Basils Peak - 10414'
Distance: 10 miles
Elevation gain: 4300' (cumulative)
Class (difficulty): 2
Time: 8.25 hours
With snow reports finally indicating ridges melting out above 10,000 feet, Zach and I headed up to the Sun Valley area to try and get above 10,000 feet for the first time this year. We really didn't know where we were going to go until the drive up. We had several options, but based on the options, I pushed for Basils Peak since it would be using Basils' south ridge and because I had been on the peak before and knew it was doable.
Tom Lopez's book says to climb Basils from Wood River campground, but this looked like a longer hike and more gain that if you drove up the road aways to Boulder Basin Road (which we also had done on a winter attempt of the peak a few years back). Since we only had a 2-wheel drive vehicle, we only made it up the road about a mile or less.
After parking at 11am (late start, but hey, it is mid-June), we immediately crossed the roaring Boulder Creek. This sucked and got both of our feet wet... nice start to the hike, not! We hiked for about 45 minutes until we gained some elevation and got up on a ridge. Here we stopped to let the boots and socks dry. My feet dried well in the warm sun and wind... Zach's feet were wetter and he didn't fare so well. The section from the basin to this point was very steep, but the footing is good and even though you are in sagebrush, it is not that thick.
We continued up the ridge and over Point 8587'. From the point, traverse to the saddle at around 8500' and then head northeasterly up the tree covered slopes to the ridge at 9200'. At that point the ridge turns due north and soon opens up and becomes rocky. The route between 9400' and 9800' is steep, but the footing is decent on the talus slopes. Once at 9800' the steepness relents, the trees go away, and you are left with a somewhat narrow ridge and a fun ridge walk. Continue to Point 10165'. To get onto 10165', a bit of low level class 3 climbing is required. However, there is no exposure on that portion or any other scrambling section on the ridge.
From Point 10165', you can now see your objective (Basils Peak) in the distance. We figured 15 minutes from there, but were not even close as it took 45 minutes, as the ridge has numerous ups and downs, and several sections of fun climbing to slow you down. I thoroughly enjoyed this section and even forgot about my exhaustion. All of these towers are doable with easy class 3 moves and it even appeared that class 2 routes could be had by dropping down 20 or 30 feet on either side of the ridge. Did I mention how cool the views off to each side were on this ridge? Well, on one side is Boulder Peak's massive east face and on the other you can see the heart of the Pioneer Range. Not bad at all.
Eventually you will reach the summit. The summit has great views of the bigger Boulder Peaks, the Amber Lakes (both melted out), Bald Mountain and Sun Valley, etc... One thing you will not see from the summit is Castle Peak... it appeared to be blocked by Glassford and/or Kent Peaks. Seeing Castle from every peak had become a habit, but we could do without for one day. Also on top, we found a register with one entry from November of 2007.
The descent actually went well for me (Zach was a different story). When I rounded Point 8587, he was still about 700 feet above me on the ridge, so I decided to descend to Boulder Basin Road where it crossed the creek and try to find an easier crossing (even though that seemed longer considering where the car was). After descending the 1500' to a ridge just above the creek and waiting until I could see Zach again to make sure he had gotten to Point 8587', I dropped to the creek where the road crossed. I was excited to find a make shift log bridge that was over the creek. This made my day. The hike from there to the car was with dry boots and on the road. The evening light really turned the green foothills and rugged Boulder peaks into quite the scene. Zach didn't have quite the finish and arrived almost an hour later with painful, wet feet.
If you have a 4-wheel drive, getting to that crossing would make this trip a lot easier. First off, it would save you about 400 feet of gain and at least a mile each way. From the crossing, gain the ridge above the creek and following it to Point 8587', then use the route we used.
Take ID 75 north out of Ketchum, go past the SNRA headquarters and Wood River Campground. About 3 miles past the campground, turn right onto Boulder Basin Road.
Make your way to Point 8587'. Drop to the saddle at around 8500' and head northeast through the trees. Around 9200' the ridge turns north. At 9400' there is a steep section that brings you to the south ridge at 9800'. From here on the ridge is straightforward.