Lists of John is a great resource. One of my favorite things is their "Unclimbed Peaks" list. Of course, this only covers peaks unclimbed by members of their site. However, most summit-oriented folks I know use the site and I see the Unclimbed Peaks list as a way to find new places and add to the body of knowledge about our mountains. Boise County, ID had only 2 remaining unclimbed 10k+ peaks and it was clear why - they are all in the middle of the Sawtooth wilderness and very hard to reach. But I have been increasing my trail running mileage for months, and these peaks presented the perfect chance to test my abilities.
Peak 10,060 - E/10,060' - P/600'
Peak 9,844 - E/9,844' - P/504'
Hike/Run from Farley Lake - l/22.1 - v/5,680'
I first noticed this group of 3 peaks in May, but at that time I was only up to about a 15-mile run and I knew I wouldn't make it in a day. After a few more months of training though, I had gotten up to 17.5 miles and thought I could hack 20+. Fortunately, Tory and I had been looking for a short backpacking trip (she's 7.5 months pregnant) and by hiking into Farley Lake I could cut 7 miles off of the total distance.
Saturday - Hike to Farley Lake
We had a lot to get done before we left town (including a visit to Café Mulé) so we didn't get out of town until after noon. My research had gleaned 3 facts about our hike for the day:
- The road to the Yellow Belly trailhead is brutal - TRUE. The road is very bumpy and high clearance is required. I was afraid the bouncing might cause Tory to go into labor right there in the car
- The hike to Farley Lake is tedious - PARTIALLY TRUE. The first 1.5 miles is pretty monotonous - just a long, flat, straight trail through lodgepole pines. It was kind of peaceful though, and we were glad it was very easy. The second half of the hike picks up the climbing a bit and before reaching the lake you're treated to a fantastic waterfall.
- Campsites at Farley Lake are few and far-between - FALSE. We actually found a site very easily considering we arrived at the lake at 8pm on a Saturday night in August. There were at least a couple other empty sites. I saw at least 6 camping areas (probably 12 tent sites) and I certainly didn't explore the whole lake.
Farley Lake is beautiful and makes a great quick easy overnight. I'd love to visit it again as part of the famous Alice-Toxaway loop. We arrived late so our evening was mostly spent soaking our feet, eating dinner, and preparing for tomorrow's adventure. Heavy smoke filled the valley, making for an eerie sunset. I set my alarm for 3:50am and got the best sleep I could.
Sunday - The Run
I was so excited to start my adventure that getting up was very easy. By 4:05 my bag was packed (pack list coming soon) I was on my way. This was my first true wilderness trail run and I had a lot to learn. First lesson: don't expect to maintain your typical pace when you're running by flashlight. I ran for 2 hours before I was able to put the flashlight away. In that time I made it past Edith Lake, over Sand Mountain Divide, and to the shores of Edna Lake in the Payette drainage. 6 miles in and I was still feeling great.
Two miles more on easy trail got me to a major checkpoint - time to leave the trail and head up Peak 9,844. The ridge to the summit looks great on paper (i.e. the map), just a straightforward ridge hike. However, this being the Sawtooths, it wasn't that simple. The ridge had a series of perpendicular mini-ridges, 10' to 30' high, that had to be negotiated. I was happy for the chance to get some scrambling, and the rock was fantastic solid granite. In no time (well, in 40 minutes) I was at the summit of my first peak. The view was incredible despite the lingering smoke - nothing but wilderness in every direction.
Because of some photos on Google Earth, I knew this peak had been summitted in the past. So I only took a quick break before heading to my true objectives - Peak 10,060 and 10,059. Nowhere had I found any sign that either of these had been climbed. The ridge between 9,844 and 10,059 looked very cliffy so I decided to start with 10,060 and see how things went from there. Going down from 9,844 was one of the worst parts of the trip (the other was descending back to Hidden Lake from the saddle) but it was over quickly and I spent the next mile or so crossing the high basin between my 3 peaks. It was beautiful, as expected, and made even more beautiful with the knowledge that I'm likely one of the few people to ever see them up close.
After a quick break at the highest lake, I made the short ascent of 10,060. The view from the top was once again spectacular - this time the view west was dominated by the imposing Elk Peak. I'd love to come back again and give that one a try.
Unfortunately, the ridge between 10,060 and 10,059 looked even more challenging. A huge gendarme blocked the ridge. I'm sure, given time, I could find a way around. But I told Tory to expect me back in 9 hours and I was already 5 hours in. I found myself plenty satisfied with my journey and decided to head back.
Once back to the trail, going was pretty fast until Edna Lake at mile 14. That's when the fatigue hit, and my run turned into a hike. I had to talk myself through every step of the 1,000' climb back to Sand Mountain Pass. Then, after a short refueling break, I set my sites on the descent down to Toxaway Lake, where Tory was waiting. Or so I thought . . .
Saturday: Search for Tory
Warning: my phone died, so no more photos (and no more peaks) past this point.
I hobbled my way down the many, many switchbacks to Toxaway Lake and kept an eye out for our agreed upon signal: a bandana hanging from a tree by the trail. But I made it all the way down to the end of the lake and didn't see anything. I assumed Tory (again, being super pregnant) was to tired or sore to make the hike to Toxaway. So I ran back down to Farley Lake. She wasn't there either.
At this point my feet were so sore I could hardly walk. So rather than panic, I stripped off my shoes and dunked them in Farley Lake, soaking them for a good 10 minutes. That gave enough relief that I thought I could hike back up to Toxaway to find her. After refilling my water, I carried all my backpacking gear up to the main trail and left it there as a sign in case we missed each other again. I then started heading back up to Toxaway.
Luckily, I only had to go about 2.3 miles back up the trail before running into Tory on the way down. We did a little math and figured that I ran by just as she had left the trail and was looking for a place to sit, but before she had a chance to come back up and hang the flag. What are the odds. We shared stories from our days then saddled up for the long hike out.
Saturday: The Hike Out
There isn't much to say about the hike out except my feet were killing me and I was exhausted. By the end of the day I had reached 29 miles, the longest I've ever hiked/run in a day ever. The entire hike back to the car was spent just pushing myself on. The creek crossing 1.5 miles from the trailhead was about the only thing that allowed me to finish. We took an extended break at the creek crossing, about 1.5 miles from the trailhead, and it was divine. The cold water soothed my aching feet and gave me the strength to finish the hike. We didn't get back to town until 11:30pm.
I learned a few things on this trip:
- Backcountry trail running is as awesome as I thought it would be. Definitely something I want to continue doing.
- Plan to run slower in the dark
- If my mileage is stretching my limit, keep the plan simple.
Oh, and to all my fellow peakbaggers - there is now only one lone 10er in Boise County left to be climbed. Get out there and get it done! (and call me 'cause I want to come!)