Jerry Peak & South Jerry


Jerry Peak is often overlooked, but makes a great December adventure.

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

Most people driving north of Mackay don't even look to the west- the towering Lost River peaks to the east grab your attention. But Dan and I had been curious about those ignored peaks to the west. The map showed Jerry Peak, and we had both read enough about the area to be intrigued. When Dan invited me, I was in.

Our plan seemed reasonable. We would drive from Boise through Mackay to the Trail Creek Road, then see how far we could get up Howell Canyon Road, which the map shows penetrating deeply into the range. It would either be a fairly short, easy approach to a 10,000' peak, or a slightly longer one if there was more snow than indicated on the Willow Creek cam.

When we left the Trail Creek road we were encouraged because the Howell Canyon road was well marked by a BLM sign, and there was only an inch or two of snow, complete with multiple sets of tire tracks. Everything was going swell until we ran into the Private Property signs (this could all be yours!). Although we suspected the signs were there illegally (on review back home, probably not), we felt obligated to obey them. OK, let's come up with a Plan B.

Plan B had us driving farther up Trail Creek to investigate several less-optimal roads. Less optimal because we would be putting feet down farther and farther from our objective. But at least we'd be getting out. And the weather looked nothing short of spectacular- super clear and surprisingly warm (40s!).

So the story begins with us bouncing up the rough Burnt Creek road following some old ATV tracks. While we interpreted the big book of state road maps (which are of a scale way too big to be of much use), we followed those tracks as far as it made sense. From our spot at ~7800' on a ridge, we followed a game trail DOWNHILL to get into this drainage, with the ridgeline to our peak ahead. "Our peak" for now was the highpoint on the right, South Jerry Peak, as determined by Dan. Jerry Peak is about 4 miles away to the right, or north.

Garden Creek

We made short work of the drainage, which had some snow and lots of very slippery creek ice, and were soon heading up a very steep, bare ridge. Still slippery though, because the sun was melting the damp soil, providing a lubricating layer of mud. And it's big country- as you stare at the Lost Rivers in the background, also note the tiny little men in the bottom right corner.

Lost Rivers

And this is sort of where we were headed. Sort of, because that is NOT South Jerry Peak: our first peak is hidden behind what appears to be the high point. And we still were thinking about Jerry Peak, which the GPS was saying we'd find about 4 miles farther north. Nope, not getting any closer yet.

False summit

But now we were on the ridge, and it was a very scenic one. This is looking farther south at the Pioneers: DBE, Old Hyndman, etc.

There is also another teeny tiny man at the lower right.

Looking the other way showed more up. Our exuberant youth, Dylan, mistakenly thought the small tower on the left was the summit. Dylan bouldering

As we climbed higher on the ridge, we kept running into more and rockier false summits. We had come to Jerry Peak expecting a sagebrush hike, so this was quite unexpected and really fun. Even if it wasn't the peak we had intended to climb.

Summit scramble

Scramble, scramble. Stare, stare. Too bad the weather wasn't better.

Last effort

And then we were on top of what Dan had determined is South Jerry Peak- actually slightly higher than Jerry Peak itself, and with almost 1200' of prominence. Very fun. So our 'accidental' summit ended up being the cool climb for the day.

But we still had Jerry Peak on the brain. If you click on the photo, you'll see Jerry just above the tip of John's ski pole. GPS says it's 2.7 miles away. We hiked a couple hundred yards that way to find a spot with less wind so that we could enjoy some lunch.

Summit of South Jerry
But before we leave the summit, this is the Sheep/Bowery complex, long on my ToDo list. Who's up for it? Sheep and Bowery peaks
We decided that we could make a cool loop out of this by dropping off the ridge farther north. And that, at the dropoff point, we could re-assess our desire to bag Jerry. So after some lunch and much friendly banter, we were heading toward Jerry. Heading north

The snow wasn't completely firm, but it wasn't bad. I put on my snowshoes while the other guys went without.

Yes, the little bump ahead on the left is Jerry. And yes, it DOES look a long way from here.

When we got to the escape hatch, Dylan put a stop to our hemming and hawing with a simple, "Let's go for it."


It was only another 1.7 miles from that point, but our legs weren't getting any fresher and we had now been around 10k for about three hours- so we were feeling the altitude. Trudge. Trudge. Repeat as necessary.

Still, the views were awesome, and the high overcast moving in only made the lighting seem more interesting.

Cornice and bowl

We smiled for the camera but were all inwardly grimacing at the thought of the 4.0 miles back to the car.....

.... and so it began.

Summit of Jerry Peak

We trudged back along our route for about an hour (seemed like more), then dropped off.

During the first part of the descent, we were wallowing through occasional thigh-deep snow. But we were encouraged by intermittent areas of firmer snow to NOT don our snowshoes. Eventually we got below that section, and then got to walk down this steep, rocky ridge. On tired legs and sore feet, this section seemed to go on forever.

Note the lack of direct sunlight? The sun had sunk.

Descent ridge

And as the light diminished, this is what we had ahead: the GPS said 2 miles, the eyes said 1000.

We made it back to the truck at 5:15, without having to dig out the headlamps. But we needed the headlights to drive.....

AWESOME trip. But a lot of work for out of shape December legs.

Where's the truck?

Map from GPS tracks


Dan's trip report

John's trip report


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