American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Idaho, Sacajewea Peak, Broken Wings to the North Peak

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2006

Sacajewea Peak, Broken Wings to the North Ridge. In mid-May, Aaron Mordicai, Abe Dickerson, and I traveled up the remote canyon leading to the north face of Sacajewea Peak in the Lost River Range. This hanging canyon above the West Fork of the Pashimeroi Valley provided a beautiful half-day trek among towering limestone peaks littered with ribbons of ice dripping down their dark stone. Any one of these routes would have been a worthwhile objective, but our sights were set on the much bigger lines Brian Wood and I had photographed the year before on the north face of Sacajewea at the very back of the canyon.

We bivied below the north face and with binoculars viewed each possible line on the face. It was apparent that the deep chimney on the right side of the north face offered the most consistent ice and the least objective hazards of the possible routes. Early the next morning we climbed 180m up the initial couloir of ice bulges and steep snow. At the point where this couloir terminated, we made an exposed 60m traverse to the left on a steep, downward-slanting ramp to reach the beginning of the meter-wide ice chimney. Abe led the first chimney pitch, which offered sections of vertical ice and one large chockstone to negotiate. This exciting 60m pitch ended in a small snow pocket and provided a pin belay on the left wall of the chimney. Aaron led the next pitch, which proved to be the technical crux of the route and again offered steep, technical ice climbing to a comfortable belay on the right side, where the narrow chimney opened into a small couloir. We followed this couloir for 60m of 60° snow. The last 60m pitch consisted of verglas on an extremely steep, featureless slab in an overhanging corner for 10m, to reach 70° snow that decreased in angle near the exposed north ridge. From this point we gained the existing 4th class North Ridge route, which wecould have followed to the summit. We chose to descend the ridge, scrambling around its many towers and down- climbing exposed ramps to where it connected to the Southwest Ridge route of Borah Peak, just above Chicken-Out Ridge. From there we climbed down the steep south couloir of Borah Peak to regain our bivy site in the cirque below. Broken Wings (400m, WI5).

The remote location, combined with the steep and aesthetic climbing, made for one of the best alpine climbs Idaho has to offer: great ice climbing, with the occasional rock move in a meter- wide chimney on a beautiful alpine face. The other possible lines on this face and in the surrounding Pashimeroi area willlikely be the future of ephemeral mixed climbing in Idaho’s alpine, producing consistent and technically challenging remote lines.

Dean Lords

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