Mountaineer and Corruption Peaks


Two stormy days yield some great climbing in the Lost Rivers.

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

For several years now, Michael and I had been talking about a powerhouse two-day trip back behind the Lost Rivers. When we mentioned Corruption, a bunch of hands went up. But Alex was feeling a little out of shape so he decided to also climb Mountaineer with us-- he was looking or an opportunity to apply his BIE (Built In Excuse).

So after a long streak of beautiful high-pressure weather, our two days arrived with unsettled weather. Likewise, we had somewhat unsettled plans; Group 1 of Michael, Alex, and I were headed up Wednesday night to try Mountaineer (on the right). Group 2 of Steve and Dave wouldn't arrive until Thursday night, when they would try to meet Group 1's new campsite somewhere near Corruption (on the left).


So we start with Thursday. We left camp in Mahogany Creek a little before 6, a little ahead of plan. Down in the bottom of the creek we couldn't see much, but when we climbed up onto the surrounding hillside, things were looking a little gloomy. And it was warm, just a little under 40° according to Michael's gas-powered thermometer. Oh well, nothing better to do today....

That's our peak on the left.


On the way up the valley, we had followed the sage and mahogany across the ancient morainal debris, then eventually reached tree line. Around 8500' we started dodging patches of snow. When we finally got brave enough (and were forced) to walk in the snow, we found mush-to-the-ground. Yuk.

Here Alex, after wading through the mush in the creek bottom, manages to find another patch of dry land.

Leaving he creek bottom

Entering the upper basin at around 9300' , we finally found supporting snow. OK, looking better.

Supporting snow.

After a couple hundred feet of snow, we arrived in the bowl under our route. Here we ditched our snowshoes (unused) and donned our crampons. We were heading for the line of snow up to the saddle.


Although it had cooled off as we gained height, it was still pretty warm. As a consequence, the snow had not frozen hard and we were punching in a bit. Firm footing, but a lot of work. We took short "pulls" and gained height pretty fast up the 40 degree snow.

Taking pulls

As we neared the saddle that separates Mountaineer from Borah, the unsettled weather got a little more unsettled. If it's May in the Lost Rivers, you should expect it to snow. The snow wasn't really a surprise; the dark clouds had been scuttling past off-on-on all morning. We just kept plugging...

The face
The saddle had melted out, but today's squalls had laid down a light dusting of new. Without any real snow between us and the summit, we dropped our crampons and axes and started the final climb.
There's the top
From the saddle, it's a short hike and some easy scrambling to the summit ridge. At this point you can see some really incredible scenery, but the cloud deck was sitting too low to see Borah's head. Summit ridge


It had taken us about five hours from the car.

We obviously need to get Alex out more; he doesn't quite have the hang of this summit shot thing.



We could see all sorts of peaks, but the one of most interest to us was Mt. Corruption, the snowy highpoint and our goal for tomorrow. We had hoped to try the slanted couloirs on the lower left, but from our experience today with low-elevation snow, and the skimpy appearance of the couloirs, that line looked out of condition. So instead we would climb the standard route, which ascends the southwest gully. That gully is hidden on the right side of the mountain, but gains the summit ridge on the snowy shoulder in front of the summit. Corruption

This is Sacagawea, a shot I took for our friend Kevin.

Kevin, get in touch and I'll send you the full size image.


And then it was time to head down before the next squall hit. Oops- too late! Descent
By the time we got back to our snowshoes, it had warmed considerably so we chose to use them after all.
Trailhead sign

On the way back, we did the dance through the rotten snow patches and then found an elk trail that led down a long, gradual ridge. As we neared the end of the ridge, the trees thinned and we could again see the mountains.

Eventually we hit the creek bottom and followed that all the way to camp. A most excellent hike following a fine climb.

Despite the rugged terrain, this beautiful valley has unfortunately been marked by the hand of man. We found an abandoned fenceline woven through the trees at around 8200', and atv tracks even higher than that.

