Member Trip report
Climbing Vienna Peak, Sawtooth Mountains
Trip Report/Photos from Mountainrabbit
The Sawtooths were almost a national park, until locals, concerned about the influx of tourist traffic, stymied the idea. Still, they remain the signature mountains of Idaho, getting their fair share of visitation. Not so in winter, which is my favorite season to visit these chiseled granite peaks. My target of the day was Vienna Peak, a 10,224 foot summit in the southernmost extent of the range. Named for a nearby 19th century gold mining town, Vienna is rarely climbed, as it lies beyond the developed core of the central Sawtooths. Summertime access is by a rough Forest Service road, but once winter sets in, it is a 15 mile round trip by snowshoe from the main road. My excursion began in the dark. The morning saw a steady, wet snowfall as I snowshoed up the backroad. Broad meadows and high, jagged ridges glowed faintly in the predawn light. After a few miles, I broke from the road and headed up a narrow, forested canyon. It was my first climb of the year on snowshoes, and I was feeling the strain in my legs. I spent some time watching a flock of Clark's Nutcrackers squabble and squawk as they foraged for seeds in the lodgepole pines. I emerged from the canyon onto Vienna's northern summit ridge around noon. The ridge was festooned with gnarled little whitebark pines, the toughest of Rocky Mountain trees. Large snowdrifts and the first of the winter's cornices were developing on their lee sides, slowing my progress. The soft snow was replaced by a hard, icy crust close to the summit, giving me a welcome chance to ditch the snowshoes for a while. I kick-stepped up the steeper portions, keeping a leery eye on the sudden dropoffs on either side of me. I have a tremendous fear of heights, something that has always driven me to climb mountains. The summit was a compact little pyramid of wind-scoured granite, affording a view of many of central Idaho's mountain ranges - the White Clouds, the Salmon Rivers, the Pioneers, the Boulders, and the Smokies - all wrapped in a fresh coat of snow, and topped by a sky of the most impossible, intoxicating shade of blue. I could pick out dozens of summits I have climbed on all points of the horizon. If you've never stood on a Rocky Mountain summit in winter, don't worry: you're only missing out on half of life. I raise my ice axe over my head and give a triumphant whoop, which is quickly lost in the frigid, howling wind. I snap a few photos and head back down. After all, the summit is only the halfway point, and it is certain to be dark before I get back to my truck.
- The Trip Has No Photos -