Robyn and I decided to spend the Fourth of July climbing subalpine limestone near Riggins, Idaho. Now if you know Riggins the word “alpine” is probably not your first answer (or thirtieth) in a word-association exercise, but just 16 miles from Riggins lie stunning mountains, clear lakes, cool temperatures and great stone. I would love to say that we totally dominated this trip but that may be a bit of a stretch. Chossy on the other hand was in a fine form. Not five minutes after being out of the car at our new camp she came across a fresh, wet cow pie. After a quick roll she trotted past, her coat heavy under the burden of her new fecal scarf. “Oh mom’s gonna be pissed…” I whispered. Robyn’s eyes widened and a look of horror crossed her face, “Chossy!! Are you kidding me?!” At that point there was nothing to do but laugh at the absurd amount of cow shit that she managed to cake onto her coat and hope it dried up enough to scrub off before we all climbed in the tent.
Coming off of several weekends in a row at The Fins, we were looking for a change of pace – a little adventure. In search of a campsite on Friday we turned onto a random gravel road near Banner Summit. I recalled having a conversation with a coworker about back roads to McCall. Our gas gauge read ¼ tank, about 100 miles till empty. It can’t be further than that right? “If we get 50 miles and still have no clue where we are, we can turn around”, we reasoned. Well then it’s settled! Driving off on a gravel road into new territory without a map was pretty exciting! As it turned out, we had picked the right road “NF-579” that winds through the remote Bear Valley, crests a few bumpy passes, crosses crystal clear streams and parallels beautiful rivers before plopping us down in Cascade 80 miles later as Buck sputtered on fumes.
Despite our best efforts to locate a guide before leaving, we arrived at the crag empty-handed directed only by a few short, vague descriptions of where the crags were and what to expect. With some bushwhacking, we managed to find The Amphitheater first – a large, deep cave with mostly drilled/enhanced holds out onto a massive upper headwall. With no clue what-was-what we worked from left to right and were generally pleasantly surprised by the routes despite the drilled pockets.
Day two was spent at The Projects. With a quick hand drawn topo scrawled on scratch paper and a few screen shots of route descriptions from rockclimbing.com we set to work. The most enticing wall was a short sweeping panel of blue limestone that seemed to glow in the morning light. Stacked with great routes we again worked from left to right taking down a number of mystery 5.10s and 5.12s. The rock and movement at this crag were easily worthy enough to warrant a return trip.
The uncertainty and excitement of an loosley-planned weekend led us to some unexpected treasures and beautiful scenery. The Seven Devils National Recreation Area is stunning. Sweeping views from alpine to desert and trails galore will undoubtedly bring us back for more.