Sunday, August 3, 2008

Gilmore Peak

It looked like the weather was going to be great for the upcoming weekend so I decided mid-week to make some plans. I invited my boys to come along but the eldest had to work on Saturday and the two youngest had football practice. They sadly declined and said perhaps next time! I saw the opportunity to get out by myself with no restrictions as to where to go and how long to stay. Cool!

Bell Mountain
Bell Mountain

No problem, I like to get out on my own, and do so about 30% of the time. I chose Gilmore Peak in the Lemhi Range of Idaho. I was somewhat familiar with the area, fairly close (by Idaho standards) and I have wanted to climb this one for years.

I got a few things done around the house Saturday AM and then loaded up and headed out just after noon. I had all afternoon to get up there, the weather was good, the tunes were good, and life was good!

Once past MudLake the traffic thinned (as if it was heavy before) and I set the cruise control at about 70 mph. I decided I had plenty of time to mess around so I checked out Skull Canyon and then the Charcoal Kilns – again. Pretty cool places. Pre-Historic Man had occupied this valley as far back as 10,000 years.
Skull Canyon was supposedly used by Native Americans for “burials”. I don’t know if that is true or not. I have heard that early settlers found skeletons in some of the many caves that are around here.

Charcoal Kilns - Sixteen kilns were built in 1866 to make charcoal for the smelter at Nicholia. Operations ceased in 1888 and the kilns were left to the elements. Over the years most of the kilns were torn down and the bricks used for other structures. Four kilns are still standing and some work has been done to preserve them.

Lemhi Range
Lemhi Range

I drive further up the valley enjoying the view, mountains on both sides towering into the evening sky. I find a place about a quarter mile off the main road and settle in for the night. I spent the rest of the evening taking time exposures of the night sky – very clear here, and watching a DVD of Lewis and Clark. Kind of cool that they crossed the continental divide just a few miles from where I was.

Milky Way
Milky Way

The next morning I wake early and drive the few miles to the trail head. Located at the Meadow Lake Campground I find everyone still asleep. Very quietly I check my daypack for all necessary goods and head up the trail. A very peaceful morning it is and a promise of a great day ahead.

The trail is easy to follow and I soon find myself at the Lemhi Divide, elevation 10,200 feet. The trail forks here, straight over the saddle and down into upper Mill Creek, to the right which will take you to the top of Portland Mountain, or to the left up a ridge that curves around to the east. This is the path I follow. I look ahead and the terrain looks very rugged. I have some doubts but keep on heading up. There were some obstacles, but nothing all that serious. It looked way worse than it really was. I wouldn’t get grandma up there but any serious scrambler will have no trouble reaching the top.

Looking South towards Bell and Diamond....
Lemhi Range

Now as I am eating my lunch I look down the ridge leading to the east. It looks shorter than going back the way I came. I debate with myself for a few minutes whether to try it or not, and then decide to give it a go.

I shouldn’t have listened. I should have gone back the same way. But no, I wanted to explore a new route. There is a reason why no one goes this way. No Easy Way Off in this direction. I should have slapped myself silly..... The last half mile was a bear. Very steep and very loose rock. Left some skin on this peak I did! I made such a racket coming down through the rock that I was sure that everyone in the campground below must surely be looking up wondering what the heck was going on. Well after much thrashing around I finally make it down to less steep terrain. Twenty minutes later I find myself crossing the lake’s outlet on some logs and then I walk up the lake shore where I find a guy sitting in a lawn chair with a fishing pole in hand. I asked him how the fishing was, he said so-so. He asked me what I was doing and when I told him he said “No kidding? That's pretty crazy!” I asked “Did you not hear me coming off the top?” He said he didn’t hear a thing. That was fine with me. No one heard the ruckus. I was back at my outfit in a couple of minutes where my cold beverage and sandwich were waiting.

Gilmore Peak

On the way back down the road I stopped and checked out some of the old cabins at Gilmore. One in particular we call the Rat Palace. Used to stay in it when I was much younger – with the rats. It is still standing after close to a hundred years – cool. The rest of the drive home was uneventful. That was OK. I already had enough excitement for one day!


  1. This is one of my favorites. Did you find the tin box at the top?

    1. Don't remember the tin box, but I do remember a brick among the rocks in the cairn.....