Almo to Stanley: featuring the Pioneer Saloon in Ketchum
It goes against the grain to retrace one's steps on a road trip - a circuit seems so much more interesting somehow. Nevertheless, that's what we've done. More about the why in a moment.As it turned out, our last day at City of Rocks was clear and sunny and not too hot, so we decided to do a couple of routes before heading for the highway, which seemed to add a final touch to our stay there.
Next stop was Burley, where we gave Big Blue a much-deserved oil change at Walmart. While that was happening we wandered around looking for a new bucket. I found a new camera instead!
On then to the town of Bellevue to do the washing, where we also had a fantastic late lunch. and then a stop in Hailey to have a little repair job done on Big Blue's wind-out windows. He's such a big softie, really. Every once in a while he just needs us to show him we still love him. There are some small tracks that a little sliding cleat runs back and forth in, and a couple of them needed to pop-riveted back in place. A quick little repair we could have done ourselves had we the right tools.
Then on to the wonderful fun-hogs paradise of Ketchum to restock our cupboards, which were getting a bit bare, and have an evening meal. (I'd forgotten that I had a date with my darling wife, but managed to catch on eventually). There is a fantastic supermarket in Ketchum called "Atkinson's". We stocked up on the goodies, then wandered up and down a bit looking for a restaurant. After asking if we liked steak, and getting an answer in the affirmative, some locals suggested the iconic Pioneer Saloon. The steak was great, and the company fantastic. We got talking to a couple of guys at the table next to us and ended up sharing a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir with them.
The decor in the Pioneer reflects its historic heritage and frontier location with a bison's head mounted near the door:
This picture with Di alongside the bison gives an indication of its size:
There is a moose nearby to keep the bison company:
There was lots of other wildlife adorning the walls, and a myriad of interesting artefacts. However, my favourite touch was the illustrated basin in the gents' toilet:
After dinner we cruised a few miles north of Ketchum, pulled off the road into a little car park at the start of a hiking and mountain biking trail, pulled the curtains and settled in for some kip.
The reason we decided to retrace our steps was that, while we were at City of Rocks, Di had suggested I contact Matt Church, a guy we'd met while hiking at Mt Rufus six months ago, to see if he'd like to do the Mountaineers Route on the Elephant's Perch near Stanley with me. Matt and his wife Anastasia live in Moscow (Idaho, that is) and to my delight he leapt at the chance to do this iconic climb.
The next day we motored off to Stanley to meet with Matt and Anastasia. They were held up with roadworks and had forgotten that Idaho has two time zones (it's a long story!) so arrived a little late, but we were able to get organised in time to catch a boat up Redfish Lake with them to camp overnight. It was a lovely evening despite the mozzies and we hung out with Nikko, Matt and Anastasia's dog for a while ...
... before getting into tents to get away from said mozzies!
The Mountaineers Route
We made a reasonably early start the next morning for what is described as a two hour approach:
This little map shows the approach to the Elephant's Perch from the end of Redfish Lake:
Here is a topo of the Mountaineers Route from North American Classic Climbs:
We saw a couple of deer along the trail a few minutes out of camp, then I took this photo of Matt when we reached a clearing and had our first clear view of where we were headed (the Elephant's Perch is the cliff line you can see above Matt's head):
Before we knew it we were at the rickety log crossing ...
... and nearing the Elephant's Perch ...
There was still a bit of snow along the trail at the base of the crag where the sun got but a short time to do his magic:
Here's another view of this magnificent piece of rock from almost directly below the route. Note the famous huge blank diamond that defines the Elephant's Perch:
Here's another picture with the first five (of eight) pitches drawn in:
The previous two pictures have been overexposed a little so that the detail of the cliff would show a bit better, but my favourite shot is this one which is more representative of the natural light as we walked under the crag:
We got started on the route almost two hours exactly after leaving camp at Redfish Lake. Pitch 1 was up a chimney/gully with one move of about 14 (5.6 in American speak):
Matt led the second pitch ...
... and I scrambled up behind him:
Pitch 3 took us up a corner/crack, out to another crack ...
and then back into the corner again:
The view was starting to get pretty good:
The iconic, but surprisingly easy "Triple Roofs" were next:
Matt took this pretty neat "vertical panorama" from the belay on pitch 4:
Pitch 5 involved a 5.8 move across and up a slab and then a series of easy but fun ledges ...
Pitch 6 took us up some nice cracks and corners ...
... and finally we were above the wonderful diamond-shaped bit of rock that defines the left side of the Elephant's Perch:
The crux of the route is pitch 7, and involves a really nice bit of jamming where the rock steepens up a bit ...
... and then eases off again:
The last pitch was easier and then we were at the top:
The view back down Redfish Lake Creek and beyond was pretty good ...
... but towards the head of the cirque was brilliant ...
We had a rising traverse to get across to the descent gully ...
... where we enjoyed fantastic views of Saddleback Lakes:
Matt set up the rappel at the bottom of the gully that would take us back to ground level ...
... and I followed him down:
After having heard about this route decades ago and dreamed about doing it some day, it was fantastic to get on it and experience what all the hype is about. Interestingly enough, we found the first four pitches were all a bit shorter than the description in the topo, so the route overall must be a bit shorter than the 1000+ feet it is supposed to be. More like about 900, but great climbing on (mostly) wonderful rock. If you're paying attention to what your doing - i.e. staying away from any big loose stuff there is little objective danger. Highly recommended!
Barren Pass Hike
While Matt and I were climbing, Di, Anastasia and Nikko (Matt and Anastasia's dog) had a hike. Di took a couple of nice panoramas:
She liked this flowering shrub:
She got a bit warm on the walk up to the pass:
Anastasia and Nikko did too, so they kicked back for a bit:
Eventually we all rendezvoused back at the lake and got the boat back up the other end. They don't muck about:
Back to the Big Blue, off to the free camping nearby and great dinner before a well-earned rest:
Stanley to McCall; Slickrock
We made an early start the next morning, as the plan was to motor to McCall, drive up the road to Slickrock and dash up the Regular Route on Slickrock, which was the other thing that Di and I missed on our trip south. It's about 1000 feet of easy slab and crack climbing on a low angled dome. Matt was keen to join us and Anastasia thought she'd have another hike, so that's just what we did.
As predicted by the fishermen we'd seen a couple of weeks earlier, the river had dropped "a couple of feet", making the crossing nice and easy. Note the clarity of the water:
It was a bit of a hike up to the base of the route, with some nice flowers along the way. Can anyone identify this for us?
We were nearly at the base when I took this photo:
In case you missed the reason for the previous photo, we've got to have Big Blue in each post:
Here's a photo of Di taken about a third of the way up the route:
A bit higher up, this amazing rock arch caught my attention:
We didn't stop much for photos, and were soon at the top:
We spent the night camped just about a mile away at another great free camping site, then drove north to Moscow to spend the night with Matt and Anastasia. The real treat was to visit their Saturday morning Farmers Market, which was fantastic and very much like the Salamanca Market in Hobart was 20 years ago (before it got bigger than Ben Hur and is now, in my humble opinion, not worth visiting).
A day and a half of leisurely driving brought us to the Rockies where another amazing coincidence has occurred. We stopped in at the Tunnel Mountain Campground in Banff to see about booking a camping site to share with some friends from Calgary. At the kiosk we started chatting with one of the parks personnel who turned out to be Steven Gale, the son of our friend John from Launceston, Tasmania! John, his wife Debbie and their daughter Kerryn just happened to be staying with Steve, so he invited us around to his place for a beer and to give John a bit of a surprise. And it was! We had a great couple of hours with them before getting back in Big Blue and off down the street a way to park and camp for the night.
Unfortunately, a little knock sounded on the door at 1:00 a.m. It was an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police - sporting a magnificent walrus moustache - who politely informed us that we weren't allowed to camp in city limits and that we'd have to move.
He looked a bit like this ...
... but with much more impressive facial hair, more like this but a nice brown colour:
Off we drove up Spray Lakes Road just above Steve's place, where we found a parking lot with a car and a tent beside it. This looked promising so we found a flat spot and pulled over. Thankfully the rest of the night - or should I say morning - was uneventful.
The next day we motored into Calgary and spent a couple of days with our friend Jon Jones and his wife Di, had some great R&R and spent a bit of time at the candy store.
We're looking forward to doing some climbing and hiking here in the Rockies with various friends, but that will be the next post. In the meantime, here's a summary of the distance and route north to Calgary from the City of Rocks: