Sunday, March 15, 2015

Climbing Diamond Peak, Lemhi Range


The Riddler on the Left
Seen From the Eastern Ridge of Diamond Peak
This weekend marked my one year anniversary of going up mountains. What began as a photography project, to photograph Idaho mountains, has now evolved. To photograph mountains, I soon learned that you have to get to know them better. Sometimes just getting close to them is not enough. You have to place yourself on them and all around them. What began as merely a photographic pursuit now continues mainly as a hiking/climbing activity. Images made during these excursion are now of secondary importance. In the beginning I would often hike to a specified location and wait for the light to get good, often spending the night. The vast majority of the time, I would be disappointed. No good images were made and I found little satisfaction in the journey, just frustration. Slowly I let go of the imposed notion that I had to get "good shots" when hiking and climbing. I could then pursue hikes and climbs purely for the adventure, free from the expectation of "good shots." I still carry a camera, but it does not dictate when and where I go. If a good image is made during the outing, I count myself lucky. If the light is terrible, I end up with some memorable snapshots. Being active in the mountains is reward enough.

Last year, during this time in March, I climbed Little Sister a lesser mountain just south of Bell Mountain. This was the third mountain I have ever climbed and the first time I climbed since college days in the early 1980s. Little Sister was my inaugural mountain, during this phase in my life. Since that week last year, I have climbed Diamond Peak, Umpleby Peak, Bell Mountain, Gilmore Peak, Saddle Mountain, Nicholson Peak, Table Mountain, Sphinx Mountain,  Mount Borah, Mount Idaho, Leatherman Peak, Mount Church, Donaldson Peak, Mount Breteinbach, and Lost River Mountain. Yesterday, I went up Diamond for the second time with a group of friends. For me it was a one year commemoration of my climbing progress. I must say I was in much better shape coming off the mountain this time than last year.

Layne Hacking, James Allen, James Helfrich, and myself left for Diamond Peak a bit after 5:00 yesterday morning. Layne drove his truck for us. We were darn lucky to have Layne driving. Without Layne, our one day climb would have proven impossible. He was able to get us to the most common trailhead, the same place I was able to get my Subaru to last year in perfect conditions. We entertained going up the southern ridge for an instant and then opted for the straightforward eastern ridge. Like most Idaho mountain, the beginning is a steep scree slog. Once the ridge is achieved, we followed it upwards and north to the large east ridge leading to the summit. This is where things got fun.

The Curve Leading to the Eastern Ridge and the Summit of Diamond Peak
Layne Beginning the East Ridge
The Imposing Steps Behind
The east ridge is made of series of large steps that must be climbed on the way to the summit. Many of the climbs are near vertical. I am not sure but I think there are at least three major steps to be climbed on the way up and several lesser ones. This ridge involves some route finding and just a bit of confidence with class 3 climbing.
Layne Beginning the Steep Ascent of a Large Step 
Typical Climbing Surface

Looking South
Saddle Mountain in Far Distance
Looking North
Bell Mountain in the Distance
Looking Down

In the Cliffs of the East Ridge

The Last Big Step Has Been Climbed
The Summit is Next
Diamond Peak Summit View 1

Diamond Peak Summit View 2
The Riddler and Southern Mountains

Looking Northeast
The Beaverheads in the Distance
James H. Down Climbing a Steep Section
One More View
James A. Preparing for a Down Climb
We made it off the ridge and into the steep scree. Once off the scree we followed a ridge leading to the top a small hill with forested trees on the northeast side. On top was a great looking cairn with nearby prayer flags fluttering in the breeze. It was a cool way to end the hike before we plowed down through the trees in thigh deep snow.

Other Resources:

Tom Lopez Website:
Diamond Peak


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