Bad Rock Peak


A year later, we check Bad Rock Peak off our lists.

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

Super Dave and I had been on White Cap Peak about this time last year and saw a fun challenge in climbing Bad Rock Peak, on the left. The picture, in better weather, is from that trip.

Bad Rock is the peak on the far left, with Mt. Church on the right.

So roll the calendar ahead a year and Dave has a day off. We bounce ideas around about what to do, and Bad Rock comes up. Bingo!


Bad Rock from White Cap

I knew approximately what the conditions were from my trip to the southern Boulders last weekend when I took this picture. That's Bad Rock in the center between Leatherman (left) and Church. According to the Tom Lopez book, these were once known as "The Three Sisters."

So in a deteriorating weather prediction (Wednesday was bluebird, but for us on Friday it was 40% chance of precip with high winds) we still managed to get a good group together including Sawtooth Sean and my bro Tplattski.

Bad Rock from the Boulders

We rolled out of Boise at 4am in Sean's Jeep and cruised to the turnoff for Sawmill Gulch. Exhorting Sean with "I got my Subaru this far," we got him to drive that poor thing up the nasty road to almost 8200'. But not before we had a little excitement when we got stuck briefly with one front and the opposite-side rear wheel in the air, the the rig teeter-tottering. Yeehaw!

But after that excitement it was time to hit the trail, about 8:30. The trail was mostly bare or thinly covered with snow until we got near Leatherman Pass, where we briefly regretted leaving the snowshoes in the car. At this point, it was about 9:30 and the sun had been up for hours, it looks dark because the lowering cloud ceiling was blocking the sun.

Mount Borah

When we got up high, we were disappointed in the snow conditions. A lot had melted off since last weekend, but it had not really consolidated. There were patches of hard snow, but mostly we had a crust on top of sugar.

That's White Cap in the background, partially obscured by the clouds that would linger all day. From the separating valley, we had to traverse across several gullys on the "bad rock" (very steep talus) and intermittently rotten snow. Right in here we hit some really hard snow so put on crampons, making the talus sections extra fun.


For some reason, I got stuck breaking trail up the gully and so did not take any pictures. I got some on the way down, so you will see that terrain later in the report. But let's just say that the 1300' gully was hard work. And when we topped out the ridge we finally felt the full force of the wind, which was enough to make it hard to walk.


From the saddle we continued up and around the first rock tower, which provided us enough wind shelter to sit and eat some lunch. This picture shows the upper mountain during our descent.

From here, we worked the snow patches back and forth, interspersed with the steep and loose talus and occasional solid rock (just enough to make it tricky walking in crampons). We were headed for a Class 3 chimney located near the skyline almost directly above Dave (in red).

Note Sean's helmet- we saw rocks rolling even down low in the gully. I'd recommend wearing one on this route starting from Leatherman Pass.

Class 3 step

The chimney was a bit of a challenge in these conditions, because it's on the north side. As such, it doesn't get sun so was full of powder snow. The first five feet were almost vertical, but Sean managed to lead over it using a combination of good ice axe work and something combining the Australian crawl and the breaststroke.

Here's Dave and Tom at the top of the chimney. We had to climb this carefully (and spread out) to avoid thumping one another with the loose rocks that were stacked deep on every potential handhold and foothold.

Top of chimney

From the top of the chimney it is just a short scramble to the ridge top, then a short ridge walk to the summit.

Note the sunshine down on the flats. We could see sunny weather on either side of the Lost Rivers, even though we were in cloud on the mountain.

Ridge top

At about 12:30 (4 hours) we crowded onto the tiny summit for a photo, and Sean dug through the powder covering the summit cairn in search of a register. We didn't find anything, there isn't much room to sit (at least without sitting in the snow), you couldn't see much, and the wind was blowing pretty good. So our summit time was short and sweet.

The good news is that I took more photos on the descent so you can now see what the route looked like. I bet the suspense was killing you?

Bad Rock peak summit

So here's what the chimney looked like.

Dave (above, in red) is waiting to traverse to the chimney after Sean clears out of the fall line. Sean has moved down through the loose rock section and is about to reverse his swimming moves over the last little powder wall. Due to the way we went up, he will then traverse right and climb back up to gain the ridge, just out of sight on the right.

Getting back onto the ridge involved a bit of additional rock climbing (if you can call it that... it was more like trying not to unbalance vertically-stacked scree) to get onto the ridge.

None of this was particularly difficult, but crampons on rock is always interesting, and trying to maintain controlled progress in steep powder, up or down, is also a challenge.

Ridge walk

When we got back to the saddle, we had another lunch in our protected spot. Then we started back to the gully. On the way up, the wind had been at our backs but now it was right in our faces. When the sky started dropping graupel, we each got a free dermabrasion.

This picture makes it look like a football field, but much of the gully is probably in the 35-40° range. The snow underfoot was about the same as during the ascent, but at least our old footsteps showed where we would step into the the deeper holes. In places the snow was very thin, causing the crampons to hang up or to roll your ankle. In other places the snow was quite deep, probably indicating that there were additional rock bands buried under the snow (and explaining why we occasionally plunged in past our knees).

This was a fun climb with just enough challenge. And a great day with a great group of guys. Just one year later, we can check this one off our lists.

Super Dave's trip report.

Two peaks

Mr. Natural Home | 2009 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski