Early morning sun hitting the Soldier Mountains. This was taken on the drive to the trailhead.
Trip Report (2/06/2005):
Peak 9529 is the second peak (if moving from east to
west) along the main Soldier Mountain ridgeline. Hence
locals call the peak 2nd Peak. I've had my eye on it
for a while now and thought a winter ascent would be
pretty cool. To save some effort, I figured a ride on
Soldier Mountain ski area's lifts to 7100 feet would
get me within striking distance (that cuts off 1500
feet of gain). I also knew that snowcat skiing
occurred in the area and that I might be able to
utilize that trail for some of the hike.
I had planned on doing this peak the day before
(Saturday) with 2 others. The night before my partners
cancelled and when I awoke, the weather station atop
the peak reported sustained winds above 50 mph and
gusts to 75 mph. Uhh, not today! I convinced my
awesome wife to allow me to go the next day and
watched the winds hoping they would relent. They did
relent and by the time I awoke Sunday morning, they
were under 5 mph. Off I went.
Forgot to mention one little tidbit… since I was now
going on Sunday, I had time constraints. I had to be
back in Boise by 3:30 PM for a Superbowl party. Not a
big deal, except this trip could not start until 9:00
AM, when the Soldier Mountain ski lifts opened. I had
calculated the numbers and figured that if I left
Boise at 6:45 AM, I would be at the ski area by 8:30
AM and be ready to go on the lifts by 9 AM. I then
figured 4.5 hours round trip from the top of the lift
to the peak and back. Lastly, a 15 minute ski
down/change and I'd be back at the car at 1:45 PM and
in Boise by 3:30 PM. Things would have to go off
without a hitch.
On the way up the lift I realized one thing… I had not
accounted for the lift time or time to change out of
ski boots and into hiking boots at the top of the ski
hill. I figured that at 15 minutes and figured I would
just hike faster. When I got to the second lift, I was
informed that yesterday's winds had messed up the ramp
and that it would "be awhile" before it would be
operational. Eventually the buzzer sounded and the
lift churned. At 9:41 AM, I was finally in my hiking
boots and heading for the peak.
I followed the snowcat trail and made decent time
during the first hour. The route to that point had 2
large drops (100' +), but the groomed trail was
heading right where I needed to go. I removed my
fleece and hiked in just a thin polypro shirt and
fleece pants - unbelievable for 8000' in February. I
continued to follow the snowcat track and saw it was
heading to the northeast ridge of 2nd Peak. I had
heard the snowcat took skiers to the top of 2nd Peak,
but figured it would only make it part of the way…
nope, this sucker was heading all of the way to the
summit! The northeast ridge was completely snow-free
on the west side, scoured by strong winds on that
side. The trees on the ridge were an amazing sight, as
most were nearly laying flat from west to east. I
could see the Boise and Pioneer mountains now and some
snow was moving in. I summited a short while later at
exactly 11:41 AM… 2 hours instead of the 3 I
esitmated. After some photos, I inspected the traverse
over to 3rd Peak (Peak 9666) and beyond that Smoky
Dome. The ridge to 3rd would go easy, but I didn't
have time today. Getting from 3rd to Smoky Dome would
be a bit more of a challenge, with a narrow section of
cliffs just after the 3rd Peak/Smoky Dome saddle. A
fun challenge some other day.
At noon, I set off back for the ski area, which I
reached around 1:10 PM. Wow, a 3.5 hour trip… I was
impressed how quickly it went. Maybe that beaten path
helped a bit. In my defense, I did carry my large
backpack and snowshoes the entire way.
I left the ski area at 1:45 PM and was home at 3:33
PM… 3 minutes late, but close enough. What a whirlwind
trip. Next time I'll take the skis the whole way as
the descent from 2nd Peak would be doable even for an
intermediate like me.
Time: 3.5 hours
Length: 6.5 miles
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 3000 feet
Class (difficulty): 2
From US 20 in Fairfield, turn LEFT onto SOLDIER RD/CENTER ST. Follow the road 1.9 miles to a stop sign. At the stop sign, turn RIGHT onto BASE LINE RD. Follow BASE LINE RD. 0.2 miles, then turn LEFT onto SOLDIER CREEK RD/NF 094. Continue to follow NF 094 (Portions unpaved) to the ski lift parking lot.
See the trip report.
Pictures: Click on the pictures below to see the full-size version.