Dickey Peak


Winter ascent of Dickey Peak is habit forming.

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

Back in time, I had climbed Dickey Peak in January with my brother, Tom. For Michael, this peak had eluded him on a previous attempt, when he had been prompted by the endless talus to come up with several optional peak names not allowed on a family-oriented website. And John, well, John just wanted to get out.

So with different motivations, we headed out on a Friday afternoon for a motel room at the Northgate Motel in scenic Challis (we're pretty sure the manager wrote most of the reviews). We got a good night's sleep in the Conference room, which had three queen beds. We also had dinner at the Tea Cup Bakery, which was entertaining, good, and plentiful.

So we were out the door, and on our feet about 7:30. In retrospect, it would have been good to get an earlier start.


The snow was quite firm, but after a short debate we elected to carry our snowshoes anyway. The firm snow made for a fast, easy approach (well, if you call an hour across the flats 'fast').

Note that the closer you get to the mountain, the harder it is to see the possible routes. To see ours, click the photo to get the bigger version.



Meanwhile, on the other side of the valley, the sun was coming up on the Pioneers. As we finally got to the far side of the flats, it was turning into a very pretty day.

Sunrise on the Pioneers

At the possible closing point of a loop, we ditched our snowshoes, then began the climb in earnest.

We had to stick to the extreme edge of the snow to avoid postholing, presumably because the snow farther to climber's right had not seen much sun.

No snowshoes
I thought our original plan was to take the sweeping right-hand gully. But when we got here, group momentum had us swing left into the shorter line. After a brief discussion, we decided it looked good. Good and steep. Bottom of the gully

It's big country, and the gully at this point was very wide. Not too steep, probably 30-35 degrees. Mostly pretty good snow, but we were starting to find occasional drift pillows.

Also, under about an 8-9" crust, there was sugar to the ground.

It was easy going, but all requiring some attention.


And then it got steeper. And note the track in the snow; we were seeing some rockfall. The rocks were staying close to the snow, but moving at 25-30 mph. And some were pretty good sized. Not a time to be watching your feet.

And as the gully bifurcated, which one to choose? Here you can only see two, but the right one split left behind the rocks, making three all together. After heading for the right one we found it was all drift pillow, so we headed up the hidden, steeper middle one (if you scroll up a couple photos, you can see all three gullys).


The next section was steep, requiring that the photographer pay attention. So no photos until we exited onto the ridge (more of a spur, really). The spur was both less steep and with better snow (the sun in the gully was working it's magic, so the hard snow that would not allow you to easily kick steps was starting to get slippery and loose on top), so it was with some relief.

And now we have the answer to the eternal question: "Does my butt make that pack look small?"

On the ridge

But the spur was still plenty steep. It's amazing that the loose talus (which is pretty much everything not covered by snow) doesn't just slide off here.

John works through the talus patches

The spur fed onto the ridgetop, putting us on the track that Tom and I followed on my previous climb.

Note the punchy snow pillow here. In addition to being of questionable cohesion, now it was letting us sink in, requiring quite a bit more work. Now that we were at about 10,800', that extra work was slowing us down. John and Michael stopped for a food break.

Ridge top

About 20 feet more of that postholing and I had to stop, too. As I tried to stuff in a few calories, John passed me and led the final summit pitch.

Summit push
Despite slowing considerably near the top, we made it in 4:30, the same time as my previous climb. Summit

We collapsed on the summit for a long lunch and photo session. A slight breeze, but basically just a gorgeous day. This winter climbing is hard to beat.

There was lots to look at, but I'll limit the scenic photos to this one of Borah and Chickenout.

And one informational photo: This is Doublespring Pass. Definitely not drivable. Doublespring pass

Then it was time to head down. We gingerly picked our way back down and across the ridgetop snow pillows (my crampons were starting to ball... remember that casual start time?).

Then, instead of following our ascent route, we opted to follow the route from my previous climb with Tom. Much easier, much less steep.


The talus/snow mix required careful foot work to avoid turning an ankle. But as the snow deepened, well, it deepened. This was starting to look like a lot of work.

From my experience last time with Tom trying to glissade in this weird snow, I didn't think it would work: the snow was extremely variable, going from hard to sugar, deep to thin.

Knee deep

But then Michael wasn't listening to the voices in my head and took off. Brilliant!

John's trip report

Special data:

Want to try this, but wondering about snow conditions? Here's what the Willow Creek web cam looked like for our climb. Dickey Peak is at the extreme upper left, with the summit out of frame.

WillowCreek web cam

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