Mount Breitenbach


In climbing one of Idaho's 'twelvers', for John the third time is the charm.

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

Through our mutual friend Big Dan, Kevin and I arranged to meet and climb Mt. Breitenbach. The weather was looking favorable, and we both had some time. However, as part of the deal, we each invited others to join us. Eventually, it boiled down to Kevin, Bob, and I, but Bob opted for getting turns in Super Gully on Lost River peak.

So after I dropped Bob off at the Lost River Peak trailhead, I drove over to the Pete Creek trailhead for Breitenbach, getting there at about 7pm. Kevin showed up right at 8, and we met and talked for awhile.

This picture shows the false summit of Breitenbach from near the trailhead. The true summit is not in view, about 1/2 mile away on a connecting ridge.

This was to be my third attempt on this peak. I had also been here on these dates:

April 18, 2003, when Bob and I skied off the false summit

June 11, 2004, when I broke my leg on the approach hike with Big Tom

Pete creek from the trailhead

The weather was unseasonably warm, so Kevin and I agreed on a pre-dawn start. We actually left the cars at 4:20am, and we did a passable job navigating the treacherous canyon in the dark.

How treacherous is it? Well, here's what the "trail" looked like in the daylight during our return.

The actual approach wasn't too photogenic. Because of the early change to daylight savings time, we made it to around 10,000' before we turned off our headlamps at about 7am.

The trail up Pete Creek

At around 10,700', still on snowshoes, we did cross the frozen remains of one large point-release that had stopped just lower than that. Right after, we hit the terrace under the main face and switched to crampons.

Instead of climbing to the saddle separating Breitenbach and Lost River peaks (the normal route), which would have meant slogging up a steep talus ridge, we climbed directly up the face of Breitenbach.

On the way up, we mostly sank in an inch or so, or kicked in to mid-foot, with an occasional shallow posthole. I think we were on a frozen crust over rotten snow. But it was still firm enough thanks to our early start.

Here Kevin is on the false summit with his dog, Red, at about 8:30. Too bad the weather wasn't better.

Kevin on the false summit


From the false summit, the real summit is about 1/2 mile away and 200' higher. There is also a sharp bump on the ridge, which looked a little intimidating.

The summit ridge behind Kevin

We gingerly picked our way out the ridge, being careful to avoid the (smallish) cornices and not slipping in the sugary snow overlaying the base. The sugar made me nervous on the traverses, like this section on the backside of the bump in the ridge. As you can see, the bump is not as fearsome as it looked.

The north side of the bump on the ridge

Looking the other way, toward the summit, the ridge didn't look too difficult.

But at 12000', things take longer than one might expect.

The last strectch to the summit

Even so, we hit the summit at about 9:40. It was a little breezy, but not too cold. Red didn't seem to share our elation at being high on such a beautiful day.

We didn't hang out too long, because we were concerned with how awful the lower canyon might be if the rotten snow got a chance to soften.

Kevin and John on the summit

After reversing the ridge, we enjoyed several thousand feet of butt-glissading. The snow here was just slightly forgiving, as you can see by the shallow dent left by my butt.

If you click on the picture, you'll see Kevin as a tiny dot high on the snowfield, at what looks like the top of the snowfield (although actually, he is not near the top).

Kevin glissading

Some climbers on nearby Lost River Peak, including our friend Bob, were impressed by how fast we were moving.

We just laughed and laughed. We were able to follow the turns of the canyon without even getting up. Here Kevin kicks up a little spray. Red is out of frame to the left, trying vainly to keep up with speedy Kevin. Kevin said that for some reason, his legs felt the climb more than the descent.

Kevin glissading

To our surprise (and good luck) the lower canyon was firmer on our return than on our climb. Kevin got to marvel in the scenic splendor (I had seen it before, but he only saw darkness during the climb).

Note that by this point we were down to single layers, me in a t-shirt. When we got to the car just after noon, it was above 60.

I kept an eye out, but I never did see the exact spot where I broke my leg. Oh well, that is all behind me now. Thanks, Kevin!
(and thanks to Big did we get down that damn mess?)

Looking up the upper Pete Creek drainage

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