Sunday, January 11, 2015

Climbing Baldy Mountain, Snake River Range, Idaho

Baldy Mountain, Snake River Range, Idaho

When Scott Gifford suggested we try out our legs on Baldy Mountain in the Snake River Range, I jumped at the chance to get out again. Jacob, Scott's younger brother, also was eager to climb a mountain so we loaded up and drove to Swan Valley.

Baldy is the big peak that rises behind the "town" of Swan Valley. I knew that this range gets much more snow then the Lost River, Lemhi, or Beaverhead Ranges, but was sure we could find some gentle ridges to ascend, keeping clear of steep slopes or chutes. We decided to begin the hike at the Palisades Creek Campground. This southwest aspect was another decision that would help mitigate avalanche danger.

Scott and Jacob

We began climbing around 7:00 A.M. We could not see the peak from our trailhead, but, from our drive in, knew there were several high ridges that we must go over before the final climb on Baldy, we began hiking up gentle slopes in the general direction of the mountain. The snow was about 6 inches. The tall brush was more an obstacle then the snow. Deer trails were everywhere and we often followed their trails through the snow and brush. Soon we were seeing dozens of whitetail bounding out of thickets as we approached.

The snow gradually became deeper as we left the foothills and gained elevation. Soon it was knee deep. It was mostly crystallized powder and breaking trail was not difficult. this all changed when it was thigh deep. Scott and I took turns breaking trail. Often the snow came up to our waists and a few times we were belly deep in snow. Combined with steeper slopes the deep snow made going very slow. We continued on undaunted by the workout.

We came to the final ridge before Baldy Mountain after about 5 hours of tough trail breaking. This was the first time we got a good look at what a summit would entail. From a distance, the foreshortened perspective made the peak look very close to the successive ridges that preceded it. Now we saw that the distance from the last ridge to Baldy was considerable. We also could see that we would have to descend a long distance and then climb up a very steep slope to reach the main ridge leading to the summit. All of this would have to be done in waist deep snow. We conceded to the mountain.and made some mental notes on how to best approach the summit for the future.

Mountain Goat near Palisades Creek, Snake River Range, Idaho

On the way down, we found a mountain goat using the trail we had broken coming up. I was able to get my camera out and snap a few photos before it went over a ridge and disappeared. The stats for the hike look pretty wimpy, but considering we were breaking a trail that a mountain goat would use puts a whole new perspective on what we accomplished that day.

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