What better way to spend Memorial Day weekend than climbing to the Selkirk crest near Chimney Rock? If you haven’t done this hike you owe it to yourself to put it on the calendar. It is a relatively easy 10 mile round-trip hike with about 2,700’ of vertical gain. It starts easy and crosses bridges, creeks, and takes you scampering over boulders. The views get increasingly better the higher you hike.
We set out after church on Sunday – a late start. Landon Otis, Ken and Kelly Emerson, and Don Otis and Cathy Schuller made our way up the old logging road that winds its way around for the first two miles until it reaches the drainage that turns west toward Chimney Rock. We had two tricky creek crossings that required we get our feet a bit wet. We hit the first snow about 5,500’ and by the time we reached the crest at about 6,500’ there was plenty to kick steps in the last few hundred feet.
Give yourself a good six hours at a reasonable pace for the hike. If you decide to go off trail and head south to gain the summit of Mt. Roothaan, plan on another 90 minutes to two hours up and back.
We checked the weather and re-checked before heading out of North Idaho on Friday toward Hood River. The forecast called for clear skies and 10 mph winds. When we arrived at Timberline Lodge that afternoon there were winds and blowing snow. We hunkered down for a short night with a dusting of snow to awaken at 2:00 am for the slog up the easy slopes in headlamps.
Landon Otis, Jeff Beeman, Cathy Schuller and I put on nearly all layers and headed upward. Just before sunlight we reached 8500’ – just above the top of the highest lifts. The wind was howling and we needed to put on our crampons. This took time as Cathy’s boots were lighter weight and the strap on crampons kept coming off. Her feet were cold as was Landon’s core so they decided to head back down. Jeff and I fully expected to turn around soon as well but we plodded on until we reached the Hogsback where there was a bit more protection from the winds. I felt weaker than usual but we just kept making our way until we reached the “Pearly Gates.” This time of the year this is no class 2 event. Instead, we found about 80’ of ice that required great caution using the front points of our crampons and a well placed ice axe. Once above this section, the summit was 10 minutes away.
We reached the top before 10 am to spectacular views of Rainier, Adams, St. Helens, Jefferson and the Sisters. The descent down Pearly Gates was methodical and tiring but once down the crux of the climb, we turned the corner to see 50 climbers heading up the Hogback. Why they were ascending so late remains a mystery. Hood is best climbed early – even in the spring. We made it back in time for dinner in Hood River and beer at Pfriem Brewing (highly recommended). If you go this early in the season, expect class 3 climbing up high.
By the numbers: highest peak in Oregon with 5,440’ of vertical over eight miles roundtrip.
Photo #1 – Mt. Hood from Highway 35
Photo #2 – Don Otis down climbs “Pearly Gates” at 11,000’
Photo #3 – Jeff Beeman and Don Otis on the summit.
Photo #4 – Landon Otis and Cathy Schuller before sunup at 8,500’
After the light at 3 mile, go about 25.5 miles on Hwy 95.
Immediately after crossing the Moyie River, turn right at Border Lane onto road #2517. The road begins paved and then changes to gravel.
The trail-head is 2.3 miles from turning onto #2517. You’ll know you’re there when you reach the forest service outhouse.
Trail-head information will be on the left.
Parking/turn around area.
Picnic tables are available below the road.
The trail into Copper Falls is mild and well maintained. It was an easy outing for our 3 and 6 year old children to hike. The hike left them ready for more waterfall hunting when we were finished. There are some areas of steep drop offs next to the trail and at the overlook to the falls, so keep little ones close by. Begin at the trail sign and head up hill and into the trees. There is a sign in area, however there was no paperwork available when we were there. Follow the signs up hill to the Falls Overlook. It is an easy .3 miles to the overlook of Copper Falls. For and added stroll through the trees, take the Loop Trail down the hill to the floor of the ravine. The Loop Trail crosses the creek through large mature timber before climbing back up the hill and returning to the trail head.
