Monday, August 17, 2015

Climbing The Riddler, Lemhi Range, Idaho

August 15, 2015

The Riddler on left

It was good to be going to the Lemhi Range once again. I tend to think of this range in a personal way  and to be back in the Lemhis would be a little like being back home. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, this range is eclipsed by the proximity of the Tetons in the east and the Lost River, Pioneers, White Clouds, and Sawtooth Ranges in the west.

When people, from this side of the state, find out that I like to walk up mountains, their first question usually is, "Have you climbed the Grand?" Their are many implications to such a response, but in general I think such inquisitors are seeking to validate an individual as a climber as to whether or not one has summited the Grand Teton. I usually reply that I would like to climb the Grand if the opportunity arises and I feel I have developed the requisite skills to safely scale the mountain. However, I secretly harbor a personal response that I never vocalize: I am a bit proud to say that I have never been to the top of The Grand. My contrarian side rises with the constant barrage of, "Have you climbed the Grand." There are thousands of peaks offering a lifetime of adventure in Idaho alone! Many of them seldom climbed. Yes, I really do want to climb The Grand someday, but in the meantime I would just like someone to ask, "Have you climbed the Riddler?"

The vast, seldom trod spaces of the Lemhis offer solitude and a spirit of exploration that appeals to me. Exploring high mountain tops in the Lemhi Range is fulfilling precisely because they lack the pretension of other ranges. The Riddler just south of Diamond Peak is a classic Lemhi peak and promises what I like to call a Mini Adventure in one's own "backyard." The approach from the east is beautiful. The climb offers some challenges: the number of summits can be likely counted on two hands. It is a well rounded adventure. When such a trip is mixed with good company, all is right with the world for a few days.

I left Rexburg late Friday evening to meet Tom Lopez and John Platt at the small campsite/trailhead located at the end of Pass Creek Road. We had postponed the trip by one day because of weather. The decision turned out to be fortuitous. Driving out of Rexburg, the skies were dark and rain pelted the windshield. The weather band reported 60 mph winds at Sage Junction. I would pass through the junction within twenty minutes. I drove on into the storm, pretty sure it was on its way out of the area. Was able to make several images of the receding front on my way to the Pass Creek turnoff.

Saddle Mountain and Tyler Peak
Diamond Peak and The Beaverheads
My trusty white horse parked off Highway 28
The Beaverheads
Heart Mountain on the far right
Desert Sky
Big Southern Butte and the toe of the Lemhis on the right
To find the Pass Creek turnoff, turn northwest on highway 28 just west of Mudlake. As you approach Lone Pine, look for a sign indicating the Pass Creek turnoff. If you end up in Lone Pine, turn around and look carefully. It is not far from Lone Pine. The road is in excellent condition. I would not hesitate taking a car to the trailhead this time of year. In the spring, with runoff, there may be a few sections of the road where a car may not be the best idea.

Met Tom and John around 9:00 PM. Talked a bit and bedded down for the night. In the morning, had a light breakfast and began the hike around 6:00 AM.

Photo by John Platt
Soon after leaving the ATV trail
Big Boy in the distance
Navigating the approach was a bit tricky. Following the ATV trail we knew we needed to head up one of the side canyons leading to the mountain. It was tempting to turn up the first canyon. Turns out the second canyon was the ticket. We soon found ourselves in forested canyons that seemed to veer off in confusing directions. Looking at the map a few days before, I thought we might have some problems in such terrain and had planned a GPS route on my watch. The few times we consulted the planned line boosted our confidence we were headed in the right direction. It was nice to have the navigation aid.

Once above treeline, we encountered a series of talus slopes leading to the end of the canyon.

John on a talus ridge

The next slope

I just liked this composition

Tom cresting a ridge
John (lower left) making the next ridge

John seriously looking forward to the next slope of talus leading to the gate in the rock band

The Gate comes into view

Tom above The Gate

 Into the fun part
The daunting maze of The Riddler

At the very end of the canyon, we studied our very spotty resources to determine a way through what was above. John and Tom identified a series of gullies that would hopefully lead to the crest and then the summit. The climbing was class 3, but the terrible quality of the rock in the gullies raised my level of concern above normal class 3 climbing. To mitigate the possibility of hazardous rock fall, we took turns going up gullies and signaled the lower climber to proceed once we were out of the line of fall for that particular chute. I think I held the dubious record for knocking the most rocks down the mountain.

Out of a gully looking for the next line

Photo by John Platt
Taking a break. I liked my rest breaks!

Photo by John Platt
Tom showing how its done

Photo by Tom Lopez
A great view of a typical gully climb!
Photo by John Platt
Almost to the main ridge
Ridge to Big Boy in the distance
Photo by John Platt
Tom and myself on the main ridge
Diamond Peak behind us!
John and Tom on the summit
Diamond Peak from the summit of The Riddler
Looking east
We came up the drainage on the south
Looking south
Bunting Canyon 
Tom Lopez, myself, and John Platt
Looking down the drainage we ascended
Heading down
Photo by John Platt
I absolutely love seeing this animal
John remarked that there were a few more old goats on the mountain that day

Cool formations near the trailhead

Nearing the end of the trail

Sick formations
We took a short break at the campsite then packed up and drove to the old Hahn area to camp in anticipation for the next day. Made camp overlooking the valley. Enjoyed a hot meal, drank cold drinks, listened to great music, shot some holes in the breeze. Remarked more than once that life just doesn't get much better. Be sure to check out the trip reports of both John and Tom. See links below.

Photo by Tom Lopez

Photo by John Platt

John Platt Riddler Trip Report

Tom Lopez Riddler Trip Report 

For more trip reports of other mountains visit

No comments: