McGowan Peak and Peak 9330


Getting high in winter.

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

I noticed McGowan Peak a couple years ago when Julie and I were doing owl surveys along McGowan Creek road. During that trip in early April, I took pictures of McGowan. From several angles, including this one (Peak 9330 is dead center, with McGowan on the far right). I also saved a screen shot from the Willow Creek web cam, seen on the Chilly peaks page. Last, I compared our climb of Dickey in March with current conditions.


I was watching the weather hopefully. NOAA seemed to be cooperating, with a cold front moving in, less than 1" of snow, and clearing by 11am.

So, loaded with beta, I was comparing snow depths and photos. And asking the usual suspects if they wanted to play.

Mackay cam showing thin snow and bare ridges. Trailhead

And we're off...... We met at Banks at 7pm, got to Challis about 10, and promptly hit the sack at the Northgate Inn.

We got out the door for a 6am breakfast in Challis, and arrived at our trailhead just as the day was really dawning. Clouds. Wind. Cold.


We weren't too concerned about the cold, because despite the wind, it looked like there was ample opportunity for warming up on the south ridge of Peak 9330.


We worked our way up the steep ridge, trying to avoid the wind and the mahogany.

And the slippery talus. Who knew that 1/2" of snow could make the footing so treacherous?


Looking back down our ridge at the valley below.


The summit.

Despite some suffering, it went pretty fast.


And there's our main objective from the summit of 9330.

A little cloudy, but looking pretty good. So far, our decision to leave the snowshoes in the car was working out well.

Then came the tricky descent down the east ridge. Click to see our footprints. There was some really slippery talus, some waist-deep drifts, drop-offs, and down climbing. In these conditions, getting off that thing might have been the technical crux of the climb. Trailhead
We did a little more team post-holing to cross the saddle, but were rewarded with better conditions as we again started uphill. Still, there was discussion on post-holing theory: where to step, position in line (note the very experienced photographer following at the back of the line), etc.. Trailhead
Looking down the early ridge, and back at 9330. Trailhead

Looking up.

Thin snow on slippery (and movable) talus.


The steps. The Dear Tom Lopez book noted a couple class 3 steps to surmount. We were able to move around a bit, plus the snow partially buried them. So technically, it was easy. Effort-wise was another issue.

Note the deep blue sky!

Above the rock bands, the steep talus continued. And then the clouds moved in. Bummer. We used the clouds as an excuse to slow down, hoping for clearing. When we got to the top, it was trying, trying, to clear off. Trailhead

A look back down our route, with 9330 behind.

Judging by the tilted horizon, the photographer might have been a little hypoxic.


There was some grumbling about the location of the summit versus the location of the benchmark. Damn cell phones. Oh, what the hell. Let's just walk over there, too.

We needed to go over there anyway, because we were considering a third peak that required us to descend a different ridge. That, and we weren't too thrilled about descending the slippery scrambling we had done to get up through the rock bands.

Amid a photo frenzy, lots of route discussion, and random fumbling with gear, the clouds finally lifted. Trailhead
I think we had been on the true summit. But we also stood on the optional accessory summit. Trailhead
On this one, we found protection from the wind. And with the sun out, lots of opportunities for more photos. And finally some lunch. Trailhead
We decided to continue this as a loop. This is descending the south ridge heading for the saddle. More slippery talus. Trailhead
When we got to the first big gully, we decided conditions were safe to head down. And we were late enough, and tired enough, that we opted not to go for the third peak, which was a DDP anyway. Dave wasn't happy, but he got over-ruled. Trailhead
Down, down, down. We tried to glissade a bit, but the snow was very irregular, then too soft. Fortunately, it was also pretty shallow because our footsteps were going pretty much to the bottom. Trailhead

Shallower snow as we descended.

Or maybe that's just taller rocks?


Then came about a 1.5 or 2 mile slug along the canyon bottom and sides. We worked all the tricks to do this with the least amount of suffering. We were partially successful.

When we got back to the car, which was sitting in the sun in almost-still air, we reveled in the warmth. The thermo said 33°.

As we headed back to the highway, we were treated to the largest herd of pronghorns I have ever seen. 100? More? Dave took pictures, but I was disinclined to leave my warm seat in the car.



More reports

John's trip report

Dave's trip report


A little eye candy: Borah's north face and Chicken-Out Ridge.


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