Three of us set off for Goat Mountain just outside of the small town of Clark Fork, Idaho. It was a perfect morning as Landon Otis, Cathy Schuller, and Don Otis set out after fueling up at Starbucks. We left the trailhead at 8:15 and started up the relentless ridge, losing the trail a couple times because of deadfall across sections of the trail. If you go, be sure to keep close to the ridge to the north. The climb was steep but manageable to about 5,000’. From here there is a less-steep section where there is significant deadfall. After you cross this you will reach the forested slope that reaches a high saddle and your first views of Goat Mountain (we put on snowshoes here for the rest of the trip). If you make it this far, the views become worth the trip and the worst of your journey is over. This is a good place to take a break before descending 200’ and then re-ascending the final ridge to the summit. It looks further than it is so remain vigilant. The summit is 30-45 minutes beyond this point. We reached the summit by Noon and although we were in shirt sleeves, there is less protection from the wind. The views of Scotchman Peak’s North Face are worth the effort. You are looking directly across to it. From Sandpoint, Goat Mountain is often difficult to spot because it looks like it is part of Scotchman Peak.
The descent is painful on the knees so expect it until you reach the sign at the TH – 4,000’ vertical below the summit – this is more than the Scotchman’s trail even though Scotchman’s is 600’ higher. We’ve done this as a traverse and come down the Scotchman’s trail which makes for an epic day but is easier on the quads and knees (you need two cars for this). Watch for ticks as they are prolific on this trail early in the season. Lastly, bring plenty of water since there is none close to the trail.
February 26, 2016
Scotchman’s is the highest peak in the Idaho portion of the Cabinet Mountains. Thanks to the fine work of Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness (see www.scotchmanpeaks.org) the lower section of the trail has been rerouted to make for an easier ascent from the trailhead. Trail #65 is the starting point of the hike to the 7009’ summit. We found one of the few blue sky days of the winter for our attempt. We made our way up to the 3,300’ trailhead but could not quite drive the last 100 yards due to snow. Jeff Beeman, Don Otis and Cathy Schuller set out just before 9:00 am. This is an entirely different climb in the winter and takes nearly twice the time so be prepared for an arduous day. At about 5,000’ we were in snowshoes. The ridge had the typical breeze but the temperatures were mild for this time of the year. We reached the summit about 1:00 pm but found the descent took us only two hours (in some ways easier in the snow). The vertical gain is 3700’ over eight miles. The views are well worth the effort. Once you reach the ridge, everything opens up. Take the ridge Northeast and you can’t miss the high point. Be aware that the road leading to the trailhead is muddy by afternoon (assuming it is frozen in the morning). It is easy to get stuck so don’t attempt it with a 2WD sedan.
Photo # 1 – Looking Northeast about 200’ below the summit.
Photo #2 – Don Otis and Cathy Schuller with “Mad Max”
Photo # 3 – Looking Southwest toward Lake Pend Orielle from near the summit
Photo #4 – Looking along the summit ridge
On January 3 four of us set out to climb the south ridge of Star Peak in Montana’s Cabinet Mountains. What we thought was going to be a cold but sunny day turned out to be spitting snow and poor visibility on the summit. Star is one of a handful of peaks in the area that one can climb off the road. At about 6300′ the summit is 4100′ from the parking off Highway 2 near Heron, Montana. Jeff Beeman, Ken Emerson and I started out at 9:00 am and reached the summit 3′ 30″ later — all on snowshoes. We took turns making trail in deep snow but were definitely the first to reach the summit this year and see the abandoned Forest Service lookout. All in all, a great workout and arduous day. With temperatures at the TH in the mid teens, the summit was single digits or below. For winter travel on the higher peaks be sure to bring plenty of warm clothing – hard shell, mitts, wool beanie, and pack your water inside your pack lest it freeze.
