Thursday, June 16, 2016

Trip Report: Boulder Peak (10.981), Boulder Mountains, Idaho

Boulder Peak, Boulder Mountains
  • June 11, 2016
  • Team: Ben and Uncle Rick
  • Summit: 
    • Boulder Peak
  • Route: West Couloir
  • YDS: Class 2/3
  • Total Elevation Gain: 4,040 feet
  • Total Miles: Approximately 5.5 miles plus the 4WD approach
Ben and I met Uncle Rick last Friday afternoon at the Albertsons in Hailey. He drove over over from Eagle with his Razr in tow. We drove to Ketchum.  Had dinner at Wise Guy Pizza and did some window shopping before we headed north to Boulder Peak. We drove a bit off the road and unloaded the Razr. Rick wanted to see how far we could make it into Boulder Basin that evening.

We drove off to see what we could see. We made it almost to the entrance of the basin before deep snow turned us around. Drove back down and took the left fork towards the southwestern slopes of Boulder Mountain. This road provides access to the mountain with any good 4WD. Actually, I think I could drive it in my Forester. I snapped a few photos of the mountain just east of Boulder Creek Road.

Northern ridge of Peak 10,414

Back at the trucks, we bedded down for the night. Car camping with Uncle Rick is as luxurious as can be. I used one of his Exped Megawatt 10 mattresses and slept on the bed of the trailer. The mattress was super comfortable. Ben choose to sleep in the cab of the "new" truck. and Rick slept under the shell of his truck. We arose at 5:00 A.M. and were on the trail at around 5:45 A.M.

Taking the left fork of the trail we once again made our way to the southwestern slopes the mountain.  I purposely did not research any routes up the mountain to add to the adventure. This time we would find our own way to the top. We walked directly towards the mountain taking it head on. Ascended the major gully heading northeast up the mountain. The steep gully was mixed scree, talus, and class 2 climbing over large rocks. We picked our way to the base of a towering wall (seen below) at the top of the gully.

Southwest gully heads northeast up the mountain
Ben and uncle Rick making their way up the gully
Ben taking time to explore a cave in the cliff above
Once at the wall, we decided against taking what looked like a class 3 gulley to the north and continued northeast/east to see what was around the end of the wall. We rounded the large tower (center) in the above photo of the gully and were greeted with the southern face of the mountain. The face looked impregnable. At about 10,200 feet we turned around and headed back down to find another route. We passed the gully heading north and continued to drop in elevation to make our way around the mountain and up the drainage between Boulder Peak and high ridge leading to Silver Peak. Although we were a bit temped to take the gully heading north, we just did not want to expend a great deal of energy and cliff out again. We wanted a route that was more of a sure deal.

Heading almost due east and then north, we rounded the lowest cliffs on the mountain. Looking for a route, we headed into the basin west of Boulder Peak. Several viable routes presented themselves. The first was a steep couloir filled with snow that looked like it went straight to the top.  A bit further north a couple of other routes looked promising.

Silver Peak at the end of the drainage

Rick had hurt his ankle and was limping along and Ben wasn't too excited to head up again after our initial route fizzled. It was looking like this trip would end up as a reconnoiter, when Rick suggested that I could summit while he Ben stayed in the entrance to the basin.

I decided to head up the steep narrow snow-filled couloir. Despite having no axe or crampons, I endeavored to kick in solid steps up the gully. Not very smart. The slope got steeper and the snow harder. I found myself in a predicament. There was no way I was going to be able to back down this slope without an axe and continuing on was becoming more and more precarious. I decided that it would be better to take my chances on the rib to my left. I slowly worked my way over to the rock wall. I was super relieved to be off that snow-filled couloir. This proved to be the right decision. Going up this rocky rib was no more than class 3 climbing. The higher I went on the mountain,  class 3 gave way to class 2 all the way to the summit.

Coming out of the couloir and onto the rocky rib
On top, I took photos of the surrounding mountains:

Peak 11,260+
11,260+, Silver Peak, Boulder Basin Peak
11,260+ and Silver Peak
Looking down into Boulder Basin:

The ridge to Boulder Basin Peak
Dropping off the summit, I walked the ridge toward Boulder Basin Peak to find a route down. Finding a slope with small rocks, I scree skied and dropped about 800 feet in 15 minutes. I then ended up carefully navigating steep rocks before finding myself in narrow gully filled with snow. Although not as steep as the gully I ascended, this section proved dicey. After a small slip and slide off the side of the gully, I was happy to pick my way down through the rocks.

Reuniting with Rick and Ben, we descended the drainage next to the stream draining the basin above. Found a trail and followed it all the way to the Razr. The route we followed must be an often used trail into the basin below Silver Peak as it was well defined.

In the back of the Razr, Rick had packed a Yeti cooler with ceviche and chips along with cold drinks. After the snack, I was glad to ride the 5 miles or so back to the trucks. We were certainly spoiled on this trip.