After a couple of days to recover and let the
painful memories fade, I started looking at the
pictures of the North face of USGS Peak. I couldn't
get it out of my mind!
So when J.O and Mark mentioned a trip up to spend
the night at altitude (more Denali training) I emailed
them some blown up pictures of the face and the plans
were made to go back to Castle Peak and attempt the
North Face of USGS Peak up a new unclimbed line. After
several inquiries within a few climbing chat rooms and asking
around the Boise climbers, we felt there were only 2 climbed
routes on the face and our planned route was not one of them,
and it looked to be quite a bit more difficult than the 2 previous
routes, with a very substantial rock band to cross about 2/3 of the way up
We thought we could access the face over Castle Peak and avoid the long 4WD
road and hike in from the Pahsimeroi Valley. So the plans were made and we
headed back up the slopes 2 weeks after the first trip, but now a party of 3 and
had the bivy gear to spend the night at the pass.
The trip into the valley was much easier, as we actually learned from our mistakes
on the previous trip and stayed in the creek bottom all the way to the tree line,
avoiding all of the brushy hillside traversing. But, what we gained on the lower
slopes, we lost on the upper slopes, because the snow cover had melted from our
previous trip and left a wet, sloppy, muddy mess. Again, J.O. and Mark were way
up the mountain ahead of me, but I knew where the pass was and getting there
faster wouldn't make nightfall come any sooner.
Once on the pass we set up our bivy, made dinner and settled down for the night.
Since "light and fast" was our goal, there weren't too many luxuries: like a warm
sleeping bag or a tent and just as it got dark, it started to snow.
After a somewhat cold, but bearable night, we were headed up the mountain just
before sunrise. From the top of Castle Peak we thought we could rappel down a
couple of cliff bands to access the valley below the North face of USGS Peak, but
the cliff bands were larger than we anticipated and the only way into the valley was
a 1000ft descent on loose scree. As we contemplated our options of having to
climb back up that scree field after climbing the North face and descending the
mountain, our priorities shifted to other objectives--the ridge between Castle peak
and USGS peak as a scouting expedition for J.O. and Marks attempt at the Lost
This ridge turned into an extremely fun alpine scramble and was worth the effort,
with some great views and pictures in an incredible alpine setting. The ridge was
extremely corniced and had some nice short technical steps to keep it interesting.
We climbed as far as we wanted to, and then on the way down at about 11,000 ft
we collected a few fossils for friends and relatives back home. With quite a bit of
the day left as we were headed down, we did what all good mountaineers do when
they see a hanging cornice--we sawed them off and caused avalanches!! The first
avalanche was not too bad, but by the 3rd avalanche, we were wreaking some
havoc with the valley floor.
It was back to the bivy site to pack up and head out the valley to the car and this
trip out took less than 1/2 the time of 2 weeks earlier. There was nearly no snow
on the valley floor and we were actually able to find most of the trail out of the
canyon, if the snow was gone, the trail was actually in pretty good shape and easy
to follow. It's amazing what a little difference a couple of weeks make.