Lost River Mountain and Norton Peak


When Tom and I summitted Lost River, I completed the Idaho 12ers. Then we ran over to Hailey and climbed Norton Peak with my daughter, Mariel.

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

This was my second attempt on Lost River Mountain. And for November, it looked to be a promising day. We got a slightly late start leaving Boise, arriving at the trailhead at about 9:30. But we got right to it, and were looking into the Super Gully at a little after 11. We would have enjoyed a little more snow, but at least we weren't going to be slugging it up dry talus the whole way.

Approaching the Super Gully

We had a brief water stop and then hopped in the funky trail- it's not that steep, but the shale here is still slippery.

When we hit the end of the shale trail, Tom put on his boots and we both slapped on the crampons.

Trail into the Suyper Gully

The snow was overall pretty firm, but there must have been some more recent snow. On top of the firm base, there was a thin sugary surface that wasn't consolidated. I was a little concerned, because the sun was baking hot.

Lower gully

We made good time up through the gully, stopping once for a snack. But by the time we exited the gully proper, the upper slopes were softening. My crampons were balling, and the slippery sugar was starting to give us some trouble.

But hey, there's the top, right? That's what Tom, the little black speck, was thinking. I had been here before, so I knew better:

  • First- what looks like the top is still 40 minutes away.
  • Second- that is not the top.
Top of the Super Gullyu

When we made the false summit, I had several realizations:

  • First, when I turned around here before with Bob, we had not been able to see the whole ridge (due to the blowing snow on that attempt, we could only see the lower point in the ridge, which at the time made us think we were on the true summit).
  • Second, the soft snow, balling crampons, fast climb, and low oxygen were all conspiring against me.
  • Third, from the looks of the ridge, there would be some added spice to the traverse.
Summit ridge

If the previous picture didn't look scary, perhaps this perspective will help you understand. This is from about half way across the ridge, looking back.

The snow was totally soft, so we were stepping down to the rock. But it was deep enough to cover the rocks, so we were still wearing our crampons. And we couldn't tell where the ridge was under out feet, making each step a little precarious. Luckily, I had a longer axe so I could probe around before each step.

Looking back at the ridge

But we did make it. Note the embedded golf club over Tom's right shoulder.

It was almost windless on top, and we had been quite warm on the way up (note the sheen of sweat on my temple). But it didn't take long at all for us to lose all our body heat. So we choked down a quick lunch and headed back.

Summit shot

Now that there were footprints showing where to step, we got back across the ridge quite quickly. Then we took a last look around and started plunge-stepping the melty snow. Tom quickly switched to butt-glissading, but I found my pants to be a bit too fast- the constant self-arresting was wearing out my arms. Thankfully, the angle of the gully relented slightly and we were back on dry ground in no time.

Down the gully

Then we plunked down through the sage brush, getting back to the car in just under six hours round trip.

We stopped here to get a picture to show the amount (or lack) of snow and the crisp blue sky. This is November?

Lost River Mountain

I had left my car at the rest stop at Highway 93, so we buzzed back to get it, then headed up to my daughter's place in Hailey.

Hey, this parenthood thing is paying dividends!

The next morning the three of us headed up Baker Creek to climb Norton Peak, and maybe more if the conditions were right. Start of Norton Lakes trail

It was another beautiful morning; not a breath of wind, no clouds, and cool enough to wear long sleeves if you rolled them up.

Shady areas had snow, but sunny areas were dry, or frozen. Either way, it was good walking.

Approaching Norton Lake
We got up to the upper Norton Lake in about 1 1/4 hours. From here, we had solid snow for about 200' vertical, then dry ground most of the way to the saddle at about 9600'. Uper Norton Lake
From the saddle, the good views became great. Stunning. Wonderful. Ridgeline leading to Norton Peak
Then we popped up onto the false summit. It looked interesting, but there is a reasonable trail across the whole way, so you only have to use your hands occasionally for balance... or to hang on while you test the snow you're about to step in. Mariel on the ridge
Once again, we had perfect summit conditions. We ate, read the register, and just plain stared. Soldiers, Smokys, Sawtooths, White Clouds, Boulders, Pioneers, and we thought we might even be able to see the Super Gully from yesterday... too bad I left the binocs in my suitcase. Doh! Norton Peak summit

We stayed there until we were all cold. Then it was time to scramble back down.

The ridge out to Prairie Creek Peak looked a little snowy, so we decided to skip that and call it a single-summit day.

Crossing Norton Peak summit ridge

Once across the ridge, we could plunge-step down some gravelly scree to access the snowfields, where we once again employed the trusty ol' butt-glissade.

When we got back to town, Tom headed back to Boise.

Descending to dry ground

The next morning, Mariel and I got up sort of early (only early because daylight savings ended) and drove to Galena summit. We hiked up the ridge toward Titus Peak, but gave up shortly after the first false summit. The packed track had disappeared and I was going in to mid-calf with each step. We'll go back with skis or snowshoes. But we did get great views of the Sawtooths.

Mariel promised to invite me back up as soon as she can get the dirty-socks-and-guy-smell out of her apartment.

Sawtooth view

Mr. Natural Home | 2007 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski