Merritt Peak




New snow on a stunning peak leaves us short of the summit.

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

Bob and I had tried to climb Merritt a few years back. That time, we were so unsuccessful that we repurposed it as a hike and snowshoe.

This time, we decided to try Merritt from the west. Bob had been up this way in the summer, and I had pictures of it from Alpine Peak and some others. It seemed a reasonable route, but we also would be satisfied today with awesome scenery and turns. We got both.

So after skiing into the meadows where Iron Creek meets the Alpine Way trail on Friday, we camped and got going fairly early Saturday. This is the headwall out of those meadows.

Little Willow trail

At the top of the headwall there is a very steep, side-hill entrance into the canyon bottom. But then the canyon opens up for easy travel and wonderful views.

Cliffs north of the canyon

Moving up this valley reminded me a lot of the valley above Goat Lake on your way to Thompson. It winds through steep cliffs with some finger lakes. Very pretty.

That's Alpine Peak on the right. From here it looks a little different from the Class 2 route from Sawtooth Lake.


Then you come to the second headwall, which is a sneaky one. There is a gully angling from lower right toward upper left. Can you find it?

Looking down from 3k

This is looking up the gully. In the flat light the picture isn't too impressive. You don't get a sense of its length, nor can you see the multiple rollovers.

Note: there is a picture looking down the gully later in this report.

Also note: On the spring IdahoSummits outing everyone was giving me a hard time about my shaggy appearance, so I cut it all off. Satisfied, you guys?

Looking down from 3k

Once up the second headwall, you again follow a flattish valley, which brings you to this huge cirque. Out of the view to the right is Alpine Peak, and out of the view to the left is Merritt.

Looking down from 3k

We paused briefly at Lake 8470, then headed up toward Merritt. Here Bob reaches a bench at about 9000' (by the topo- my altimeter said higher). This is looking sort of north by northwest.

Tinsel on the tree

Above the bench, it got steep again, then steeper. Then it got icy, so the ski quality was gone. The wind was howling. And we couldn't see on a route that required eyesight navigation. Time to go home. By the map, we were somewhere around 9300'.

Too bad the weather couldn't have been more cooperative. It was only 11am.

Summit of Lone Peak

After we dropped back down to the lake in 4-5" of good powder, we stopped for lunch at our previous rest stop, which was somewhat protected from the wind. During lunch, we were pelted by a barrage of graupel. Hard. When it got deep enough, the graupel was flowing over the nearby cliff bands in big white waterfalls.

Between bites, the sky partially cleared and I shot this pic of the upper mountain. We were trying for the saddle on the left, then follow the ridge to the summit ridge off to the right. It appears the summit ridge is sloping down, but that is just a trick of the eye. The summit is near the right end of the ridge. I don't know if you can actually see the top.

The cirque

Here's a heavily photo-shopped picture of where we were, taken from the summit of Alpine Peak. I put little arrows on the North and Middle (highest) summit of Merritt. Williams Peak is just south, peaking out from behind. I highlighted the peaks in the back, and also the ridge in the foreground, so you could better see Merritt. The lake is one of the Lake 8950 twins. There is also a little red dot showing our approximate highpoint (click for a bigger version).

Tracks to our high point
After lunch, it was time to head home. This is Bob in the gully of the second headwall. Yes, he's a little speck: it's a long ways down, and quite steep. And the fresh snow made the gully tons of fun. Cliffs i the cirque

Then we were out looking over Iron Creek meadows. And on our way home soon after.

Cliffs i the cirque

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