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Living it Up in the Sawtooths

By BJ | July 23, 2007

The Sawtooths are an incredibly jagged range of peaks, about two hours north and east of Boise. More and more folks from out of state are learning what the locals have known for a long time: the Sawtooths offer some of the best alpine climbing in the country, without the crowds of more popular places. With my finger still on the mend, we couldn’t tackle the main cliff, the Elephant’s Perch, but a lesser objective sounded fun without the commitment of the bigger climb.

Jim and Shannon (and Keoki of course!) decided to meet up with us for the weekend on their way to Oregon. We all met on the shores of Red Fish Lake, where we packed up and took the 4 mile boat ride across to start our hike. We hit the trail around 8pm, and the cooler temperatures were nice. After about 2.5 miles it started to get dark, so we found a good spot to camp near a large boulder.


Shannon and Keoki on the boat ride across the lake.


Some of the peaks surrounding our camp.

The morning was beautiful and revealed the valley we were camped in was surrounded by massive, jagged peaks. So much rock in every direction! Our objective for the day, the Super Slab, is an 800′ slab of rock, and was only a short walk from our camp. After a mellow breakfast, we made our way to the base and started climbing. The sun was hot, and the climb was in the direct sun. As I belayed the others up, a breeze started and I hoped it would continue or we were going to roast.


The Super Slab.

I got lost on the next pitch and found myself going the wrong way up a corner that had no protection. After evaluating some options and wishing for a cloud to appear so my feet would cool off, I decided to down climb 50 feet back to my last piece and try another way. Back on route, the climbing was fun, and not difficult, but the protection remained sparse. The hot sun wasn’t helping either, and at the next belay we all contemplated going down, as the pitch above us looked pretty crappy.


Jim and Shannon on the second to last pitch.

After some deliberation, we decided to continue on with our adventure, and I led one of the crappier sections of rock in my life: loose and vegetated, at least I was able to find some pro. After Another big run out, I had to hide in a corner half way up to take my shoes off, as my feet were on fire. Once they cooled some, I put them back on and finished the pitch at a nice ledge with some trees and shade.


Belaying near the top of the Super Slab.

The last pitch went smooth and soon we were on top. Some clouds had rolled in for the last two pitches, but we were all super thirsty from the hot sun. After snapping some photos, we agreed it was a good adventure, despite the lackluster (and downright scary in places) climbing. A nice trail led back to the base and Keoki, who had waited at the bottom for us. We trudged back to camp and drank our fill of the water we had stashed in the morning.


The Grand Mogul and Red Fish Lake.

Jim and Shannon on top of Super Slab.


BJ and Tracy on top, with the Elephants Perch in the background.

We had talked about going for a hike in the afternoon, but we were all so drained we decided to just relax by the creek. Jim tried out the natural water slide and found it quite hard to stop on the slick granite slab. The water was cold and refreshing, and felt great in the afternoon sun.


Eating some dinner and refueling.

After our creek session we cooked up some pasta for dinner and called it a night as we were getting up early the next day to hike back down to the lake and hopefully climb a peak that rises out of the water.


Tracy trying to keep the mosquitoes at bay. She hates them.

The hike out in the morning was nice and went pretty quick. We didn’t have a guidebook for the peak we wanted to climb, but we could see it easily enough and figured the trail would be obvious. We ditched our heavy packs at the boat pick up and continued around the lake, looking for a spur trail that never materialized. We couldn’t figure out how we missed it, and later found out the trail goes the long way around and takes 7.5 miles to reach the summit. For a peak that sits right next to the lake. Whoever designed that trail should be fired.


Looking back at the Grand Mogul and the valley we camped in.

We still had a nice jaunt on the shores of the lake and made it back across the lake pretty early, so we had time to stop in Stanley for lunch, and at the Pine Flat hot springs on the way home. These hot spring cascade off a thirty foot cliff into a pool right on the shores of the South Fork of the Payette River. The cliffs that the water streams down are covered in orange algae that only grows in hot water. It makes for a beautiful scene along the river.

When we’d had enough, we continued back to Boise and ended a great weekend in the Sawtooths!


The Elephant’s Perch. Next time…


A little hazy, the view from Stanley.


Spud doesn’t want to leave!

Topics: Trips | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Living it Up in the Sawtooths”

  1. Katie Says:
    July 26th, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    I love the blog y’all keep! Its so great to read about your climbs and adventures!!! And I love the pictures. Sounds like you’re living the dream, Beej! I’ve done a fair amount of hiking in the Sawtooths but never realized how amazing the climbing would be- well done. Have fun!