Thursday, July 23, 2015

Climbing Sunny Bar Peak (10,512) Lemhi Range, Idaho

July 22, 2015

Sunny Bar Peak
Little Diamond Peak on the right

Ben and I climbed Sunny Bar Peak in the Lemhi Range. We were looking for a nice class 2 trek without a lot of elevation gain. Thought Sunny Bar fit the bill. Drove to Fallert Springs near Uncle Ike Creek in the Little Lost River Valley. The road is passable but AWD, great tires, and good clearance are necessities. I made it to the springs in my 2003 Forester, but keep in mind I have light truck tires on my vehicle.

Before we began hiking, we drove up the road to a vantage above Uncle Ike Creek. Below you can see the beginning of the creek. On the other side of the divide, the South Fork of Pass Creek drains to the east.

Uncle Ike Creek
The false summit of Sunny Bar Peak above Uncle Ike Creek
Swanson Peak in the background
Sunny Bar Peak (false summit) and Swanson Peak
Fallert Springs is the upper oasis
Nearing Fallert Springs

From Fallert Springs, hike north and then west up the steep scrub covered slope. This is the most difficult part of the climb. You will gain about 1,500 feet in a little over half a mile. The footing is pretty good. Once the ridge is made, follow it all the way to the top. This is a great class 2 climb. However, this route will only get you to 10,200 feet. The final summit is a ragged peak that does not look very approachable from the high ridge top on the mountain. Ben and I walked over to the path to the summit block, but decided against a traverse and climb from our position. I am sure this line entails some solid class 3 climbing at the very least. The south face of the peak is very steep and full of loose rock. The east/west ridge line from above Rocky Run Creek looks like a more approachable line to the summit of this mountain.

Little Diamond and Swanson Peak from Sunny Bar Peak
Ben (in his pajamas) near the summit of Sunny Bar Peak
A side note:

On the way back to the springs, Ben found the remains of a Big Horn Sheep. There were the four legs spread out in a rectangle and the head with about fifteen inches of vertebrae still attached. It reminded me of how our cat leaves the remains of his prey. He leaves the legs and head but eats everything in between.

Of course I carried the head down for him. Found out that to legally posses a ram's head, you must report it to the Fish and Game within 30 days of finding it. Drove to Idaho Falls to do my civic duty today. They take tissue samples, measurements, and information regarding the location of the find. They then drill a hole behind one horn and embed a metal identification pin in the horn. Interesting.

Ben's ram skull
Route from Fallert Springs
Ignore the orange and red line. I forgot to end the excersize and began driving. 
There are probably several ways to get to Fallert Springs. we came up from Howe and turned right on a road that looked like it would take us to the canyon between Sunny Bar and Buckhorn Peak. I took this photo of the two no trespassing signs right across the road from where we turned. There are also some beehives there, but of course they my not be there next year.

From the south, turn east at this landmark (on the west side of the road) to get to Fallert Springs
Nicholson Peak, Peak 10,604, Sunny Bar Peak, and false summit Sunny Bar Peak
Before reaching the highway, I was able to photograph some of the surrounding mountains. Here is a sample.

Buckhorn Peak and Mormon Gulch

Buckhorn Peak
Saddle Mountain
Saddle Mountain
Saddle Mountain
I believe that is Tyler Peak on the left
Nicholson Peak, Peak 10,604, Sunny Bar Peak
Sunny Bar Peak (false summit)

Bell Mountain
Other Resources:

Tom Lopez Website: Sunny Bar Peak

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Climbing Buck Mountain, Grand Teton National Park


North Face of Buck Mountain

Buck Mountain at 11,938 is the highest mountain south of Garnet Canyon in the Teton Range. The approach is a wonderful hike with all the classic elements of a Teton outing without many people. Ben and I saw only two guys on the trail once we left the Death Canyon trailhead.

Follow the Death Canyon trail for about a half mile. Right before crossing the third bridge, look for a trail veering off the right (north) of main trail. If you get to the bridge without seeing the cutoff, walk back about thirty feet and find it.

This trail will take you up Stewart Draw. Follow the well worn path up to a large alpine meadow peppered with an assortment of boulders from the slopes above. Buck Mountain lies above this meadow. Ben and I opted to follow the creek up the left side of the meadow to the ridge above. I crossed the creek and climbed along its edge. The blocky rocks provided steps up the steep slope. Ben stayed on the north side of the creek and seemed to struggle with traction on his way up. It's also possible to bypass the creek altogether and climb the more northern slopes above the meadow.

Ben and I followed this drainage out of the alpine meadow

Coming out above the creek, we turned north towards Buck Mountain. At this point Timberline Lake is minutes away. You can stay on the ridge to the east of the lake or drop down for a closer look at the lake. Either way you proceed north looking for a narrow couloir up the southeast section of the face. This couloir will lead you to a point above the cliffs at the base of the mountain.

Albright Peak comes into view in the south

Buck Mountain comes into view on the north
A small pond. Timberline lake is beyond the tree-lined ridge
Ben at Timberline Lake

The Tetons peek over the east ridge

The Tetons peek over the east ridge with Lupine. No pun intended
The couloir leading above the cliffs
The face of Buck Mountain. The couloir is located on the right. The lower slope of Static Peak is on the left
Climbing up to the couloir
Looking down the couloir

Coming out of the couloir you have two route choices. The most obvious and straightforward is to follow the east ridge to the summit. This is the most direct route and involves class 4 climbing. Once you commit to the ridge, it becomes more exposed on both sides the higher you climb making for some tremendous views. At one point the ridge line requires a walk across a narrow granite slab that slopes precariously towards a thousand feet of thin air. there are no good hand or foot holds for about ten feet. the slope of the rock adds to the sketchy nature of the short shuffle. Climbing shoes would add a layer of protection. Vibram soled boots didn't promote a lot of confidence on the smooth granite. I was half way across before I decided I did not want my 13-year-old son so exposed without protection. We turned around at this point and headed back down the east ridge.

The Tetons from the lower section of the east ridge.
Looking south. Static Peak and Timberline Lake
On the east ridge
East ridge
East Ridge

East Ridge Exposure
Finding a path off the ridge we dropped down to the face. From here it is a matter of route finding up the east face to get to the summit. Although not as direct as the ridge, good class 3 climbing can be found on the way without the exposure of the east ridge.

Dropping off the ridge onto the face
Climbing the face

Climbing the face. Static Peak in mid-ground

Ben shooting some video in the middle of a pitch

Nearing the summit
On the Top
Looking down the east ridge

Finding time to play while down climbing the face

This must have been quite the sight when this boulder careened down to land here

The round trip is about ten miles with a total ascent of about 5,879 feet.

Just as we were nearing the Death Canyon Trailhead, a deer walked out of the forest and decided to investigate us. I was talking on the phone as the deer walked right towards us. Ben excitedly grabbed a camera and took some photos. The deer stopped about fifteen feet in front of us, looked us over and began eating. It was a pretty amazing encounter.

Ben's Deer
GPS Track
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