones up.  
Tod following the mystery footprints

Scorpion Summit
The short down climb
We made the short down climb and used the existing footprints to make the spicy traverse across the short snowfield.  A minute later we were on the 10,545 foot summit at 11:15AM.

After a few minutes we noticed someone coming up from the west ridge route that we didn’t recognize.  It turned out to be Rob F, who had started off that morning alone up the east ridge. The tracks we had followed across had been his – mystery solved.
John Platt approaching the summit
As it was a warm, windless afternoon, the hour wait the seven of us had before the others started straggling up was very pleasant.  Eventually all 20 of us were on Scorpion peak.

After a group photo, six of us (John P, Tod, Brett, George, John R and myself) headed over to Pincer Peak on the interconnecting ridge a little before 1PM.  
Pincer Peak in the center
We had a great walk traversing the ridge with varying snow and rocky sections.  The last portion of the ascent went straight up some loose rock, but all in all it was relatively straightforward.  We gained the summit of Pincer Peak (11,650) at about 2:15.

We briefly looked across the next ridge to Antares Peak (which Dylan and I attempted to ski five years prior http://fadgenfamily.blogspot.com/2011/06/antares-peak-attempt-memorial-day.html ) but decided against it. 
Antares Peak from Pincer Peak
A bit of down climbing led us to a narrow snow chute we had spied on the way over.  This chute provided a 600’ glissade, making the descent that much more enjoyable.

Rather than bushwhack down on the creek bottom, we elected to follow an old mine road out and even scooted by the creek without having to cross it.  Just as we emerged from the canyon we could see the dust of the rest of the group driving back to camp.  Oh well, what’s another mile of walking?

Another great Idaho Summits outing!

Time – 10 hours
Distance – 8 miles

Elevation – 4400 feet  

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