The Elephants Perch – 7/3-7/5

I decided to use the long Fourth of July weekend to check out The Elephant’s Perch in the Sawtooths in Idaho. Hunter and I drove up Thursday night and slept near Redfish Lake. We made it to the marina in time to catch the first boat shuttle of the day. What a cool way to approach a climbing area!

The radness-to-ease-of-approach ratio of The Elephants Perch is off the charts! A couple of easy flat miles, one surprisingly sketchy stream crossing, and then a punchy thousand foot climb gets you right to the base of one of the cleanest looking alpine walls I’ve seen. The surrounding landscape looks somewhat reminiscent of the Cascades, but without the slide alder or devils club.

After setting up camp we decided to head up The Mountaineers Route. I lead off and, after only leading once since March, epic’d hard, placing gear in all the wrong spots and found myself stopping short due to horrendous rope drag. Hunter got us back on track and moved through the next few pitches quickly. The clouds grew darker and we could see rain in the neighboring valleys. We discussed our options. With only a single rope, bailing would be both slow and expensive. Not hearing any thunder, we decided to push on. The winds picked up and I found myself practically running up a pitch in an effort to be at the same belay as Hunter as the rain came in. Luckily the weather never settled in over us, and although intermittent squalls kept the route feeling a little more serious than expected, we were able to make it to the top as the weather started to clear for good.

We got back to camp around 3:30 which allowed for plenty of time soaking up the world class views. The sunset seemed to last forever and it was fun watching a party epic after a wrong turn at the top of Astro Elephant.

We got up around 7:45 the next morning; a real sleep-in by alpine climbing standards, but the weather reports looked stable and we wanted to allow time for things to warm up because The Elephants Perch gets shade all morning long. Our goal for the day was The Fine Line and we knew the crux first pitch would be a rude warmup in the cold.

The Fine Line was indeed fine. The first pitch was just as thin as everyone said, but I was psyched to sneak through the crux move. Definitely not the full send seeing as I was following and had hung to pass up the backpack, but I was still pleasantly surprised to eke out some hard climbing after a couple of months off. The rest of the climbing went smooth with perfect, stable weather. Just an all-around type I fun kind of day!

We got back to camp around 6 and had another wonderful evening enjoying the amazing views. Highlights included jumping off the 20 foot outcropping into the ice-cold lake and watching Hunter try to retrieve his sleeping pad which had blown into the lake. I can’t think of a better place to spend 4th of July and reflect on a beautiful, more wholesome side of America.

We had originally planned on just going for a run the final morning, but neither Hunter or I had had enough of the awesome climbing. We decided to get on The Sunrise Book as we had heard it was a great half-day climb. The top-half follows a very obvious corner so we knew generally where the line was, but we lacked any form of topo or detailed route description. Hunter lead an exciting first pitch, questing a bit into the unknown. Sore muscles and nerves crushed my dreams of freeing the crux pitch and linking it into the next pitch. The last pitch, a gaping bombay chimney, was just a wild as everyone had described. Pretty wild inching out the roof at the top of a chimney, knees jammed across its width, with hundreds of feet of exposure underneath. Rad!

We topped out around 1pm and packed our stuff up and hiked back to the lake just in time to catch a 4:30 boat. Three great days of climbing. All three routes to ourselves. 21 pitches after three months off from climbing. What a tiring and wonderful weekend!