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North America, United States, Idaho, New Routes in the Sawtooths

New routes in the Sawtooths. Though most of the principal peaks of the Sawtooths have been climbed, we have set ourselves the modest task of discovering the best and most enjoyable routes to the summits of those peaks that offer more than one approach.

Rising above Redfish Lake, Mount Heyburn (10,229 feet) is always first to attract the visitor’s attention. Following the example set by the Underhills, who in 1935 made its first ascent (Appalachia, December 1937, pp. 518-520), most climbing parties have in the past chosen to camp at the upper end of Redfish Lake and to attack picturesque and dominating Heyburn from the south. This plan, we have found, has hardly anything to recommend it. Endless loose-scree gullies lead up from the south toward the main west-east ridge of Heyburn. A good trail to the Bench Lakes starts directly at Redfish Lake Lodge. From the highest Bench Lake the Iowa Mountaineers in 1947 explored two routes to the main summit of Heyburn (Iowa Climber, 1948, 2:2). One leads up the prominent snow couloir to the notch between the two highest peaks from the north. From there a 30-foot pitch of double-rope tension takes the climbers high enough to reach the summit in two easy leads. As far as the notch this route is dull and extremely rotten. The short tension-pitch is a meager reward for the toilsome approach. The other route tackles the west face of the main peak. After a short scree scramble up to the wide windswept saddle directly above and west of the highest Beach Lake, about two-thirds the distance towards the next (west) corner of the mountain, the route enters a steep goat-traveled couloir. Halfway up this couloir, it traverses sharply left into the west wall and then bears slightly to the right for three rope-lengths to reach the disgustingly rotten west ridge, which leads to the summit. On October 1, 1958, Jerry Fuller, Dr. Jim Ball, and Louis Stur finally had the opportunity to try the route which we hoped would eliminate the drawbacks of the other two just mentioned. The route follows the standard west ridge approach, but after the traverse out of the goat couloir, a hitherto hidden, almost vertical chimney becomes visible. This we followed for 300 feet in the main peak’s west face directly to the summit. It follows what seems to be the solid backbone of Heyburn. One never touches bad rock at all. Average climbing time from Redfish Lake Lodge is 6½ hours. This leaves ample time to rappel down into the notch, scramble up the East Peak, and finally take best advantage of the south gullies by glissading down the scree slopes to the upper end of Redfish Lake (2½ hours). Mountain goats by the dozen will probably watch the climbers throughout the entire climb and the motorboat ride back to Redfish Lake Lodge will complete a perfect climbing day.

Penetrating farther west into the Idaho Primitive Area, we found the main peak of Warbonnet (approx. 10,500 feet) the most rewarding climb. Without a doubt the most spectacular of all the Sawtooths, it offers the longest continuous rock and nothing but the finest of sheer solid granite. The first ascent of Warbonnet was made in 1947 by Iowa Mountaineers led by Paul Petzoldt and Bob Merriam via the west wall (Iowa Mountaineer, op. cit.). The best approach to the peak appears to be from Redfish Lake by means of motorboat and a 4½ mile hike to Alpine Lake in the Redfish Creek drainage. Camping at Alpine Lake will eliminate packing across two high saddles to the Goat Lakes, but inexhaustible climbing opportunities on dozens of unclimbed towers and the exceptional beauty of the scenery would certainly justify a high camp near the Goat Lakes. We have pioneered two new routes on Warbonnet. On August 13, 1956, the more direct ascent was made by Nelson and Don Bennett and Louis Stur via Warbonnet’s south face. A series of connecting chimneys, all tough enough to be fun but yet within class four range, were entered from the saddle which separates Warbonnet from its southeasterly neighbors. This route is highly recommended. Aerial reconnaissance revealed another good route which Jerry Fuller and Louis Stur climbed August 27, 1958. A tremendously wide and extremely steep ravine parallels the impressive southwest ridge on its west side and consists of four “hurdles” connected by easy talus and grass bands. The “hurdles” provided us with some unexpected muscle-work, since the route was harder than it appeared from the air. On its upper part the route joins the top of the Iowa route and reaches the summit through the interesting cleavage which slices the mountain in two. It affords good chimney-work. The summit arête is exposed and delicate. All three routes converge to share this bit of thrilling climax.

Of the numerous aiguilles and towers crowding the area Jerry Fuller and Louis Stur particularly enjoyed the ascent of the aptly named Finger of Fate, which looms directly above Hell Roaring Lake, just six miles from Highway 93. Our route on July 9, 1958 led diagonally from west to east across the base of the Finger and its flat-topped companion. We reached the west ridge of the Finger proper about halfway up from the notch by means of a horizontal V-shaped crack. The huge summit-blockwas then accessible from a vertical chimney which is closed in on top in a most awkward and discouraging manner. Two beautiful quartz crystals (one 6½ pounds and the other over ten pounds) rewarded us for the difficulties near the summit and proved that ours was the first ascent.

Louis S. Stur