Mahogany Creek

Back at camp after our 8-hour outing, it was time to pack up and move. We weren't in a big hurry, so when it started to rain and thunder, we just huddled in the car.

But we were excited to get on with the next part of our excursion. So when it stopped raining, we packed up and headed farther up the valley. Despite the weather, when we got a good look at Corruption from the East Fork road, we were stoked. The power of positive thinking.

Trailhead sign
There was other stuff to look at. Mt. Church

We found our new campsite and got set up. Then we spent our time pacing up and down the valley (with our necks craned trying to take it all in) waiting for the arrival of Steve and Dave.

No real surprises. They showed up. We ate dinner. We talked excessively. We heard math jokes. We went to bed.


Trailhead sign

This is the southwest face of Mt. Corruption, taken by SuperDave on a much more super day. I wish I had looked at this prior to our climb. But perhaps it will help you understand the following narrative.

So on with the story...

Talus ramp

Photo by SuperDave

When we woke up, it was overcast with fog drifting amongst and blocking our view of the summits. Dang.

We hit the trail anyway. Here we are at the beginning of the scree slog from hell.

Talus ramp

Ah ha- There's our route!


Note: this is looking uphill.

The views were amazing! More fog

The route description mentioned a gully and lots of talus. This must be it!


But wait... is that snow? I eagerly clambered up to it.... was it too much to ask.... yes! It's firm! One patch led to another and soon we were donning crampons.

But Dave didn't seem interested in our snow. He had moved into another, even better gully. We could sort of hear him, but couldn't tell exactly where he was.

Trailhead sign

After 800 or 900' of snow climbing, we reached the shoulder of the ridge in a saddle. I screamed, yelled, and whistled. No sign of Dave. As Michael and I were a little ahead of Steve and Alex, we had time to discuss the Missing Dave situation.

Then we spent some time figuring out which way to go to find the summit. I explored one way and in a brief opening of the fog thought I could see something higher than the other way. And good news: it looked like we could make the top without crampons. So off they came.

Shoulder of the ridge
From the map and Michael's GPS, it appeared we had just 300 or 400 more feet to go. But Michael wasn't putting a ton of faith in the electronics. And we certainly couldn't see a lot. As we climbed the ridge, we bypassed a couple snow patches. And from somewhere above me, Michael finally made voice contact with Dave. The guy was waiting on the summit! About then the ridge narrowed, forcing us onto a snowpatch. Sure enough, there in the snow were Dave's tracks. Upper Corruption

Summit. With five of us!

We sat for a while in the limited visibility, ate, and shared low-oxygen humor (and for Michael, Dave, and I, the occasional leftover math jokes were the inscrutable inverse).

Although it seemed a lot longer, we did this one in about five and a half hours.

Trailhead sign
Time to go down. There is a very good chance that the summit ridge is spectacular because it seemed to drop off steeply on either side. But we couldn't really tell.
Trailhead sign

We went back down Dave's gully. It was a little thinner than ours, with a little less snow. And like ours, we had to occasionally crampon across patches of talus.

But you will note that we can see a little farther now... the clouds seemed to be thinning.

Hey! There's our gully over there! Other gully.

And there's the bottom of the valley. Man, that's a lot of talus.

Oh crap, we have to go DOWN there.

And wouldn't you know it? As we neared the bottom the clouds parted and the sun came out. At least we got to see what we had missed during the ascent: this is an amazing gully in amazing terrain. Sunshine

Talus love.

It was a lot of 'fun' but I won't be going back anytime soon.

As the mountains peeked out from under the clouds, we started naming peaks. It was a bit of a challenge due to the new perspective on the east side of the range.



North face of Breitenbach.


As we descended farther, the clouds continued to lift. Man, this valley is incredible. But rather than clogging the interwebz with photos, I'll simply leave you with the panorama below and urge you to go see for yourself: this is probably the most beautiful spot in the entire state full of beautiful spots.

Mr. Natural Home | 2012 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski