Turning north on highway 93 we drove through a broad sagebrush filled valley before stopping at the Mt. Borah Trailhead. The sign gave us the stats of the climb, over 5,000 vertical feet in 3.5 miles… was that a typo? Steep but short, the hike sounded exciting and we vowed to return on a day with less clouds and when we could get an earlier start. Back on the road toward Challis, ID we had no idea whether there was a road connecting us back toward Hailey, but that didn’t seem to matter. We were in vacation mode, driving when we felt like driving, and stopping when we felt like resting.
The plan for the weekend was initially to drive over Trail Creek Summit an hour and a half to the base of Mt. Borah and climb two days at an area called Cedar Creek. After a beautiful evening and pleasant hike, we set to it on a 5.10d called “No Hands” presumably due to the absolute lack of decent hand holds for the first 20 feet. Maybe it was the chilly air, or just the technically demanding style of climbing at Cedar Creek, but our heads just didn’t seem in it. Climbing is an interesting hobby. It is certainly demanding physically (as office-place inspirational posters have pointed out) but also mentally. Climbing at your limit in some areas brings with it a heavy mental burden and in some cases can be downright stressful. Somehow the contrast of the mega-relaxed evening before and steady beautiful hike that morning didn’t jive with the climbing. After 3 climbs our hands were tender and our thoughts were drifting to other activities. Climbing has shown us so many incredible places, but when you fall into too much of a routine at your local crags it can also feel limiting when there is so much begging to be explored.
Back at the bus on Saturday night we enjoyed another timeless sunset from our perch below the Cedar Creek drainage. Hanging by the bus at night still feels the most natural. The smell of sage was impossible to ignore, and the low light of the fading sun lit up the scrub brush in a golden real-life instagram.
The decision to skip climbing the next day and instead go on an exploratory adventure actually came quite easily. Without a map and only a vague idea of what lie ahead, it was quite freeing to be just living in the moment with zero expectations. In Challis we drove to the National Forest Service Office and read some information about the Halstead Fire with continues to burn just north of highway 75 and adjacent to our route back home to Hailey. The fire has now been burning since July 27th, and has consumed over 150,000 acres of land in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. The latest news was, however, that traffic was flowing freely in both directions, so off we went. Once in Stanley (population 73) firefighters outnumbered locals 10 to 1. Campers, tents and motels were packed with firefighters from all over the west. I had been to Stanley once before and remembered vividly the first time I saw the Sawtooth’s. Still to this day of all the mountain ranges in the west, the Sawtooth Mountains remain in the ranks of the most rugged and beautiful peaks I have ever seen. Of course we stopped at Redfish Lake, scouted some nice granite boulders along its shores, and plotted our return to climb the ultra-classic Elephant’s Perch.
With a laundry list of incredible hikes, alpine climbs and camp destinations it seems impossible to get to them all. Now that we are weekend warriors we may try and climb more during the week to allow for more exploratory weekends to the Sawtooth’s before winter sets in.
In all the excitement of moving to a new place and setting up our new home we have practically forgotten that I will be headed to Anchorage this weekend! The International Snow Science Workshop is being held in Alaska for the first time, and I have been working as the webmaster since this time last year. All the big names and latest research will be there as well as all my snow buddies from the last couple years. If you think winter is far off, tell that to the 3,000ft snow level behind Valdez! I bet my friends there are already hiking for fresh turns. The conference will last all next week and I will be back to Boise late on Friday night and that same weekend Ben, Jeremy and Dana are planning to come up to check out the Fins! Oh. And we are saving for mountain bikes in hopes of getting some by spring. If I have to hear someone tell me how epic the trails are around here one more time….