As the saying goes…the more things change the more they stay the same.
At 12,009 feet above sea-level Hyndman Peak in the Pioneer Mountains of Idaho is the highest in the range and a significant visible feature that is part of the allure of the Sun Valley area. Next July will be the 25th anniversary of my first ascent of Hyndman Peak. At the time I was five years into marriage, father of baby boy just over six months old, in possession of the greatest vehicle produced by mankind – 72′ International Scout (aka Snout) and with the Andary brother’s gracing my side as part of a two-day hike/climb.
On this beautiful day in September, I have a 30 year-old marriage, a son just short of 25 years-of-age, possession of the Snout’s great-grand-neice (the remarkably capable and versatile 2012′ Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland), Mike Andary writing me that he “hates me” (a status I strive to achieve) via email 23 minutes before leaving my house, and my son gracing my side as part of a one-day mountain bike/hike/climb.
This event would also result in exclusive video of the Lake Andary Diving Competition.
To complete the up and down of Hyndman Peak in one day requires 13 miles of trekking and 5,000 vertical feet of gain and loss. A one day ascent is tricky in that sickness or death from Pulmonary and Cerebral Edmema (aka Acute Mountain Sickenss or AMS) has to be considered. Both conditions in humans occur above 8,000 feet elevation. Both conditions are more frequent above 11,500 feet elevation and more likely if a fast increase in elevation is involved resulting in High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). Look… I did not say we were not going to get our hair mussed on this trip.
Given mountain sickness, distance involved, vertical gain and high elevation the vast majority of people make summit-ting Hyndman a two day event. Most spend the night at Andary Lake and try the summit the next day. The lake is named for Lee and Cathy Andary, not Mike or John who no longer seem to visit the region. Note: Mike does spend time with us at Michigan State University Spartan Football game tailgates while cooking burgers.
In late July, our buddy Jennifer Schwartz (aka The Terminator) reached the summit of Hyndman Peak probably while hiking backwards on her hands after making sure husband Larry and the boys had breakfast. She tried mountain biking the first couple of miles on mountain bike. Journals of other experienced back-country/climbing trekkers of Hyndman suggest trying to mountain bike the first 2-2.5 miles. The advantage of this approach is that the final two miles would be super, super fast. The disadvantage is that a couple of miles of biking uphill on a mountain grade single-track trail is quite a bit harder than hiking. In short you could be somewhat spent at the start of your hike/climb.
Kyle and I decided to mountain bike to at least the 2 mile mark. We also decided to wear the appropriate gear for mountain biking and then switch to hiking gear. This meant more gear on our backs to start, but not wearing biking shorts, shoes, gloves and helmet might prove to be silly or worse… dangerous.
After leaving the trailhead and fording the Northfork of Hyndman Creek, Kyle and I found the energy to mountain bike 2.75 miles before calling it quits with the wheels. The first mile and one-half of the ride had a slope of about 5-6%. Between mile 1.5 and 2.5 the slope was ranging from 8-13%. The last quarter of a mile was providing a slope of 15-24%.
The hike from the edge of this Aspen forest to Lake Andary is magical. The trail follows the cascading Northfork of Hyndman Creek through sage brush and groves of Aspen, Lodgepole and Ponderosa Pine trees. Eventually the trail opens to meadows and plateau of native grass. At 4.75 mile and 9,788 feet elevation, the trail reaches Lake Andary. On my first ascent of Hydman Peak, John, Mike and I made camp at this location,and spent the night under open skies and breathtaking view of the belt of the Milky Way Galaxy.
From Lake Andary; Hyndman Peak, Old Hyndman Peak, and Cobb Peak feel even more imposing. From Lake Andary to the saddle between Hyndman and Old Hydman (10,800 feet) is without trail, but the route is obvious and extremely enjoyable. Once on the saddle, the route finding for the remaining 1,209 vertical feet in less than one-half mile of class 2 and low class 3 scrambling grade begins in earnest.
The elevation alone makes things somewhat demanding, but the rock is quite stable – which reduces stress and energy drain normally associated with ascents through loose scree. In discussion afterward, Kyle and I both found the last 300 vertical feet of gain to be pretty tiring. However, Once on top of Hyndman Peak all things change. The result is worth every inch of effort.
The trip down was pretty strenuous. We chose a route that was much steeper but contained a mixture of sand and soft scree. This is a much better choice that route finding down big boulders. Seeing that both Kyle and I were pretty parched, we agreed that a swim in Lake Andary would be the right tonic. It was.
From Lake Andary we hike down to a series of waterfalls to refill our water bottles and then on to our mountain bikes. The bike ride down took 17 minutes and nine seconds, and the ride up in took 1 hour and 29 seconds.