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Big Boulder Lakes


How the trip came about...
In July I stood at the saddle between D.O. Lee Peak and WCP-9 peaks and noticed a large chain of lakes in the basin on the east side of the White Cloud range. We had just hiked up from Calkens Lake -- which was spectacular -- but these lakes were bigger, more interesting, and more numerous. I decided I would like to visit them on a backpack trip scheduled in late August. I would later find out that these were the Big Boulder lakes.

How my partners came about...
My friends from work had a blast with me on Snowyside Peak last year and all of them happened to be interested and available on the last weekend of August. Nobody was disappointed with my selection of the Big Boulder lakes, so we penciled in the date. That's about the time a cousin of mine (Brett Floridia) that I hadn't seen in 20 years contacted me. He was raised in Connecticut and came to visit Idaho when he was a teenager. He had recently found out I was into hiking and backpacking as he was. This was suprising to him considering the rest of our family (hunters, motorcyclists, NASCAR-watchers, etc...). He had also recently moved out to Arizona and wanted to get together on a outing. I let him know of my plans for August and he was in.

I picked Brett up at 10:30pm the night before we left for the hike. Nothing against Brett, but I was anxious to see if he was in shape to handle the trip, packed well enough to handle 3 days in the backcountry, and a lesser concern of whether or not we'd even get along after 20 years.

Day 1
After a lengthy drive from Boise, we departed the Livingston Mill in the White Cloud mountains trailhead heading for Cove Lake in the Big Boulder Basin. The drive up had cleared up my concerns about getting along with my cousin and once the hike got going Brett quickly put to rest any concerns about being in shape as he and Ramon set a pace that put Todd, John, and myself in the dust.

The hike was reasonable until Island Lake, but then we faced some cross-country travel to Cove Lake. This last mile or so turned a nice and easy day into a butt-kicker, as we reached the lake exhausted after having hiked 2 more miles than expected and endured some tough terrain between Island and Cove lakes. Thankfully we found a perfect camp site near Cove Lake and were able to rest comfortably.

Day 2
Peak 11272 was just south of Cove Lake and you could follow the north ridge right to its summit from our campsite. The route looked tough, but I knew it was doable based on the instructions in Tom Lopez's guidebook. 4 of us and Todd's dog would summit the peak. There were several tough sections near the top, which were definately class 3, but the exposure (except for the summit itself) is limited. The summit is interesting, as it is basically just a rock thrust into the air with few places to sit comfortably. We found a register with only 2 names in it (but no pen, so we realize it would be hard to add names).

We then retreated to camp, ate, and took short naps. I had dreams of D.O. Lee Peak and exploring the upper basin in my head, so in the afternoon we headed west past Sapphire and Cirque Lakes to the D.O. Lee Peak and WCP-9 saddle. This was a gorgeous hike, with suprisingly firm footing from Cirque Lake (there was even a trail across the steep scree at around 10800' that led to the saddle). Here the team broke off in seperate directions. Todd and John were just going to do WCP-9. Ramon and I would just head up D.O. Lee Peak. Brett was going for both.

The north ridge of D.O. Lee Peak is just walkup until about 100' below the summit. The last 100' are on pretty good rock, but the exposure on your left is nerving. Ramon and I summited, signed the register, and awaited Brett's arrival. Even though Brett had climbed a second peak, we didn't have to wait long for his arrival.

Day 3
Hiked out via a different route (one that took us past Hook and Walter lakes) on the way out.

Summary
One of my favorite Idaho areas to date. I'm glad it is tough to get into, otherwise it would be inundated with hikers. What a great August! Got to hang out in some great areas of Colorado, Utah, and Idaho; all while reuniting with my hiking buddy James Just and my cousin Brett.

Stats
Livingston TH to Cove Lake
Time: 6 hours
Distance: 7 miles
Elevation gain: 2800'
Class (difficulty): 2

Cove Lake to Peak 11272 and back
Time: 3 hours
Distance: 3 miles
Elevation gain: 1450'
Class (difficulty): 3

Cove Lake to D.O. Lee Peak and back
Time: 4 hours
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation gain: 1500'
Class (difficulty): 3

Cove Lake to Livingston TH
Time: 3.5 hours
Distance: 7.5 miles
Elevation gain: 200'
Class (difficulty): 1

Photos

Camp on Cove Lake.
D.O. Lee Peak from camp.
   
Peak 11272 from Cove Lake.
Peak 11202 from near Cove Lake.
   
The summit of Peak 11272.
Big Boulder Lakes from Peak 11272.
   
Mountain Goats near Cirque Lake.
WCP-9.
   
Peak 11272 from D.O. Lee's north ridge.
D.O. Lee Peak from the north.
   
Brett on D.O. Lee's north ridge.
Brett again.
   
D.O. Lee's south ridge.
Brett and myself on D.O. Lee.
   
Brett downclimbing the D.O. Lee crux.
Peak 11272 and Sapphire Lake.
   
D.O. Lee Peak reflecting in Hook Lake.


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