Decker Peak



We ski up a seldom-climbed peak, with turns on the return.

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

With a steadily improving weather forecast, Brian caught a flight over on Friday night. We met at Bob's house at 7am the next morning, and after fussing with gear and snowboard bindings, we finally departed about 8:15. After a gorgeous drive up through Stanley, we unloaded the car at the Fourth of July pullout. After packing the sleds we were off for Hell Roaring Lake at about 11am.

Including lunch, it was a 4.5 hour slog to Hell Roaring Lake, It was hot. And the sleds did their best attempt at making us miserable.

But when we finally got there, the view was as usual- astounding. This is from our campsite at 7400', looking across Hell Roaring Lake at the Finger of Fate. The red arrow shows the 9200' pass we would use to access the basin under Decker Peak.

Hellroaring Lake
Camp was pretty sumpstuous, with two tents and lots of room to spread out. Camp

The next morning, Sunday, we left camp on at about 8:15- a bit late, because while we had relaxed in the sunshine yesterday, we had forgotten to fix Brian's bindings.

Most of the way up to the aforementioned 9200' saddle, we booted (although I skied most of it). Brian wasn't used to skiing, let alone tugging a sled. So before he got to the saddle he was already feeling cramps and decided it wasn't his day. He returned to camp while Bob and I continued on.

Climbing past the Finger

This is the view from the saddle. The snowy peak in the center is Decker... it's actually about 800' or so higher than the rocky sentinel on the left.

I had been here on a trip with Tom last November, when this high-point had been our turnaround.

Decker Peak

Now comes the good stuff... This is looking back at Bob as he leaves the saddle. The next section was a gradual climbing traverse, not steep enough to require climbing wires. Judging by the undulating terrain and weird snow formations we traversed, this must have been a terminal morraine?

Bob above the saddle

Here we are near the end of the traverse, showing our route into the upper basin. Bob is the tiny spec just above and to the right of the left-most tree (click for a bigger version). We skied up to the cliff, then hung a left, staying close to the cliff face to avoid potential avy hazard.

Note the snow on top of the cliffs- that comes into the story a little later.


Upper bowl

The picture shows the huge cornices that we wanted to avoid. Earlier, we had seen some house-sized blocks from a recently collapsed cornice, so there was plenty of motivation to stay clear.

Our route here took us up and to the left of the small rocks, immediately followed by a hard right to move toward Decker's east ridge. Near the rocks, it was very steep, so we took off our skis and started booting.


Once we gained the ridge, it was less steep. But Bob kept booting, so I did as well. Near the top it was too steep for skins, but right here, skinning might have saved some energy.

The problem here was that the basin was like a solar oven without a breath of wind (I had been in just a t-shirt for several hours), and I had lost way too much water. Being my boneheaded self, I had tried to stay in tempo with Bob instead of stopping to drink. I was cramping every time I stepped up on my left leg. But hey, that looks like only 926 leg cramps to go!

East ridge


We hit the top just after noon, with Bob about 15 minutes ahead of me. The last 600' of cramping made it a sufferfest.

But once I got there, it was all worthwhile.

Summit dorks
Everywhere we looked, it was one stunning vista after another. The highpoint in this picture is Mt. Cramer: another skiing objective. Mt. Cramer

Speaking of skiing, it was time to get those turns that were so dearly earned.

We returned a slightly different way, skiing down the east ridge. Most of the ridge is fairly gently angled, but with some wind features that make you work the terrain.

Bob boarding
In places it's pretty wide, but in others it gets quite narrow, like about 30 feet. On the north side of the ridge is a steep, monster bowl- definitely worth spending time there in the future. On the south side is the cliff mentioned earlier... remember the cliff? As I was doing some big loopy turns at fairly high speed, <I > remembered the cliff.... and although I couldn't clearly see the edge, I suddenly realized how close I was.... Figure 8s

We had spied this drop-off during the ascent, near the conclusion of the ridge. We hit it just right, and after some more turns we then reversed our traverse.

I always like it when the snowboarders are at a disadvantage, and here is Bob towing his board across the traverse while I glided along on my tele skis.

The traverse down to the lake under the Finger was fun- more good turns, playing slalom with the snowballs.

Escape fromt eh ridge

From the lake, we dropped more-or-less straight down through semi-open forest, then toured across the frozen Hell Roaring. We got back to camp at 3pm for a 7 hour round trip. I was exhausted, hungry, dehydrated, and cramping. Brian nursed me with 2 quarts of GatorAde...

and then I got my reward.

and then we all had a fabulous dinner. Camp
The next day, we slogged back out. Here is Bob next to a placid section of Hell Roaring Creek. Hell Roaring Creek
And here is the gang on the bridge crossing the Salmon River. Camp


We got out to the car in about 3.5 hours, including lunch. Fine trip. Beautiful summit. Excellent group. Great turns.

Note: On the approach, we followed the trail from Decker Flats, which involved a bunch of sidehilling (with sleds- Yuk). On the way out, we skied right down the creek until we hit the road, which was much better.


Mr. Natural Home | 2008 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski