Sunday, August 21, 2011

#112, North Twin Peak, #113 Red Cone Peak, Lost River Range, Idaho

North Twin Peak (c), Red Cone Peak (l)
When Dan put the note out that he was looking for hiking partners for the weekend of the 20th, I was initially excited, then a little concerned. I had just come off of a foiled Buck Mountain (Tetons) attempt and was really re-thinking my abilities. Buck Mt is third class, with some snow and an awkward, and draining, rock garden. I had gotten sick four times before reaching the saddle and then fell asleep at 10,400+ ft. Anyone who knows me knows that sleeping is something I never do in the mountains...I am too excited about being in the mountains to sleep. Apparently it just wasn't my day, but could I recover enough in barely a week to climb again?

I held out on a final decision until Thursday night when Dan put out a second note announcing that he, Zach and Tom Lopez, like "the" Tom Lopez, would be joining us to climb North Twin Peak, 11081 ft, in the Lost River Range (LRR) near Sunset Peak. Climbing with the IdahoSummits folk is a high priority on my list, but getting to climb with the man who wrote "the" book on Idaho climbing, priceless.

So with Steve's blessing to back out of our trip to City of Rocks with his friends, I did a little "wow I get to meet and climb with Tom" dance and then the furious packing, celiac-friendly carbo loading, and hydrating began.

View in the meadow.

I met the guys in Arco Saturday morning, and then off we went. We drove high into Elbow Canyon, started hiking along the road into a meadow, and then made an error...we kept climbing too far into the canyon and missed our right fork. We regrouped, checked maps, and thought through our location. We then began traversing, and steeply ascending, to achieve a spot somewhere near treeline edge to get a visual on our actual location.

As we contoured the slope and came out of the trees, we saw we were now in the right fork of Elbow Canyon, and not far off of our location estimate...but we definitely were not on the ridge we thought we were going to ascend in the first place.

Dan in the canyon heading toward the saddle.
North Twin (l), Red Cone Peak (r).

Regardless, the canyon was gorgeous, offering great views all around and the scree was easy traveling. We climbed up a shoot to get out of the canyon and made our way up to the saddle approach with only a small section of loose side-hilling to deal with.

The saddle was beautiful with flowers in bloom, bees buzzing, and butterflies flitting everywhere. We then picked our summit approach line from the saddle and began up the ridge to North Twin. Zach and Dan were ahead of me and Tom followed shortly behind us.

View from the saddle. Sunset Peak to the left, Sunrise, right.
 As we looked up, at a point approximately 200 ft below the summit, a Rocky Mountain Big Horn sheep "scout" appeared above us on a tower and peered down at the curious-looking multicolor "sheep" below.

With my amazing zoom I managed a pretty descent photo of him. Shortly after, we saw the rest of his herd, or harem, up on the summit. They checked us out for a bit, but as I slowly and quietly climbed up higher to reach Zach and Dan, they scattered.

Rocky Mountain Big Horn sheep "scout."

The three of us continued on and worked our way through some ledges. In short order, we reached the summit with Tom following shortly after.

From the summit, after the requisite video, splattskis, summit (and other) photos, and snack break, we made a tentative plan to descend to the saddle, climb up to Point 10,286 and take the "right" ridge back down. Back at the saddle, the plan was still a "go" and within minutes we were at the top of Point 10,286. Here we found a Rick Baugher summit film canister with his note that indicated he was at the summit 18 years ago. We also learned the peak's name was Red Cone Peak, a to-a-tee descripter. We signed his summit note and then surveyed our descent options.

Splattski, summit Red Cone Peak,
N. Twin in the background. Zach, Dan, Tom and Margo.

It appeared that after a steep pitch immediately off of the summit, to the east, that travelling would be easier via the Cabin Fork Canyon rather than the ridge as we originally planned. So off we went. When we arrived at the canyon scree, some of it was easier travelling for awhile but then it turned into "pay attention" scree. Regardless, we all made it back down into the forest, into the meadow, and back to the car without incident.

On the drive back out of Elbow Canyon we startled up a black bear that, quicker than we could grab phones or cameras to document it, hauled up a rock face. A reminder to folks in the LRRs...that there are bear out enjoyed at distance.

After a long day of climbing in the LRR, the obvious option for dinner was Pickles Place in Arco. :-)  My GPS battery died, so here is the route I estimated off of the points I did capture...mapped it in Google Earth.

Route in relief.
It was a great day in the LLRs, made better with the company of Idaho Summit folk and the opportunity to meet the author of my Idaho climbing bible.  Thanks everyone for letting SummitGirl join you. Climb On!

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