Sawtooth snowshoe


A warm spell kept us from climbing, but low snow and snowshoes let us see a lot of Sawtooth country.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

Brian flew in on Friday night from Portland, landing at about 8pm. We stopped at the grocery store, went home, and packed.


First thing the next morning, we gulped down some joe and jumped in the truck. When we got to the Stanley valley, the weather wasn't very promising. Nevertheless, we were looking forward to being out.

The turnoff to Stanley Lake was gated shut, but our goal was to hike to Sawtooth Lake, up Iron Creek. After driving a couple of miles up Iron Creek road, a sign said the road was closed to protect the driving surface from damage. The same sign was there last year when we drove up the road in perfect condition. But today it looked soggy, so like good boys, we obeyed and instead headed to Redfish Lake. To our surprise, on this paved road another Closed sign was standing there, sitting in the right-hand lane. A 3 hour drive and 3 closed roads. As we sat and talked about our options, we noticed that people were camped in the campground, behind the Closed sign. Also, a number of cars were driving around. We decided that it must be a work-week thing, so we used the open left lane to go around like everyone else had. More on this later....

We parked in the Redfish hiking lot, official Parking Pass displayed, and headed up Fishhook Creek. The low clouds didn't dampen our spirits, and we made good progress up the valley. The trail was damp, but in excellent shape because it stays above the soggy areas, like this one. As you can guess by Brian's t-shirt, the weather was unusually warm for the Stanley basin, close to the 50s by noon.

It was too warm for good conditions, so we dropped the original plan of attempting the Sickle Couloir on Horstman Peak. But we still wanted a closer look.

As we bushwhacked further up the valley, our enthusiasm for the couloir waned and we decided to instead tour the south fork of Fishhook Creek.

Along the way, we crossed an immense wet-snow avalanche path. After studying it for a while, we determined that it had gone off a cliff just above here and flow 60 to 70 feet horizontally before spilling onto this slope. Click on the picture to see a better view of the debris.

Under ever-changing skies, we had a scenic lunch at about 8800'. We had hit our time control, and it was time to head back to the truck. When we got back, we had a very expensive parking ticket on the windshield. What a way to end a great day.

Feeling a little discouraged, and knowing that the other entrances to the Sawtooths were blocked, we headed south to see where we might go tomorrow...

Although it's a very long approach, we decided to check out the Hell Roaring trailhead. There wasn't a Closed sign, but neither was there any acknowledgment that it was legal to camp there. Well, at least it was a step in the right direction, so we had dinner and went to bed.


The next morning, we awoke to warm temperatures and high fog. But we could see the sun peaking in through the White Clouds, so we it the trail. By the time we had hiked the 5 miles into Hell Roaring Lake, the sun was making itself welcome.

The trail on the way to the lake had again been in excellent shape. In a few spots we had splish-splashed through some puddles, and there had been more than a few patches of snow, but we easily made it to the lake in light hiking shoes.

But after crossing the bridge to the south side with its shaded, north-facing slopes, we put on our plastic boots and snowshoes.

It was another warm day, and quite sunny compared to Saturday's hike. As we struggled upwards in the rotten snow, we made the most of it with lots of conversation. Still, when I recognized the bridge across the waterfall-style outlet of Imogene Lake, I was pretty happy to have our turnaround close by.

When we finally got to Imogene, we were tired, thirsty, and very hungry. We were also very sweaty from the sunshine and hard work.

But we hadn't sat down for more than 5 minutes when the weather turned south, and it was snowing. According to the camera, this picture was taken 37 minutes after the previous one.

With the wind howling, our wet bodies quickly chilled. We grabbed our stuff and headed back down the hill. Of course, the weather immediately improved, but as the mileage accumulated my inspiration for photography ebbed- so no more pictures.

But I can say this: this was a very tough day. Depending on how you add up the mileage given by the inconsistent trail signs, we did either 18 or 20 miles, and half of that was on snowshoes in horrible conditions (which, in my book, even though Brian did most of the trail-breaking, ought to count double).

Mr. Natural Home | 2005 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski