Time for my
annual trip to the Sun Valley Idaho area to visit my brother and get in
some hiking and backpacking. I spent 10 1/2 hours on the road Saturday,
arriving in Sun Valley in time for dinner. My home is at 235' above sea
level. Sun Valley is at about 5700'. My upcoming backpacking trip would
be between 7000' and 10,000'. I needed to get in some hiking at
elevation before heading out to backpack.
Bald Mountain is the main ski area at Ketchum/Sun Valley. The main
trail winds around the mountain gaining 3400' in about 5 miles. The
summit is at 9,150'. Ten miles round trip would be a good workout. The
trail is popular and I expected to see lots of folks. It was only 38
degrees but sunny when I got up. By the time I did the one mile drive
to the trailhead it was already 45 and warming fast.
I've been up Bald on two previous occasions. The trail is nicely
graded. It starts in forest and crosses sagebrush slopes. There is more
forest, crossings of grassy groomed ski runs, and lots of wildflowers
in season. There are also some pretty nice views of the Pioneer,
Boulder, Smokey, and Sawtooth Mountains. It was a little chilly at
first but soon I was out in the sunshine and plenty warm. Mountain
bikers can ride up the trail but not down. There is no way I would want
to try to ride a bike up 3400'. My hat is off to those who do.
Ketchum sits right below as elevation is gained. Soon 12,000' Mt.
Hyndman comes into view along with nearby Old Hyndman and Cobb Peak.
Higher up a few wildflowers were still hanging on. Lupine, paintbrush,
pearly everlasting, and asters would be right at home in the Washington
Cascades. I felt fine at first but at 8,000' I began to feel less
oxygen. The intermittent forest provided some nice shade as the
unrelenting sun at 9000'. It felt much warmer than the 60 degree
forecast. The mountain blocked the wind and as I approached the summit
the wind began. It was as cold as any wind I felt last winter. It was
bright and sunny and I pulled out my jacket.
The summit has a number of ski lift stations, a lounge, and a road
leading to other parts of the mountain complex. Near the highest point
is the old fire lookout building. Unlike any other lookout I have
visited, this one is a telecommunications monster. It has antennas
poking out every side. I made a quick visit and headed back to the
lounge. The restaurant is closed but the building has many seats and it
was warm. A few minutes outside in the wind had already numbed my
A lift runs at no charge this time of year. Many of the hikers chose to
take the quick and easy ride back down the mountain. A number of us did
hike down too. The day was clear and the views from the top were
outstanding but after 50 minutes I was ready for the descent. Since the
grade is steady and not too steep it was not hard coming down. Five
miles of descent is still a ways but with the views the going was
I felt pretty good at the bottom. One day hike has been enough in the
past to get me ready for sleeping at over 8,000' and hiking to 10,000'.
Now it was time to head back and get ready for some fun backpacking.