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A quick, post-work, 9-hour push from Portland to Stanley, ID is topped off by a short night of sleep on the front seats of our Subaru. Blondie gets the primo spot in the trunk. Morning comes and though the sky is clear, the temps are low…ok, let’s get a coffee fix at Redfish Lodge first. Coffee turns into breakfast and we finally disembark the shuttle boat at the far side of Redfish Lake just an hour shy of noon. Various hikers we pass deliver news of incoming rain, snow and even fire-storms that are supposed to roll over the Sawtooths this Labor Day Weekend. Somewhere below Alpine Lake, we run into a nice ranger lady who threatens us with a ticket for not leashing our dog…though technically Blondie IS wearing a leash it’s just that the handle is in her backpack and not in my hand. I try to brown nose her by saying that at least we pick up and pack out all her shit. To this the ranger responds in an outraged voice: “I will NOT take her crap out for you!!” Uhhh – never mind. I am reminded of the scene from Borat. A clear miscommunication. The remainder of the 9-mile hike in goes quickly and though the sky is overcast, things are dry. We get our first view of Baron Spire at the pass above Baron Lakes. Very nice – a high five! Problem with an early arrival in camp is that there’s not much to do. Out of boredom we go through most of our two days worth of food in one sitting and hit the sack early. If we’re hungry after the climb tomorrow, we’ll be more motivated to hike out. At night, a thunderstorm rolls through and we wonder if our gamble to venture out to Idaho to escape the PacNW weather for Labor Day was the right call. By morning, however the skies are clear and sunny.
By 9 am on Sunday, we’re at the base of the Southeast Face of Baron Spire. Given that our free climbing season was shit this summer, we figured this (at 5.9 A0) would be a reasonable choice of route. The first pitch offers fun climbing on clean granite…well, until the very top when I have to garden through some wide section that is filled with thorny bushes. This would be a recurring theme on the lower 4 pitches – clean crack climbing interrupted by some short vegetated wide sections (probably route finding screw ups on my part). The second pitch offers a choice of a finger crack in dihedral or a wideness-to-hand crack further right. I choose the latter and enjoy the pitch tremendously. After four fun pitches of climbing we arrive at the unique summit block and scramble over to the west side. It is here that the somewhat famous “Beckey Ladder” from the 1949 FA offers the only established passage (A0) to the summit. Things go quickly and the last piece of the ladder is – I think – the 60 year old broken drill bit courtesy of Mr. Beckey. As the sky is clouding over and the wind is picking up, I do not linger long to examine it but use it to transition to free climbing…very fun free climbing all the way to the summit (best pitch IMHO)! Shirley juggs the pitch. We sign the rain soaked summit log sheet a bit disappointed that it’s a brand new register (with the previous and only summit entry put up in ’08 by folks working new routes on the west face) and start the raps. Somewhere along the way, we cannot find additional rap stations and have to roll our own. I screw up and we end up with a few “bonus” rappels and then have to scramble back up to base of route to retrieve our dog and packs. Despite the dire predictions, the weather is essentially perfect all day.
We head back to camp, cook what little we have left of our food and hit the sack. The night is chilly and Blondie migrates from the vestibule and into the tent. Squished together like sardines, we wake up at first light, hike out and catch the noon shuttle boat back across Redfish Lake. Drive home goes quickly with another captivating Hieronymus Bosch audio novel. A great weekend in Idaho.
Thanks to Sean for sharing the beta for this formation!
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