Monday, March 09, 2015

Climbing Lost River Mountain, Lost River Range, Idaho


Lost River Mountain, Lost River Range, Idaho

Super Gully, Lost River Mountain

The decision to climb the Super Gully in the winter would alleviate the endless steep scree slide of summertime. However, it does come with its own set of problems.

We arrived at the mountain early in the morning. Dusk was on the horizon. Drifted snow across the access road made for about a mile hike into the mountain. While gearing up, I assessed the Super Gully. It looked like we would be able to kick in steps all the way up. Unfortunately, I decided to leave my crampons in the car. James and Allen had crampons loaded in their packs.

The going was easy. It's just a pleasant hike to the entrance of the Super Gully. Allen found a trove of fossils in the scree leading up to the gully. He picked up several good horns. I found a good horn for Jame's daughter. We were enjoying just being on the mountain. Approaching the south side cliffs of the gully, we geared up for the steep climb ahead.

Entering the Super Gully, Lost River Mountain
Once into the gully, it became apparent that my assessment of the snow was dead wrong. The gully was a huge sheet of ice and kicking in was next to impossible. The others donned their crampons and made fast work of the steep icy surface. I did my best to follow in their footsteps. Needless to say, I got plenty of self-arrest practice during the climb.

At one point, the surface was too hard to kick in even a small toe hole; I carved steps up a twenty-foot section with the adze of my axe to continue up the slope. This was great experience. the situation required a bit of skill to navigate the steep icy slopes.

The Ridge to the Summit

Once on the top ridge, we knew there would be a small outcropping of rock that would require dropping off the ridge a bit to go around it. Scott Hurst told us that we should go left when we came to this obstacle. At this point, I saw James, ahead of me, drop off the ridge and proceed on a small ledge around the rock. I followed. the ledge was about 18 inches wide and was comprised of terribly rotten rock. Hand holds on the wall were equally crumbly.  I would test each hand hold, and then each footstep before committing my weight. I proceeded chest against the wall with arms outstretched feeling for hand holds. Once across the twenty-foot section, I scurried back up to the ridge. Walking the ridge required, at times, attention to be focused only on the next step. I was especially aware of the fact that I had no crampons on the icy line.

On the Summit
On the summit we both concluded that we were not looking forward to going back across the narrow ledge. I suggested that although the other side of the rock was steep, it was covered in solid snow and would possibly provide good footing. On the way back, we opted for this route over the ledge. In ten seconds we walked around the rock outcropping without any problem at all! James remarked, "Scott was full of crap!" We both had a good chuckle.

Descending Into the Super Gully

Looking Down the Super Gully
Coming down without crampons was a bit tricky. I glissaded slowly down most of the way. I often stopped to make a photo like the one above. I would carve out a ledge to stand on and snap a few images. One time I was in a hurry and forgot to carve out a place to stand. I plunged the spike of my axe into the snow to secure it. Took off my glove and secured it so it would not slide away and took out my camera. Suddenly, my feet went out from under me and I was headed down the mountain. My first thought was, "How stupid." Next, I was clawing at the icy surface with my bare hand. Quickly, I realized that I was never going to get my fingers into the ice. I rolled over on my back and kicked at the surface with my heels. Within thirty-feet of falling, I caught a heel. I looked back up at my axe and glove and tried to scale the slope to retrieve them. Without crampons or an axe, I had no traction to ascend. Once again luck was with me. Allen was descending above me and was able to bring down my gear. It is amazing how quickly a sliding body can pick up speed. Careening down the mountain without control could be fatal if one slammed into rocks or went off a cliff. Such an experience reminds me that although winter peaks in Idaho are not in the same ballpark as big mountains in Alaska or Asia, they can still be just as unforgiving to careless actions.

The Weather Cleared As We Came Out of the Gully
The weather cleared coming out of the gully. the views were incredible. I feel lucky to go to such places and see such sights. I snapped the above photo of James as we rounded the cliffs at the base of the gully. The image seems to sum up a beautiful day in Idaho mountains.

Other Resources:

Tom Lopez Website:
Lost River Mountain

For more trip reports of other mountains visit

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Incredible/scary story. Thanks for sharing!