Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Monday, February 13, 2017

Winter Ascent of Copper Mountain - 10,303'

This last week has seen temperatures rise dramatically in southern Idaho, putting a damper on the excellent powder skiing we've had since late December.  Along with the high temperatures came rain to the lower elevations, further screwing up the skiing conditions.  Time for a climb!  A weather window was looking promising for Sunday, so John, Michael and I heading over to eastern Idaho to test our hiking legs by climbing an early season 10,000 foot peak.  Other than being above 10K feet, the reason that Copper Mountain was chosen was its close proximity (2 miles) to the highway.

As we made the 3 hour trip to Arco, Saturday afternoon, we were amazed at the amount of snow in the Camas Prairie and at Craters of the Moon NM. As we settled in for the night in our luxurious 3 bed motel room, we hoped that the snow wouldn't be too deep.

Luckily for us, the turn off to Long Canyon was snow free, allowing us to drive the two miles to the base of the route.  Surprisingly, the southern end of the Beaverheads had very little snow and the route to Copper did not look too difficult.  Not quite knowing what to expect, we loaded our packs with ice axes, crampons and snowshoes and were on our feet at roughly 7:30AM.
Copper Mountain is the peak to the left
The route follows mining roads for the first couple of miles before turning towards point 8555.  We put on our snowshoes early in the hike to stop the occasional post hole and made great time until a few hundred feet below point 8555.
John heading up the ridge

The southern Lemhi range 

John and Michael on one of the many mining roads

Heading up towards Point 8555

Self portrait with Diamond peak in the background
As we progressed upward, we encountered the dreaded Mountain Mahogany, which usually equates to agony of some sort.  In addition to the usual bushwhack through the mahogany, the snow changed from semi-solid to sun crusted with sugar underneath.  The agony began...
A large hole that John emerged from


Michael churning up with point 8555 behind him
Our progress slowed to a crawl.  The process was: lift one foot up, stand on the snow, have the snow collapse to shin depth, try not to slide backwards, lift the other foot up, try to stand on snow, have the snow collapse. Repeat.

Did I mention it was beautiful out?  Sunny skies and no wind, almost T-shirt weather.
One last bit of snow before the talus
As we bushwhacked through the mahogany, we moved back and forth on either side of the ridge in search of some consolidated snow.  For whatever reason, it was just not there.  So, with heads down, we plowed upward for the next 1200 feet at roughly 600 feet/hour.

At 9700 feet we finally reached the rock band below the false summit.  The talus, though loose, offered much better footing than the snow as we trudged toward the false summit at 10,000 feet.  By this time it was 12:30 and we had been at it for five hours.  With very tired legs, we plodded the final 3/4 mile to the summit.
Michael has never been so happy to be on loose rock

Michael and John with the summit of Copper Mountain behind them 

Almost there

All smiles for the summit shot
The weather was still spectacular at the summit as we chatted and fueled up for the hike back.  We had thoughts of making a small loop of the hike, but decided to play it safe and retrace our steps.

So after a short 20 minutes, we started back down.

The car (circled in red) is a long way down there
I'd like to say that the trip down was easier than the hike up, but as I sit here with aching legs a day later, I'm not so sure.  The sun had further affected the snow, and though the trail was broken, it was much more slippery than on the way up.   We all had our challenges on the way down with exhaustion causing multiple slips and falls in the snow.  There were multiple stops to ward off dehydration and replenish energy reserves, before we eventually reached the rig at 4:45.

It was a long grueling day, but it was with great friends and a gorgeous day!

Interesting limestone formations
Link to John's Trip Report: http://www.splattski.com/2017/copper/index.html

Time: 9.5 hours car-car
Distance: ~ 9 miles
Elevation: ~4300 feet

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