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Castle Peak - 11,815

Castle Peak rising dramatically beyond Chamberlain Basin.

Trip Report (9/21/2002):
For the last backpack of the season, we chose to hit the infamous Castle Peak. I was accompanied by Zach, Todd (of Borah and Hyndman fame), and Todd's dog, Sandy.

Castle Peak is somewhat legendary among Idaho climbers and scramblers. Other than Mount Borah, I have heard more tales of hardships and misadventures on no other mountain. Hardships or not, the fact that this mountain rises so abruptly, stands nearly alone, and is visible from dozens of other peaks I have climbed, make the legend even easier to believe.

We left work early on Friday to drive to the trailhead. We chose to approach from the south via the Germania Creek trail. With a late start, heavy packs, and a wrong turn mixed in, we were very glad to reach the saddle overlooking Chamberlain Basin and drop down to our home for the next few days, Lake 9197. We set up tents and ate in the dark, fighting a cold, hard wind that evening.

Saturday we rose fairly late (not sure on exacts, as not one of us brought a watch). We ate and got daypacks ready, then headed up Castle. The first part is fairly easy. We headed towards a grove of trees about 500 feet above us. Onve to the trees, we headed into the huge gully that angles northwesterly across the south face of the peak. The rock is fairly tight in this gully, and the going is easy. Once you are within about 400 feet of the summit, the gully tightens and you want to head to the right (more northerly). This is the crux of the ascent. Their is a cairned path marking most of this section, but for the most part, we just climbed a ways, got our bearings, then climbed some more. This section was particularly hard on Todd's dog, but she came through like a trooper. Once on the ridge, follow it east to the summit.

On the summit, is a tremendous 360 degree view, a summit register, a USGS benchmark, and 25 lakes are in view (we counted!).

The day was warm and sunny, and even a little hot late in the afternoon. That night, it was less windy and very mild. The full moon lighting up the peak and lake was the icing on the cake. The next day, we hiked out under cobalt blue skies again and headed back to the real world.

Trip stats (from Lake 9197):
Time: 5 hours
Length: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 2600 feet
Class (difficulty): 3

Turn north onto Highway 75 and travel 36 miles past Ketchum over Galena summit. Once into the Sawtooth Valley, turn right on the Pole Creek-Germania Creek Road and drive 4.6 miles on gravel and 7.5 miles on a primitive surface over Pole Creek Summit through 3 fords of Germania Creek to a trailhead at Three Cabins Creek at 12.1 miles. Here take a road heading north for about 2.5 to a trailhead (the road continues), park here.

From the trailhead, hike about a 1.25 miles to the poorly marked junction with FST-109. Follow FST-109 for about 1 mile to the junction with FST-047. Follow FST-047 to a saddle overlooking Chamberlain Basin, then drop down into the basin. In the basin are several lakes, most with well used firepits, stumps for sitting, etc... This is an area heavily used by horseman.

Pictures: Click on the pictures below to see the full-size version.
Castle Peak from Lake 9197.
Eastern fringes of Castle Peak.
Eastern fringes of Castle Peak, closer up.
Looking up the gully.
The end of the gully, time to climb!
Looking down at Chamberlain Basin.
The Boulder Mountains from the summit.
The Sawtooth Mountains from the summit.
The northern White Cloud Mountains from the summit.
Looking east from the summit.
Heading down the gully.
The way out, looking towards Washington Peak.

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