Big Peak 2010


Big Peak turns out to be a bigger climb than anticipated.

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

I had done the first and last sections of this trip last year with Steve. So for more pictures or route descriptions, check that trip report. This report focuses mainly on the middle part of the day, Big Peak.

I had a long day yesterday on Duncan Peak, so it might have been a mistake to pick for a partner one of the fastest hikers I know. But she's also one of my favorite hiking partners. And she put me up last night, so I felt obligated. We got a leisurely start, getting scones, coffee, and breakfast burritos at the Hailey Coffee Company, and then leaving the car at about 8:30.

It's an easy trail up to Baker Lake, and despite a gloomy prediction from NOAA (60% precip after 11), the morning seemed pretty nice, if a little cold (41° at the trailhead). That's Backdrop Peak.

Backdrop Peak
Our first objective was the saddle between Backdrop and Baker Peaks, on the left. Last year, Steve and I used this route on our descent. the saddle

Shortly after passing Baker Lake, the talus starts in earnest. Even though I had hiked this last year, I did not realize how much talus we would have to cross on this route. Yuk.



After working the talus to the saddle, we saw a bit more of our route, but as before it did not appear to be a problem from this vantage point. We could traverse below the talus fields and contour around the many bumps on the ridge. Or so I thought.

Creek and rock

The rolling ridge was hiding some secrets. There were some nasty-looking bits that kept us down when we wanted to follow contours. And hidden talus pockets when we wanted to gain the ridge top. So we added both mileage and elevation gain to our proposed route. And lots of sidehilling.

Cliffs on the ridge
At 11:15, we finally crossed the Big Peak Creek trail. It starts down on Big Smoky Creek. You can see the trail from various points on our climb, but it is not shown on the map. Later in the day some motorcycles went through here, so it can't be that bad. Trail sign
After a few more humps on the ridge, which steadily and unexpectedly added to our total gain (I thought from the map that we could contour around them, and we tried, believe me), we were finally on Big Peak at about 12:20. Not too much farther to go. We were tired, but still moving well. Final ridge

As we cruised across the flat summit at 12:30, I noticed some white stuff clinging to the branches. And this is August!


We were really happy to gain the summit. We spent a few minutes perusing the register. We were the first climbers to sign in over two years. I say 'climbers' here, because there is a relay station on the summit and the helicopter-riding service crews frequently sign the register. After reading through the many reports from the helo crews explaining how they had flown to this extremely remote summit, it was refreshing to read Rick Baugher's report saying simply "I hiked it."

Note that the 360° views from this summit show you more wild Idaho backcountry than you can shake a stick at. I took a million pictures in all directions, but the overcast and low clouds don't make for wonderful photographs. Try to do it on a clear day!


This is looking back at our route, more or less. It shows one such example of empty backcrountry. The arrow shows the summit of Backdrop Peak.

On our return, we followed the exact top of the ridge with few exceptions. The cliffy areas were actually easy and quite fun. Then instead of swinging right to the saddle, we went up over Backdrop. Although this adds a bunch of gain, I think it was easier and faster because we avoided a lot of the "hidden" talus. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

We were tired and I had put the camera away. To see the route we descended off Backdrop, go back to my trip with Steve last August.


Mr. Natural Home | 2010 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski