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Cutting it Short in the Lost River Range


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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Cutting it Short in the Lost River Range

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  • #3733848
    Mark Wetherington
    BPL Member

    @markweth

    Locale: Western Montana

    Companion forum thread to: Cutting it Short in the Lost River Range

    Mark Wetherington confronts the novelty of bailing on a trip after things don’t go as planned in Idaho’s Lost River Range.

    #3733927
    Bill in Roswell
    BPL Member

    @roadscrape88-2

    Locale: Roswell, GA, USA

    Mark, I appreciate you sharing your experience. Sometimes its best to follow your gut instincts vs quantifying every detail. Choices like you made have faced me more as I grow older (65). Bad knees, a bad hip, a heart condition – are all factors. Friends tell me to stop solo trips. Im not to that point, but my solo ttips are shorter, less risky and always with the Garmin Mini. There is no shame in being wise!

    #3733996
    Steve S
    BPL Member

    @desertsteve

    I was both surprised and thrilled to see that you had come over to the Lost Rivers for an adventure. I’ve been camping, hunting, hiking, and climbing there for over 35 years. Truly it is one amazing place. There really isn’t much info, and even fewer trails to follow. Its an Alpine climbers paradise in the winter. Animals there are not used to seeing people, and the climate and terrain are simply iconic.  Good on you for making the effort!

    #3734079
    obx hiker
    BPL Member

    @obxer

    Hiking solo it is especially important to exercise prudence. At least 2 of my best experiences backpacking have involved turning around or re-routing a solo trip.

    The best solo adventure bailout/’failure’ was going over the rim north of the Paliku cabin in Haleakala and trying to hike down through the Kipahulu valley to the Hana Road and the 7 sacred pools. This was back in 1977.  Haha! I’m sure I didn’t have a map or any form of shelter or raingear. Early in the day I stopped to look for the rare birds I’d read about with some binoculars I’d brought along for that purpose and evidently didn’t close them back in the case properly when I resumed motion ( thrashing along). Within a minute or so I realized the binoculars had fallen out of the case. Couldn’t have gone more than a few dozen/fifty feet. I stopped and took off my pack and went back in the direction I had come to retrieve the binoculars. No dice and really had to carefully quarter around to find the pack!  Just FYI I practically grew up in a sorta semi-tropical southern river bottom version of jungle and also had by this time been through all sorts of heavily forested Hawaiian mountain terrain off trail. The only way I could really practically move along was to follow the streambed which kept every hundred yards or so going over a series of waterfalls which kept getting bigger and bigger. At some point late in the day as I was dropping around and down past about the umpteenth waterfall, a really big one about 150 feet off the upper level bench area into sort of the middle level valley towards the north side of the greater valley I gained a rare clear view downward towards the sea since I was on the rim of this big drop, and the valley down below me just corkscrewed downwards and to the right and out of sight like it was going down a manhole and I finally saw and realized I shouldn’t try to keep going down towards the ocean. It was time to make a camp for the evening and retrace the next day; so I climbed back up onto the upper bench above and to the S-SE of the streambed; found a nice dry little cup in the forest floor between some big trees and made camp. The next day followed pig trails back up the drainage. It was such a tangle, like the Hawaiian version of a Smokies rhododendron or N Cascades alder hell. Often or even usually I was not even walking on the ground.  I was really careful realizing that any slip/accident that stopped me from locomotion would likely be the end of me. Boy was I glad to cross the rim back into Haleakala!

    Anyhow thinking about that adventure and prompted by this excellent article I searched quotes about ‘failure’ and found a list of @ 30 that had a pretty consistent set of themes.

    1. If you don’t dare to try you might not ever ‘fail’ but then again you never really ‘succeed’ either.  “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”  – Robert F. Kennedy

    2.’Failure’ is a great teacher.  “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

    And This one: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

    And re-evaluating, bailing or turning back are just steps in the greater trip.  “We are all failures – at least the best of us are.”  And a real classic

    “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” – Johnny Cash

    And this one: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

    “Carry On”

    #3734083
    Philip Tschersich
    BPL Member

    @philip-ak

    Locale: Kodiak Alaska

    An interesting read, thank you. I felt empathetic remorse for you in the truncated trip, especially after all the effort that went into the planning, logistics etc., but sometimes you just have to make that call. I’m not familiar with the area at all so I may have reconstructed the first day in correctly, but I’m guessing you ended up above the round lake in the next cirque east of Shadow Lakes, at approx 44.03544, -113.53705? You appear to be in such a cul-de-sac there, I’m just sort of curious what the plan for the rest of the trip was? Hiking up Big Creek looks relatively benign compared to whatever might be coming next.

