THE SAWTOOTH RANGE IS A MOUNTAIN RANGE IN CENTRAL IDAHO WELL-KNOWN FOR ITS MANY LAKES AND CLIMBING ROUTES.
Name: The Sawtooth Range
Height: 3,277 m (10,751 ft)
Location: Central Idaho, United States
First Climbed: In 1934. by Bob and Miriam Underhill guided by Dave Williams.
Climb Time: 10-12 hours
Best Time to Climb: August
The Sawtooth Range is a part of the Rocky Mountains in Idaho with its maximum elevation at Thompson Peak. It expands over the area of 1,756 km² (678 square miles) bordering to the east with the Sawtooth Valley. One part of this area with its pristine nature belongs to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area protected by the Congress in 1972. The Sawtooth Mountains were glaciated in the past and as a result, there are almost 400 glacial lakes in the Sawtooth Wilderness. The largest one is Sawtooth Lake, and many smaller ones don’t even have a name.
Another interesting thing about the Sawtooth Range is its name. It comes from the jagged shape of the mountain peaks.
The untamed beauty of this mountain range, its campgrounds and over 40 available hiking trails are making the Sawtooth Range more and more popular among tourists. In Stanley, a small town at the foot of the mountain, a visitor can find everything necessary for the ascend and ask around about the best route before continuing uphill, but only on foot or horseback, since no other form of transportation is allowed in the protected area.
CLIMBING THE SAWTOOTH RANGE
Climbing history of the Sawtooth Mountains begins in 1934. with Dave Williams, Bob and Miriam Underhill. Dave was a Swiss who moved to Stanley and because he was keen on goat hunting, became a very skilled climber. He was a guide to the Underhills (of the Iowa Mountaineers) when climbing many local peaks like Mt. Heyburn and Williams Peak.
Inspired by the writings of the original trio, the Iowa Mountaineers, lead by John Elbert, started a series of first ascents including Chockstone Peak, Goat Perch, Redfish Peak, Mount Carter, Schwartz Pinnacle, Mt. Bush, Mt. Iowa, Mt. Ebert, and Warbonnet Peak. Fred Beckey also first climbed the Grand Aiguille and established still very popular, but equally difficult to climb, the Beckey Bolt Ladder on Baron Spire route.
The 1970’s were the time when Fred Beckey, Greg and Jeff Lowe managed to climb, explore and establish routes on a very challenging wall on the Elephant’s Perch. From then on, experienced climbers started establishing guide services for group climbing.
Another important event happened in the 1990’s when Tom Lopez published a book titled "Idaho: A Climbing Guide". Although some people consider it to be quite unprecise and some of the information was lost in translation, it is still the best guide for climbing in this region.
Today, the Elephant’s Perch is the most popular rock climbing center in the area. The climbers who opt for this place can choose one (or more) of 25 routes it offers. Worth mentioning are also the Finger of Fate, The Super Slabs, Barron Spire, Mount Heyburn, Blue Rock Buttress, and the extremely remote North and South Rakers.
Another thing that makes this mountain interesting to climbers is the fact that climbs here differ in difficulty. They can choose any option between the 2,790 m (9,150 ft) Observation Peak, a Class 1 hike, and 2,740 m (8,980 ft) King Spire, a rock route rated Class 5.10 on the Yosemite Decimal System. So, the gear necessary for the ascent depends on the route chosen.
Thanks to its diverse terrain, the Sawtooth Range is also appealing to hikers. There is over 550 kilometers (350 miles) of treks that vary in difficulty. The different terrains can be explored with or without a local guide depending on the hikers’ level of expertise. Most of the routes include visiting one of the lakes, a boat ride or a fishing trip.
Hiking routes are also adjusted for families with children, so no previous experience is necessary.
Hiking trips are the most popular during the summer months, especially August because the weather conditions are the most pleasant for outdoor activities in this time of year. The most frequently chosen trails for hiking are: Fishhook Creek Trail (Redfish Lake Trailhead), Redfish Lake Inlet Trail (Redfish Inlet Trailhead), Bench Lakes Trail (Redfish Inlet or Redfish Lake Trailhead), Hell Roaring Lake Trail (Hell Roaring Lake Trailhead).
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