Jul 31, 2020 at 4:21 pm #3667775
Due to a variety of factors, I may find myself driving through Idaho around October 10 and with some time to kill which would comprise my only option for vacation in 2020. I’ve never backpacked the Sawtooths and so I would like to have anyone’s thoughts on the situation there in Mid to late October. I’m kicking around the idea of the Grand Sawtooth loop or some other option (if you have suggestions). Any thoughts on the weather and conditions out there at that time? I’m a very experienced backpacker with 10,000+ miles and a lot of mountaineering and off trail experience, so I’m not a noob, but am mostly asking since I’ve not been to that range before. Obviously it would be cold and could dump some snow, so I’m more wondering how likely snow is that time of year, and if snow is common, how much could I expect. I’m well aware anything could happen so I’m just trying to understand what is common so I could make a decision on go/no-go or weather to bring snowshoes, etc. For those that have done that loop, are streamcrossings an issue? Obviously freezing weather and crossings is less than idea so just trying to gage a bit. Thanks in advance for any thoughts on that or other decent loops for that time of year in the 35-100 mile range.Aug 4, 2020 at 10:00 am #3668808Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
That would a terrific trip in October. Under normal conditions I wouldn’t bring snowshoes, but I’d keep the option in my back pocket. Maybe 1 out of every 5 or 6 years you may need them above 9k. Very doubtful you’d even see more than a dusting below that elevation in mid-October.
When I’ve been in the Sawtooths this time of year, wet snow/cold rain was actually relatively common.
Stream crossings aren’t going to be an issue on the Loop in October. I’d expect you’d be able to keep your feet dry unless you were trying to cross the S Fork Payette somewhere where there’s no bridge, like Mink Creek.Aug 5, 2020 at 2:40 pm #3669272
Thanks Ryan. Appreciate the information. I was wondering if I was just going to get crickets on this thread.Aug 7, 2020 at 11:05 am #3669741
I just looked up the Grand Sawtooth Loop and found two different versions of the loop. Why does AllTrails and HikingProject show different routes…. What actually constitutes the Grand Sawtooth Loop? Anyways…The AllTrails version shows 73.6 mi length and elevations between 5400 and 9500′. I’m considering this for early October. I’ve never been to the region though and I’m wary about a shoulder season trip. So considering the mild elevation, the consensus is that heavy snow is unlikely early October? Should I bring microspikes and gaiters just in case or is the chance of needing them so low? Thanks!Aug 7, 2020 at 2:45 pm #3669782Mark WetheringtonBPL Member
@markwethLocale: Western Montana
I don’t have too much to add directly, but I’ve had several great trips in early October in southwest Montana at similar elevations as the Sawtooths . . . I also had 8 inches of snow fall at 8,500 feet on Labor Day, so it really depends on the year. That much snow really made going over passes and following the trail a bit of a challenge in the above-treeline parts of the CDT I was hiking along.
A friend of mine who does a lot of backpacking in the Sawtooths said that generally early October can be good, but also suggested to park low if possible. One time he was parked at a very high trailhead in early October and when 7 inches of early season snow fell he said the drive out was “interesting”, to say the least.
If the weather looks a bit dicey in the mountains, you could maybe opt for a lower trip nearby along Loon Creek in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Lots of hot springs to soak at, which are great in pretty much any weather . . . I think the only way to have a good backpacking trip when the temperatures are in the 40s and raining is to be at a hot springs. You might have to go over a fairly high pass to get to the trailhead, so it might not be ideal if they are calling for a lot of snow up high (you really wouldn’t want to get stuck on the wrong side of a dead end road).Aug 16, 2020 at 6:55 pm #3671054
Jimmy – Not sure I know the answer to your question. I see All Trails and CalTopo have very different loops both labeled a the Grand Loop. I need to do a little more reading but have not looked into it very much.Aug 18, 2020 at 10:17 am #3671367
@hydro-man i was going to review both routes and just pick which one looked more enjoyable.
Do you plan on bringing micro-spikes? Or use baskets on your trekking poles (assuming you use poles)? Or bring gaiters for snow? My only alpine shoulder season has been on the spring side where micro-spikes can be useful on the compacted snow. In the event i get sufficient snow, will micro-spikes even be useful if the snow isn’t compact?Aug 18, 2020 at 12:00 pm #3671380
Probably no on the spikes. In my experience that’s more of a spring/summer item.
Yes on the pole baskets.
I will likely toss in a couple gaiter options, as well as some snowshoes in the car and make a decision last minute based on the current conditions and weather forecast. If there is some potential in the forecast for a dumping I may bring tall gaiters and maaaybe the snowshoes (but not likely). If the forecast looks reasonably stable I’ll likely just bring mid to short gaiters. I’ll probably also wear waterproof ankle height trail runners, which I tend to only take in more limited cases like this.
Otherwise, my normal shoulder season kit which is good into the teens.Aug 18, 2020 at 12:55 pm #3671390
thanks, good infoOct 14, 2020 at 1:29 pm #3679697
Following up after the trip… Stream crossings were no issue, as Ryan indicated. Dry feet all the way. Weather forecast was not ideal though and ended up with freezing rain the last two days and 5 inches of wet snow overnight at a camp around 8,500′. I took a lower elevation detour due to that and cut off maybe 5-10 miles. Great trip though and nice scenery.
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