Summit Elevation: 8,738’
Elevation gain from Leigh Lake trailhead: 4500’
The trail winds steeply through forest on the east side of the Cabinet Mountains about 15 miles south of Libby Montana. Look for mountain goats on the slopes above as they are plenteous in this area. The lake is just 1.5 miles from the trailhead and well worth the hike. Look to the right or north and you will see a 2100’ slope that leads to a high ridge that connects Bockman Peak and Snowshoe. The climb to the ridge is arduous and route-finding is more complex than it looks as cliffs stop progress in numerous sections and have to be carefully negotiated. Once you reach the high ridge the peak is directly to the left or south. You can see the route from here. Now begins the technical part – weaving your way up the ridge facing class 3 and 4 sections with some exposure. We set cairns where there were none and this proved enormously helpful on our descent as they are far easier to see from above. At 8,400’ the ridge reached the glacier. The normal route was untenable so cutting to the left around the ridge was the most likely option. While handholds and technical aspects are not any more difficult, the sand and scree on the rocks make this risky without a rope as the fall off the south side would be lethal. Jeff Beeman and Genny Hoyle continued the route, reached the undulating summit ridge and found excellent views of Apex Peak to the north and Leigh Lake more than 3000’ below. This is a complicated climb with plenty to go wrong. Be in excellent shape if you plan to do it in one day. Take a helmet, not just for rock fall but for potential falls on loose rock. A short rope is advised as well.
Photo 1 – Apex Peak to the right
Photo 2 – The ridgeline heading toward Snowshoe summit
Photo 3 – Genny Hoyle scans the route to the high ridge
Photo 4 – Don Otis and Jeff Beeman above 8,000’ on the ridge
Coordinates: 48.613N 116.705W
Trailhead: Chimney Rock, No 256
Trailhead Elevation: 4,020’
Estimate Time: 3-4½ up, 2½-3½ down
South Ridge, class 2
7 miles, 3306’ elevation gain
The climb begins in the parking area of Chimney Rock trailhead (there is a shorter route from the Priest Lake side). The trail gains a mere 300’ in the first two miles as it winds its way up an old logging road (suitable for a mountain bike). It crosses a second bridge and eventually heads southwest (the direction you need to be going). Follow the trail until it reaches granite and then follow the cairns. You will soon see the distinctive shape of Chimney Rock in all its glory as you follow the path through the forest and over blocks. The trail eventually winds around the north side of Chimney Rock if that’s your goal. But if you plan to climb Mt. Roothaan you will leave the trail about a quarter of a mile or just below Chimney and head directly south (left). You cannot see Mt. Roothaan yet. Keep below the crest and look for a saddle just below the crest. You can’t miss it. Once you top the saddle at about 6700’ you will see Roothaan about half a mile away. You scramble down about 100’ and then begin ascending the use trails. Your goal is the reach to far (south) side of the peak. You can climb an easy class 2 or 2+ section and make your way to the southwest ridge just below the summit. The views of Chimney Rock are unsurpassed.
Mt. Roothaan is 7,326′ and sits just half a mile south of Chimney Rock and is about 200′ higher. The vantage point offers the best view of Chimney Rock of any 7,000′ footers on the crest. I left the trailhead on the Pack River side late – Noon. The trail starts painfully slow and gains just 300′ in the first 2 miles (you can take a mountain bike on this section). The Chimney Rock Trailhead 256 is easy access and the trail easy to follow. It’s 12 miles RT to the base of Chimney Rock on the east side. I did Mt. Roothaan which is just more than 3300′ of gain. I wore shirtsleeves the entire way — for mid October! The time to the summit was 3 hours and coming off just more than 2. Expect a bit more. Once you are in the granite — and there’s plenty up high — the hike and views are more interesting. If you do Roothaan from this side take the trail to within a quarter of a mile of Chimney and head directly south (left) up and over a small saddle. Once you reach this saddle you can’t miss the peak. The upper section is class 2 before you wrap around to the gentle west side.
Author: Don Otis
The trail to Beehive Lake is 4.4 miles one way — starts at an excellent trailhead and crosses a bridge before making an easy ascent. The North Twin is 7,607′. It is the peak directly beyond the end of the lake and not the one to the North or right (I made that mistake last year). The South Twin is not visible from Beehive Lake but becomes visible only when you reach the summit of the North Twin. I got a late start (10:45) but still managed to complete the summit, take a few photos and be back at my car by 3:15. Give yourself more time than that — enjoy the journey and relax at the lake — one of the prettiest I have seen in the U.S. Selkirks. The total distance to the summit (go to the left side of the lake) is about 12 miles car-to-car.