Fitsum-Buckhorn Divide


It's a long and lonely way into Fitsum Creek.

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

It was Labor Day weekend. With a good weather prediction but no partner, I chose a fairly aggressive outing to attempt my remaining four peaks in the Fitsum Creek drainage.

It was a cool and crystal-clear morning, allowing Ruby and I to fairly sail up the East Fork. This is looking across the East Fork and up Idler Creek.


Over the last month, the Idler Creek trail has received some cleaning. Although there are a few logs remaining, most can be stepped over. So it wasn't much longer and we were crossing Idler Creek.



After a couple hundred more yards of semi-cleared trail, it's time to leave any sign of a trail and start the climb up to South Fitsum Summit, roughly 1600' up from here.


We took a few breaks to enjoy the day. This is looking sorta down Lake Fork Creek toward McCall.


And finally, South Fitsum Summit. On the right, that's our planned first peak of the outing.

IIRC, this was about 2.5 hours without much of a break.


Near the summit, on either side, there is recognizable tread if you look. Below that by not much, any consistent sign of a trail sort of disappears. I only saw bits and pieces of tread here and there. But you can always bushwack.....

The pano below shows the initial easy bushwack, plus the four peaks up for grabs- both right and left. Our immediate destination is a lake at the foot of the peak on the right.

The pointiest peak on the left is "Mt. Horrendous."


I thought it would work to traverse in to the lake without losing any elevation. It did, but the brush was thick, aided by seeps and streams coming down the north-facing hillside. Uggh. But finally, there's our lake. Roughly 4:15 time in.

We looked around a bit for the best tent site. Had some lunch. But by now, I wasn't feeling well. Dang, I did a lot of work to get back here. I wasn't going to leave without climbing at least one peak. So after looking at it a bit, I spotted the ramp moving up to the ridge on the right, and was off. Trailhead

What followed was a very steep hillside with lots of boulders and cliffy sections. I tried to stay off the cliffs for Ruby's sake, but the boulders were sometimes unavoidable. She's amazing. Here she is on the summit ridge. Except we had to downclimb this slab and traverse to a point behind the camera.

Looking down the hillside from here, it appears it would be easier to climb this peak from the Buckhorn side. Oh well.

Here it was finally too much for Ruby. The summit is about 100' past this short Class 4 section, with cliffs on either side. Trailhead


Part smile, part grimace.

Looking farther out the ridge sort of north-east, there is a second highpoint. But fortunately not quite as high as this one- because I was too tired to deal with more of this blocky backbone. Trailhead
Looking back the other way, the high point on the far left is Nick Peak. The saddle just right of center is South Fitsum Summit, from whence we came. Trailhead
Time to go down. In places, I could see our uptracks. It was important to follow them, because there are so many cliffs on the side of the mountain. I used the doGPS and standard handheld to find the critical entrance to the ramp that took us back down to the lake. Trailhead
Case in point, regarding the cliffy hillside. Trailhead

When we got back to camp, we were pretty tired. There was a light breeze blowing, and it was fairly cool. With low blood sugar, we both had a hard time staying warm. So Ruby relaxed in her sleeping bag while I, dressed in my puffy, read my book.

Middle of the afternoon and I'm in my puffy? I didn't have much else to wear, which made me worry about what the night was going to be like in my superlight sleeping bag.....



As it turned out, it really didn't get all that cold. I think we had just been low on calories.

But when I got up the next morning, I wasn't feeling any better.


With regrets, and some concern about how I was going to feel on the 1500' climb back out of Fitsum Creek, we abandoned further plans and started for home.

Lessee ... there's a trail in here somewhere.....

At times I could find tread. I also saw what I think were plants flattened by my friends from the Bloody Shins Club. But mostly, progress relied on just moving up the valley following the path of least resistance. Apparently the elk like this route, too. Trailhead
Then I walked up on this. It was the only sign of man I had seen in the valley (if you ignore the so-called "trail"). I think you'd have to walk right up to it because the forest and brush combined to make the line of sight fairly short. Trailhead

And here's what I found when I turned it over. It's an airplane door. I scanned the area briefly, but was too tired to do a grid search or such. No other debris. Hmmmm.

When I got home, it took about two hours of searching on the computer before I found this article (may be slow to load), which I think explains. After the holiday, I'm going to try to confirm my theory.


It was painful, but I finally made it back to the summit. Mostly downhill from here.

When we got back down to the East Fork, I was surprised by two things: lots of folks out on the trail on bikes, day hikes, horseback, and backpacking. And very few people in the campground or using the dispersed camping areas.




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