I planned on going solo but asked Margie, who's knee deep in sanding and staining her deck, to go. Putting added pressure on her, I mentioned that the peak was Maka (her dog) friendly. It wasn't until Saturday night that I found out that she had picked up the pace, finished her deck, and that I'd be having company.
Being overconfident in the peak's accessibility and straightforward route (per Dan's trip report), I opted not to download a map to the gps or print out a trip report, but I did bring Tom Lopez's book, with plans to use it for driving directions. Margie said she had been on the road and in that area before, so that was good enough for me. The route is 5 miles roundtrip, with a summit elevation of 8,748 ft and 2,000 vertical to get there, similar to our local Scout Mountain and Bonneville Peak, so we left Pocatello at 7:00 a.m. with expectations to be back by early afternoon.
Well it's a shame her heart rate monitor wasn't turned on, because I'm sure it would have belied her calm exterior. After some conversation about how much it would have sucked to fix her front end a second time, within months of the first time, we continued watching for his friends and looking for our turnoff.
Soon we were on Knox Canyon road, heading to the start of our ascent route. On the way we saw hunters with horses, hunters with atvs, and hunters with no plans to be more than 100 yards from their rigs for any reason (i.e., illegal road hunting, lovely). The biggest disappointment to me was to see how littered and dirty looking everything was within viewing distance of the road. I am convinced there are two classes of hunters. One class with, and one without. At least in this area, there seem to be a lot of hunters in that latter class.
Tom's book indicated that we were looking for an "intersection" of sorts on a "crest" (one way) or (traveling from the opposite direction)a "pass." And pass we did...the pass, that is (p.s. consistent terminology is really important, it's either a pass or a crest from either direction...yes I would love a climbing guide editing gig...email me). We understood we'd be doing a west approach on the peak, so we figured we needed to descend the road some more to reach said intersection. So without looking in the rear-view mirror, we kept going and traveled all the way to the north-south highway in the next (Rockland) valley, and the sign there told us, that we were on the Big Canyon road. Yep, just east-wested the entire range.
The error was obvious and we set the trip-o-meter to backtrack the 9 or so miles (per Tom' s book) where we suspected we should be. And, at about 9 miles, we were at the blue pickup hunter truck we saw on the way down. Must be here. We pulled in next to the truck.
We piled out, donned gear, and tried to make apparel decisions for the not-so-good-of-a-weather day we didn't expect but we were clearly going to get. Donning gear concluded with red shirts (hunter protection) all around...Maka included.
[I don't purposely try to hike or not hike during hunting season. It is something I don't really pay much attention to as in, I thought back at my the house, "Hum...there may be hunters out, hum, but i have no red or orange, hum...this is pretty much a ridge hike and I have a bright yellow backpack. Good enough." ]
So without looking in the rear-view mirror (i.e., behind us), we start off, 9:30, by crossing the road and immediately hiking up a steep hill, with no faint jeep trail noticeable (something I remember reading in a trip report somewhere). Then we're quickly in a very brushy section, sidehilling, with our first views of one of the multiple little peaks we'd go up and over before we would reach the summit. But something was bothering me. I kept looking ahead trying to see the ridge route that would be the majority of our climb and was seeing nothing other than more brush and heavy forest. Just not what I expected. I suggested we move from the sidehill to the top of the ridge above us and get a better look around. By then, we actually turned around and saw the peak we were supposed to be climbing, across the gully, the start visible less than 1/2 mile further up the road. So, down we went, and now with a 0.6-mi hill warm up under our boots and paws, we piled back in the car, moved it up the road, piled out and tried again.
It was at this point that the jeep trail was more than noticeable and as we continued, the route manifested as Dan describes in his trip report, "The hike starts out of a brushy, semi-forested ridge, that provides a challenge as it roller coasters up to the peak itself. Once on the mountain, the ridge becomes bare and a very easy terrain to hike." Spot on, Dan.
We discovered that Maka loves, among other things, tracking the trail, and she lead us the whole way. She was a little confused around a rock outcrop where numerous game trails exist. At that point we had to keep directing her upwards. Finally in the all too common blasting southeast Idaho winds, and significantly cooler temperatures than anticipated, we summited with plans to tag-off, take photos, and descend to a lunch spot that was out of the wind.
Even on this overcast day, there was at least 100 miles visibility. Bannock Peak (on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation) is a distinctive pyramidal shape, to the north, and this was my closest look at it from a mountaineering standpoint. Non-Native Americans are not allowed on the peak without permission from the Tribal Council, which I have learned through two attempts isn't (probably ever) granted. Mt. Harrison, and Cache and Independence Peaks were visible on the southwest. A dusting of snow was visible on Black Peak and Black Pine Peak to the south, which we'd summited a couple weeks before. The Lemhis were still snowcapped, Big Southern Butte had lost its snow, and the sun was shining on the Pioneers to the northwest.
The ascent was uneventful, just windy. On the descent, within about 20 minutes of the car, my left hiking pole collapsed sending me to the ground in a very hard side ankle roll. So i gimped a bit on the way out with new appreciation for "Margo tight," when adjusting the poles, not being tight enough. There were lots of shots taken by hunters but not at or near us. The only downside, if any, was the lost time caused by us not finding the trail head on first try (because I didn't download any coordinates/maps, lesson learned), and that sour melon poweraid is REALLLLY terrible.
It took us 5 minutes longer to complete the route than Dan and Zach. Including summit time and lunch...so we were quite pleased. We do agree with Dan that this is a good early season hike/conditioner once the road is open. So keep this in mind for next spring.
More photos here.