Chilly Area Winter Peak Bagging - Day 1

Date of trip: 01/25/2016

Mileage: 7.3 Miles

Elevation Gain: 1920 Feet

Time: 4 Hour(s) and 0 Minutes

Class: 2

Partners:

GPS Track: NA

Peaks Climbed on Trip:
Peak Name Elevation Prominence Range Close to County highpoint Range highpoint Map
Sunset Cone6410460PioneerArco, IdahoNoNo43.4683, -113.5639
South Chilly Butte6730300BoulderMackay, IdahoNoNo44.0692, -113.9107
North Chilly Butte6884474BoulderMackay, IdahoNoNo44.0762, -113.9018
Swenson Butte7185515BoulderMackay, IdahoNoNo44.0480, -113.9813

Trip Report

Winter 2015-16 had been a boon for Idaho snowfall-wise. With that came extended periods of bad weather, which led to cabin fever, which led to wanting to get out into the mountains.

Finally a few day stretch of good weather was predicted. I hatched an idea to get me to the top of some small peaks near paved roads that might not be impressive on their own, but would certainly give me exceptional views and a nice workout.

I knew the Trail Creek Road north of Mackay was plowed. I also knew there were some peaks near the road that I could reach without much of a hassle.

On the way to the Trail Creek area, I stopped and snowshoed up Sunset Cone, which is located just across the highway from the Craters of the Moon visitor center. This seemed like an easy little trip. I parked on the highway where I saw an old snowshoe trail heading toward the peak.

I headed up the snowshoe trail and everything was great for the first few hundred feet of gain. Then windblown snow had covered the trail. Then the snow got deep... knee deep with snowshoes and tails on. I wasn't expecting it to suck that bad and the meager 500 feet of gain seemed like 3000!

I arrived at the top and snapped some photos. On top of the amount of work, it was cloudy. Not cool, as the forecast was for sunny skies today and tomorrow.

I descended and jumped back in the car. The cool thing about the drive is that I could dry out, eat, hydrate, then have my energy back up by the time I got to my next peaks.

The next peaks on my list were North and South Chilly Butte, just off Trail Creek Road. To my surprise, the road leading to the peaks was plowed. Then an added bonus, the road was plowed to the saddle between the peaks.

I hit North Chilly Butte first. I wore snowshoes, but probably didn't need to, as the snow was only about 6 inches of soft snow on a rock hard base of 3 or 4 inches. Once on the ridge, there were a mere inch or two of windblown snow. When I crested the ridge and could see the highpoint, I noticed I wouldn't be the first to ascend that peak today, as there were 6 deer on top watching me. My continuation towards them sent them down and I clambered to the top to replace them.

The view of Mount Borah from this small perch is stunning! My idea of the trip, to get some exercise and see some big peaks in the middle of winter, was paying off! Plus it was now sunny and while the air was cold, the sun was warm and there was no wind.

The next objective was South Chilly Butte. The south summit appeared to have a rocky, windblown ridge to ascend. So I rushed down to the vehicle, removed my snowshoes and then headed up.

The ridge was rocky for sure and a steep wall presented itself. I could have gone around it, but I figured lets give the wall a go. The sharp nature of the rock allowed for great handholds and traction. So even with some snow on the route, I always felt I was safe. While short, this route was really cool with the colorful rock and drifts.

After heading down from the south peak, it was back to the vehicle. I wanted to explore a peak for tomorrow and prove the age-old rumor that Trail Creek Road was plowed all of the way to Wild Horse Ranch.

I drove to Wild Horse Ranch and sure enough, the road is plowed to there. And beyond! I drove the few miles to Wild Horse Canyon. The road was still plowed beyond that toward the Copper Basin Loop. The road up Wild Horse Canyon was not plowed.

Back to Trail Creek Road and I noticed the plowing continued beyond the turnoff (heading towards Sun Valley). I didn't inspect, as I had plans for one last peak today.

I drove back towards Chilly and prepared to climb up Swenson Butte. There was no magic plowed road to the base of Swenson, so it was snowshoeing up a road to the west side of the peak, then up the west face to the summit. It was getting late in the day and the lighting from the top of the peak was superb! After thoroughly enjoying the views, I hurriedly returned to my vehicle in hopes to catch some cool sunset views on the return drive to Mackay.


Getting There

See the trip report section.


Hiking Directions

Sunset Cone - parked on US 93 and followed the east ridge (face) to the top.

Chilly Buttes - parked at saddle between the peaks and climbed straight for the summit on easy terrain.

Swenson Butte - parked on Trail Creek road at marked point 6556 and followed the road shown on the topo to the west base of the peak. The topo shows the road head toward a ranch, but the actual road stays west of the ranch and thus avoids private property.


Photos

View Slideshow

Craters of the Moon
Craters of the Moon
King Mountain from Sunset Cone
King Mountain from Sunset Cone
Sunset Cone - Craters of the Moon
Sunset Cone - Craters of the Moon
Borah Peak from North Chilly Butte
Borah Peak from North Chilly Butte
North Chilly Butte - Notice the deer on the summit
North Chilly Butte - Notice the deer on the summit
Interesting class 3 section on South Chilly Butte
Interesting class 3 section on South Chilly Butte
Looking down at the crux on South Chilly Butte
Looking down at the crux on South Chilly Butte
Nearing the summit of South Chilly Butte
Nearing the summit of South Chilly Butte
Al West and Mount Borah from Chilly Butte South
Al West and Mount Borah from Chilly Butte South
Pahsimeroi mountains from South Chilly Butte
Pahsimeroi mountains from South Chilly Butte
Wildhorse Ranch area in Winter
Wildhorse Ranch area in Winter
Wildhorse Canyon in Winter
Wildhorse Canyon in Winter
Swenson Butte from Trail Creek Road
Swenson Butte from Trail Creek Road
Swenson Butte part way up
Swenson Butte part way up
Nearing the top of Swenson Butte
Nearing the top of Swenson Butte
Lost River Range from Swenson Butte
Lost River Range from Swenson Butte
Pahsimeroi Range from Swenson Butte
Pahsimeroi Range from Swenson Butte
Lost River Range at Sunset
Lost River Range at Sunset




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