Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Thompson Peak (10,751ft) Sawtooth Wilderness October 10th-11th 2016

PC JDStylos
What a better way to kick off the road trip then to start it off with a big hike and an overnight in one of the most beautiful places in Idaho, the Sawtooths!

Funny enough though, not only have I never actually spent any time in the Sawtooths, its also wicked late in the season to be climbing and attempting the highest summit in the range.

Of course that doesn't stop Joe and I though! So after plenty of research and trip planning we packed up the mobile humble abode and headed out. We left around 7:30 in the morning and left the car and hit the trail around 11:00. After a short uphill start through a forest of aspen trees the trail hits about a 3 mile walk along a ridge line through the wilderness boundary before you get to a fork in the trail. Up until this point it had been easy walking and a great warm up for what was to come. We headed left at the fork and it went immediately uphill. The trail was still apparent but was definitely starting to dwindle as we headed closer and closer to the lake.

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You make your way through an alpine meadow and this is where the trail pretty much ends. Luckily you can see your destination straight ahead, Thompson peak and below that is supposedly an unnamed Alpine lake that is just beyond the next ridge line. So straight ahead we went and this is where we realized that the rest of our hiking was going to be crossing rock fields. We made it to the lake around 2:45 and once we gained the ridge line I was in complete awe of the lake. Such clear water and the backdrop of Thompson was breathtaking. Both Joe and I took pictures and set up camp and enjoyed watching the fish catch their afternoon snacks.

Thompson Peak being lit by the morning sun.
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That evening the wind started to pick up and the weather forecast was calling for high winds and snow so we were ready for a long night. Neither of us slept super great as the the combination of howling wind, snow and altitude was a recipe for a restless night.

We both awoke with doubt of getting to summit that day but we climbed outside the tent to about an inch of snow and some wind but it was clear. So we made the decision to wait it out and see if the wind would die down. I'm glad we decided to wait because the wind did die down and we headed out around 10:30 that morning to make our way to Thompson.

It was constant rock hopping. With the snow from the night before we were worried about stepping in the snow and not knowing how deep it would be beneath so with that thought in the back of our
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minds it made for long and tedious hiking. We did some class 3 scrambling up to the top of the saddle to see quite the sight of a huge rock valley and luckily, not as much wind as we were expecting.

The longer we went the more the rock hopping got more difficult. But we trudged along and made it to the base of the rock fall on Thompson and up we went. This was probably the most difficult part of the climb, as the combination of loose rock, snow and ice made for a long and frustrating upward climb. Every 6 inches you gained you would fall 3.  After about halfway up we decided on the middle gully between the three options and made it to what we were hoping to be the summit but would soon realize after some more class 3 scrambling that we were some class 5 scrambling and 20 vertical feet short of the true summit. With high winds and some intense exposure we decided to call it and head down. We were SO close and it took Joe a few more attempts of route finding for us to officially give up and start making our way back down.

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The wind was picking up more and by this time our muscles were dead tired from being constantly flexed for perfect foot steps onto the tops of the rocks. By the time we had made it back to camp at the lake it was about 4:30 and we packed up and headed out pretty quick. Though we knew we had 5 1/2 miles of hiking still ahead it was nice to think that once we hit the fork in the trail it was smooth sailing back to the car.

We made it back to the car around 6:30 and without a true summit of Thompson peak. We did put in a solid effort and get DANG close though. Looking at the peak from the bottom it sure looks like we got to the top... but we will be good people and tell the truth;)
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We hopped in the car and headed out to Kirkham hot springs to hopefully soak away some of the pain of extremely tired limbs and hurt egos. We headed out to go find a free camp spot and test out the car bed for the first time. Oh man, the mobile humble abode is quite the success! We are going to be sleeping good these next few months!

This morning we opted to just head back to the McKinstry household and unpack the garb the spend the afternoon getting everything for the road trip all separated into piles and ready to load into the car tomorrow. We will hit the road tomorrow and head to Twin Falls to see my grandparents and enjoy a warm meal before heading out to The City of Rocks on Friday!
Thompson Summit... so close but so far
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