Sawtooth Triad


A hot weekend in the Sawtooths gets us into a new drainage and some great climbs: Alpen, Reward, and Packrat.

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

After juggling our busy schedules, we were finally off at a compromise of 6am on Saturday. Great weather forecast.

After rescuing Jane from Ohio who couldn't figure out where the trail was from the Redfish parking lot, we got prompt delivery by the Redfish boat and were walking up Redfish Creek at 9:30.

The trail was pleasant, not too warm, and soon we were looking down on Alpine Lake.

Alpine Lake

The gully leading up to the saddle to the west of Mount Alpen had a fair amount of snow, and although the picture doesn't show it well, one section of the upper snowfield was steeper than 30°. Ice axes would have been useful. I had boots, but Tom's running shoes were only marginally better than his climbing slippers.


Snow gully

We dropped our packs in the saddle and ran (almost literally) up the 300' or so to the summit of Alpen. It was 2:00pm.

Mount Alpen summit

From Alpen, you get great views. This is Reward Peak, our goal for later in the day.

Reward Peak

And this is Packrat Peak, our goal for the next day.

The angle here is a little skewed: the summit is the bright point to the left. If you click for the bigger version, you can see the "ears" that give the peak its name.

Packrat Peak

But first, we had to find a spot for our camp. Too bad we couldn't find anyplace scenic.

Elk Peak

We put up our camp, had lunch, and then took a nap. When you get old like us, you'll need a nap, too.

At 5pm, we finally took off for Reward Peak. I estimated that it would take us an hour and a half from camp.

Approaching Reward

One hour, 25 minutes. In the bigger version, you can see Tom on the left.

Five minutes later we were on top.


Scramble up Reward

We hung out in the sun on top for about 15 minutes, enjoying the all-encompassing views. Yes, that is Redfish Lake in the background. (And the opposite view is available- you can see Reward from the boat as you cross the lake).

And the peak on the extreme left with the broad talus slope, below the skyline, is Mount Alpen.

Then it was time to head back. We made faster time on the return, getting back to camp at about 7:45 for a late dinner eaten in the tent to avoid the skeets.


Here's another shot of Packrat taken on our way back to camp. Mt. Underhill is on the left and a little closer. The ears of the rat are in the sun, the culmination of the east ridge on the right (our route tomorrow).

I was tired when I hit the sack, but excited, too. I woke up a few times, but that was a good thing: it was a beautiful almost-full moon.

Packrat route

We got up fairly early the next morning and after battling the skeets while we tried to down some coffee, we were under way at 8am.This is looking up the east ridge.

From here, we ditched everything that wasn't absolutely necessary: no pack, no clothes, and no camera. Sorry. But most of this was climbed without a rope, and I didn't want anything getting in my way.

Packrat route

Beta: Our route is in red. From the saddle, start up the ridge, trying to stay on the top. It's good Class 4 scrambling. Dramatic, but only a few spots that caused my heart to stop.

On the way up, it was nice to have on rock shoes (they blistered my toes on the way down). In places, you skirt a few gaps on the left. When you arrive beneath a big impassable orange wall, traverse left. The traverse involves some sections of steep dirt... lots of fun in rock shoes. From the end of the traverse (wherever that is, exactly), the route is a little sketchy, but there are several options that appear viable. We ended up climbing a 5.4 crack onto a ledge system that brought us to some rappel anchors. From there, it is an easy scramble up to the base of the summit block (or more accurately, summit fin). You can get half-way up the fin in an easy stemming move, but to touch the actual summit, about 6' higher, involves some tricky moves with high exposure and no way to the possibility of cutting the rope on the sharp edge. Tom did the moves and put a sling on the summit horn. But as he downclimbed, he saw that a fall could pull the sling. So under his advice that I could die, I didn't touch the actual top.

Four 60-70 foot rappels (blue lines) gets you back to the traverse down the ridge. The slings we rapped on looked pretty ratty, so we backed them up while I rappelled, then Tom pulled the backups because he weights about 60 pounds less than me.

Packrat route

This is a shot of Packrat from the Feather Lakes on the way into Warbonnet a few years ago. The east ridge is now on the left. Hopefully these four pictures show the drama of the ridge.

The last summit entry was in 2007. We saw names of old friends dating back to 1972. In the late 70s, lots of people climbed this, especially the Colorado Mountain Club.

After we finished the downclimb, we hiked back down to our camp, had lunch, packed up, and slogged back over the Alpen saddle and the 9 miles or so back to Redfish. It was hot. Our feet hurt. But the return went extremely smoothly until we got to Hilltop, which was closed due to a fire on the Boise side. So we finished our trip by driving over Robie Creek. Never a dull moment.

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