    #3734105
    Mark Wetherington
    BPL Member

    @markweth

    Locale: Western Montana

    Philip — Yep, you’re correct on where we camped. It was an incredible place. The plan was to descend back down Big Creek a mile or so and then head over to Shadow Lakes via an unnamed pass and faint trail and from there continuing northwards via “trails” and cross-country hiking to pass Swauger Lakes, eventually hit the East Fork of the Pahsimeroi River, walk roads for a bit, pass Merriam Lake and Pass Lake near Leatherman Peak, and then exit at Sawmill Gulch on the west side. This is the route described in “Backpacking Idaho” — talking with Doug about it after my trip, it seems safe to say that the “faint trails” he referred to are virtually indistinguishable now and the “obvious trails” are becoming fainter. On the bright side, there was some signage at junctions that we didn’t expect which was a good sign (pun intended), but that was at areas with OHV use and closer to roads/campgrounds.

    If you look on the USFS layer on Caltopo, many of the trails shown are not in the right place or don’t exist (we knew that going in), but it’s amusing to look at it now and see a trail supposedly leaving the basin at the head of Big Creek and dropping over to Shadow Lake.

     

    Steve — I’d been excited to get into the Lost Rivers for years and am already excited about going back. The range is so fascinating to me and I’d love to go spend a few weeks there car camping and doing day hikes, long bike rides/bike packing, and more backpacking. I definitely plan to get down there again next summer. It’s just a bit of a drive from Hamilton and my vehicle (not to mention my nerves) aren’t well-equipped for traveling the roads in the range. My next trip will probably just be backpacking to set up a base camp spend a few days poking around and going up some of the peaks.

    Glad you all enjoyed reading this piece!

    #3734114
    Steve S
    BPL Member

    @desertsteve

    The Lost Rivers are truly amazing! There are some really big peaks, and really big faces on many of them. Borah, Leatherman, Breitenbach, Donaldson, Lost River Peak, and a few others are routes we climb in the winter, as the ice holds the rock together! LOL  The East Fork of the Pahsimeroi valley might be one of the most beautiful cirques in all of Idaho. The absolutely insane face of Breitenbach looms over it all.  We have had the most success crossing ridges via elk, deer and sheep trails. They seem to go where necessary.  This is one wild place.  You might look at basing here and moving south thru the range…

    #3734200
    Philip Tschersich
    BPL Member

    @philip-ak

    Locale: Kodiak Alaska

    I scrolled around the area in google earth a little, roughly following your landmark breadcrumb trail description, and some of the terrain looked consequential. But I also saw what appeared to be some very obvious trails that could get you through those sections. It is not clear to me if they were made by feet, paws, or hooves (and I know from the mountain goat trails here on Kodiak that you sometimes don’t want to follow them, haha), but consider the example below. This is a pass leading down to Shadow Lakes from the Big Creek drainage. The contour lines on the topo map are frighteningly close together, and the shadows cast by rock fins in the satellite image give it a creepy, scaly look. But then you can distinctly see switchbacks up the lower slope and routes through the rock bands on the upper left. Kinda crazy looking.

    #3734219
    Mark Wetherington
    BPL Member

    @markweth

    Locale: Western Montana

    Thanks, Philip! I believe those switchbacks are described in the guidebook description for that area, good to know that those actually do exist compared to some of the other parts we hiked.

    #3734642
    Jan Paul M
    BPL Member

    @janpaul

    The last couple of years I have bailed out of several hikes for different reasons. Most of them were the result of being slightly to ambitious, either for my capabilities or those of my hiking partners. I have learned two things from bailing. First; start more slowly and save longer hiking days with big climbs for after day two. Break up long, tough sections in shorter ones for the first two days. Second: be flexible when it comes to a schedule. Don’t push to hard to make it to a certain place, if that means you’re really exhausting yourself. You’ll often pay the price the next day. If you’re tired, cold or if the weather turns bad, just call it a day, make camp and enjoy the evening. Save some energy for the next day. I have learned the hard way that hiking is a multi-day marathon, not a sprint (and that I’m probably not as fit as some people 20 years younger then I am). So nowadays, I always try to plan with an extra trekking day as an option. That has made it easier to stop when we felt like it. The last couple of 100km+ hikes went without problems and were so much more enjoyable because there was no stress and more time to relax, sip tea and enjoy the scenery.

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