Trip Report: Lost River Range in Idaho

Lost River Range in Idaho
By Donn Seeley
HIKE 06/30/2007 MSD

Leslie Woods and I paid a very pleasant visit to Idaho's tallest mountain range, the Lost River Range, over the 4th of July. We spent the first two days exploring the upper East Fork of the Pahsimeroi River, and the last two days in the upper West Fork. The roads are quite rugged -- not recommended for Subarus. The East Fork was a little more interesting than the West Fork, I thought. We saw bighorn sheep both days in the East Fork, but no other human beings. We visited an unnamed lake that drains out through a cave. The gnarly, twisted rock layers in the canyon walls are riddled with caves and cavities. The peaks are made up of thick slabby layers with a covering of late season snow, kind of like melted wedding cakes. The forest is gorgeous and quite walkable. The West Fork is also lovely, but it has more people, more dead trees (bark beetles?) and a very rocky access road. The cirque above deep blue Merriam Lake is stark and barren. It looked like it was located at 20,000 feet instead of 10,000 feet in some places. But there are also green meadows and sparkling waterfalls. On the fourth day we attempted Leatherman Peak, the second highest mountain in Idaho. It's basically a huge scree pile. Some of the scree is stable, some is not; the kind of scree under your feet is not always the right kind. We decided to go up slabs to the right of the main couloir. The unrelenting steepness and danger of rockfall eventually led Leslie to turn back, while I struggled onward and upward, testing every foot placement. The view from the top was appropriately awesome, but my exclamation at the summit was 'son of a b----!' after the nastiness of the ascent. On the way down, the scree was frequently loose enough to plunge-step, so we came down much faster than we went up. The weather was warm and dry during the entire trip, leading us to speculate that SLC was setting temperature records and experiencing wildfires (both confirmed on return). A very pleasant and relaxing expedition!