Big Windy Peak

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Dan finds a cool area in the Lemhis.

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

 

Dan e-mailed me on Thursday to ask about sled logistics. After some back and forth, I asked where he was headed. He said he was going solo to the Lemhis. I thought that was pretty cool, but was feeling pretty satisfied to sit back in my armchair and give electronic coaching.

Then he followed up with another e-mail that said simply, "You're welcome to join." Oh, crap. Now I was in agony... should I go? Stay? What about packing? Driving? etc. Finally I gave in to my more base instincts and replied, "When are we leaving?"

So here we are on a gorgeous Friday afternoon, taking pictures of the snow on the lava at Craters of the Moon.

 

Crater of the Moon

We got a motel room in Arco, then drove north to find something to shoot in the later afternoon light. It was PDC (Pretty Darn Cold) but we stuck it out. The suffering was well worth it. Too bad the camera really doesn't show just how beautiful it was.

 

King Mountain
The next morning we were on the road before sun-up. It took a little over an hour to get to our turn-off. But the road to Hahn was a mess from trucks, snomos, and ATVs. It looked suspiciously like a trap, but Dan had spotted a road previous that looked like it might get us close. So after some "What do you think?"s, we made it to basically the same place. Here Dan is doing the snowshoe dance with the Beaverheads in the background. Getting ready

And this is looking the other direction, up Spring Mountain Canyon. We had to wade through about 100 yards of fluff and we were on the snomo tracks.

Our peak is the very left snowy point in the photo. And our route ascends the center ridge up to what looks like a highpoint in the middle of the picture (it's not really: not enough prominence), then runs the ridgetop to the left.

Starting view
Easy pulling.
Through the mahogany
We followed the road until it seemed to be going up the canyon while we wanted to gain the ridge we had picked out as a safe route in snow country. So no more sled, and now we were following elk tracks as better than nothing. Not much, though. That's our peak, dead ahead. Through the mahogany
We swapped leads through the powdery sugar-snow, occasionally finding some supportive wind crust. But we had climbed above the cold inversion layer and now, in the direct sun, it was almost hot. Lugging big packs in all that was lots of sweaty work.
Above the valley
So we were pretty happy when we hit our proposed campsite at around 9200'. We did a little fancy shovel work and were soon sitting snugly on the ridge with fantastic views. Calm, sunny air. Sweet! Camp
And still early enough in the afternoon to enjoy a snack. Sitting in the sun

But we were close underneath the eastern side of our peak, so the sunlight left us a little after 4. And so did its heat. Time to get in the tent.

Not long after, the wind came up and it got quite cold for a while. Melt snow. Cook dinner. Melt snow. What time is it? 6? Here we kill time telling lies.

In the sleeping bags
Because we were in our bags before 6, it wasn't too hard to get under way before 7 the next morning. Alpine start
We might have left even earlier, but we knew we'd need some light to navigate this steep section. As it turned out, it got less steep as it got lighter, and on the steepest part it was almost bare-- so no threat to us from snow sliding.

Headwall

Once we gained the ridge we could see our route clearly. But there was a cloud bank over the Lost Rivers, moving our way. Were we going to lose the views?

Well, let's get going, then. As the picture shows, we had some up and downs to do along the ridge. And by this point, last night's wind was seeming more like just a light breeze.

View of the summit

 

The little knob right above Dan was our access point for the ridge.

Back down the ridge
From the last knob, we finally could see the saddle. Note that in the summer, you can drive up to this saddle. Also note the cabin near the right side of the photo (click for a bigger version). Summit with cabin in foreground

We had seen this log splice on Dean's blog. Neither of us really wanted to stand underneath it.

But inside the cabin was out of the wind, so we hung out and ate for a few minutes.

Cabin
It might look like this ridge is all there is to the Lemhis, but there is an entirely separate set of peaks in that cloud bank-- and they are part of the Lemhis. It's just a huge basin within the range. This area definitely deserves more exploration. Summit push

According to Fritz, this peak is a peneplain. Whatever you call it, this general summit area has room for just over, I'd guess, maybe ten thousand people?

With this broad expanse of flatness, it was a little hard to determine exactly where the highest point might be. There was a huge cairn, but that was not it. Maybe that point over there? shuffle shuffle shuffle. No, that point over there looks higher. shuffle shuffle shuffle. No, the first point looks higher. We did a full circle of supposed higher points.

Peneplain

But eventually decided that the first was was the true summit.

And yes, we can finally tell you that it is windy on Big Windy Peak.

Summit
We had considered trying to also visit Trail Peak, which we guessed would be about a two-hour round trip from here. But neither of us was that ambitious and it was already going to be a long day to get back to camp, pack up, etc. etc. Trail Peak

We were also quite impressed wth this peak off to the west.

Note: It wasn't until much later that we discovered this was Bear Peak.

Heading home

So after a few more photos and lots more looking around, it was down we went. Getting above 10k in January and visiting new terrain was quite satisfying, so we were happy.

 

Dan's much better photos

Dan's trip report

Heading home

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