Sawtooth Mountains Traverse, ID

Last year I had the good fortune to backpack through the Sawtooth Mountains in central Idaho. Since my brother moved to Sun Valley I have a great base camp for backpacking. This year Suzanne had a business meeting in Sun Valley in late September so I arranged my visit to coincide. It was a couple weeks later than last year. I hoped the weather would not turn nasty by that time.

We both arrived on Saturday. Me via a 90 minute flight and Suzanne via a 10 hour drive. On Sunday the weather was dark and wet but we went out for a hike up Proctor Mountain near Sun Valley. At the 8000' high point the rain turned to wet snow. We were soaking wet after that one but were glad to have had a chance to get in a hike at a bit higher elevation in preparation for the Sawtooths. In the morning we saw the mountains around Sun Valley had a good bit of fresh snow.

Day One

The weather improved significantly by Tuesday when Suzanne was done with the conference. Our plan was to drive up to the Pettit Lake and then have my sister-in-law pick us up at Redfish Lake Lodge and trasport us back to Suzanne's car. It only took one hour to drive to Pettit Lake. I was a little nervous on the drive up as the Boulder Mountains and White Clouds looked to have a lot of fresh snow. Galena Pass at 8700' has only a little snow. The Sawtooths did look to have some fresh snow but not as much as the other ranges.

There were exactly zero other cars at the trailhead. In mid September last year there were half a dozen. It was sunny and in the mid 50's. Perfect weather for backpacking. Last year I had a frameless Golite Gust pack, a 30 degree sleeping bag and a tarptent. This year it was an Ospery Aether 70 pack, a 10 degree bag, and my four season Hilleberg Nallo 3 tent. They all proved to be good choices. Light but prepared for cold weather.

Last year I did much of this same route. Since we were starting at 2:00 pm instead of morning the camps were expected to be different. Also it was sunny but smoky last year. This year it was sunny but crystal clear. No fires in the Sawtooths. We also chose to add another leg on the way out and venture up to the Baron Divide.

As we were preparing to leave another car arrived. This hiker has done sections of the Appalation Trail and goes by the moniker of "Road Dog". He was heading to Toxaway Lake. Our route to Alice Lake would take us to Toxaway the following day. It would be a few days until we saw another person. Pettit Lake is at 6996'. It would be three days before we were back down to under 7000' again. The trails in the Sawtooth Wilderness are in good shape. They are easy to follow and very gently graded. At least the trails we took were very gentle.

Seldom did we find any stretch at more than a 10% grade. After hiking along the lake the trail follows a creek. There are a number of crossings. This time of year they are easy rock hops. It would be more interesting in the early summer during snow melt. McDonald Peak rises on the left side of the valley. Last year it was very hazy. Not this time. By the time we reached the only bridge across the creek there was a little snow on the ground.

The large tarns just before Alice Lake had some red color though not at it's prime. We arrived at Alice and had the lake to ourselves. A little hunting turned up a level site. El Capitan was right across the lake from us. We headed down to the outlet end to enjoy the view. After that it was dinner and time for bed. The sky was clear and the temperature dropped quickly. For the day we traveled about 7 miles with 1700' of gain to Alice Lake at 8596.'

Suzanne's trip report it here:   Nwhikers.net Trip Report

Boulder Mts
McDonald Peak
Pettit Lake
Granite Peaks
Creek Crossing
More Granite
White Clouds
Distant Peaks
A Few Clouds
First Snow
Salmon Valley
First Tarn
El Capitan
First Color
More Color
Alice Lake Camp
View Up Alice Lake
Getting Dark
Twilight Over Lake
El Cap Near Dark
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Report Page 2

Trips - 2004