Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Trip Report: Great Western Peak (10,358), Lemhi Range, Idaho

Great Western Peak

  • August 20, 2016
  • Team: Solo
  • Summit: 
  • Great Western Peak
  • Route: Bartel Canyon
  • YDS: Class 2
  • Total Elevation Gain: 4,200 feet
  • Total Miles: 6.7 miles

It was 2:00 Saturday afternoon. I was antsy. Without too much thought, I grabbed some donuts and water and drove to the Lemhis. I had been saving Great Western Peak for just such a day. In proximity it was the closest, still unclimbed by me, peak in the Lemhi Range. I also knew that the map showed one could drive a good distance up Bartel Canyon. Perfect for a late afternoon climb.

The drive just to get to Bartel Canyon is a considerable feat across the desert. Reflecting back, I think it was about 45 minutes from highway 28 to the trail head. The turnoff is well marked with a brown sign identifying several of the canyons on the east side of the southern mountains. Going into the canyon, the road narrows quite a bit. Expect scratches on the sides of your vehicle if you drive in all the way.

I was on the move around 4:00 and headed up the drainage to find my way. I had an idea of finding a gully that would take me up Great Western. What I found was a drainage choked with trees and brush. There was no way I could guess a turnoff in such a thicket. The one gully that I could see presented a tall cliff face from one side to the other. I thought this must be quite the sight during spring runoff. It also gave me pause to think of coming down such a gully and finding such an insurmountable obstacle.

I conceded to head further up the Bartel drainage. Did I say that this was the mother of all bushwacks? After what seemed forever, I came out in a bowl between 10,194 and Great Western.

The upper bowl

The area was riddled with impressive formations and cliffs

I decided to head northwest to make the ridge. I calculated that the peak was more north than south from this point.

Glimpse of Great Western

Stopped on some rocky outcroppings and rested a bit. Made a cairn on the high point of the ridge. 

Cairn on the ridge to Great Western

North ridge of Saddle Mountain
Splattski on the ridge
Stellar cliffs were all around

Then had a hair brain idea. Why not retrace my steps and stand on top of 10,194. I knew it was technically not a peak but thought what the heck. I reversed course and headed south. Now the idea of bushwacking in the dark pushed out any thoughts of enjoying this tangent. So, I turned around and headed north. This time I stayed the course to the top of Great Western. 

I had tried to climb this mountain from the west ridge last year and encountered a series of impassable cliffs. Now, from this angle, I could see more clearly what turned me around.

West Ridge of Great Western on left

Detail of cliffs

Detail of cliffs

Once on the summit, I could not decide the high point. There is a tall rock outcropping right at the top of the south ridge. However, the east point of the mountain was a possible contender. There was no summit cairn at either location. The only other person I know to have climbed Great Western was Rick Baugher; yet, no cairn. I walked out to the point and gave it my best guess. The rock outcropping was it. I walked back to the top of the rocks and left a register...no cairn...anxious to get down. You can see my dilemma in the third photo above. If anyone climbs this mountain again, build a respectable cairn for the register.

Looking north from the summit
Looking south from the summit

By this time the sun was sinking fast and I quickly dropped off the mountain to a small saddle just at the base of the south ridge. Anxious to get down I descended off this saddle and into the gully. The going was great and I whittled down the elevation quickly. Then came the brambles and the fight began. For some reason a line from the Authority Song played over and over again in my head..."I fought authority and authority won." The thickets got the best of me. Navigated the last hour in the dark forest. Was glad to see the ol' red truck.

Map Track and Stats

Index of Peaks

No comments: