Elevation: 10,060 ft
Copperhead Peak is found on page 320.
Copperhead Peak is one of the big peaks northeast of Salmon, Idaho. This country is not often visited by climbers. Copperhead Peak, Ajax Peak, Freeman Peak, and Monument Peak are all big peaks with a lot of vertical relief. Additional route information from Livingston Douglas is found below.
This shot of Copperhead Peak was taken by the late Michael Darcy. Michael, an accomplished Montana peakbagger, spent a lot of climbing time in the Beaverheads and readily provided his knowledge to interested climbers. He was known to, and friends with, many Idaho mountaineers. His untimely death on Gooseberry Peak in 2012 shocked and saddened our climbing community.
Access Copperhead Peak from Freeman Creek, (A)(3.1) on page 328 of Idaho A Climbing Guide.
South Couloir to South West Ridge Route, Class 3+/4
by Livingston Douglas
I did this climb on 7/25/17. This route is a variation of Michael Darcy’s South Couloir Route. From the Freeman Creek Jeep Road, find your way into Golway Gulch via two left turns on jeep roads, the last of which is overgrown and not maintained (but is good for hiking).
At the end of the Golway Gulch jeep road, bushwhack up the southeast side of Golway Creek. Stay above the thick, blowdown-strewn creek itself by scrambling up the talus/boulders and grassy fields on the right side of the gulch. At about 7,450 feet, you’ll reach a steep cliff band blocking easy access.
Cross to the west side of Golway creek here (at the base of a waterfall hidden in the thick forest surrounding the creek). A miserable bushwhack awaits across large fallen timber strewn every which-way. But soon you’ll reach the gentle grass on the west side of Golway Gulch. Bliss!! Hike up the grassy strip between the forested creek bed and the talus on the south side of Copperhead Peak. Beware of copperhead snakes in the grass here; I ran into one, coiled up, raised up, and hissing at me!
Finding Darcy’s South Couloir is the trick, but I can tell you how I stumbled on it. It is NOT marked with a cairn, and several steep couloirs on the south face of Copperhead Peak will confuse you. Find the correct couloir at 7,950 feet. It is a steep, narrow, brushy couloir (up Golway Gulch) that is immediately followed by a bare shoulder that comes off the south face of Copperhead Peak. The South Couloir initially heads northeast and shows up on the Homer Youngs Peak quadrangle as having a feeder stream in it. However, when I climbed it, there was nothing more than a few trickles of water here and there in the stream bed.
The initial section of this couloir is steep (Class 3+/4) and has some wet rock and vegetation to deal with. But, keep the faith, as the terrain gets easier. The couloir soon opens up and turns left/north. Here, it’s time to climb the now obvious couloir for several hundred feet, heading straight north
When I reached 9,075 feet, the couloir made a left/northwest turn, or so I thought. Straight ahead (north) was a 10 to 15-foot cliff band (Class 3+/4). This looks like the wrong way to go (though the map shows the couloir continuing with no interruptions all the way to the summit area). It turns out that Darcy’s route (and the South Couloir) actually DOES continue north right over the cliff band and opens up into a very wide gully/couloir above the band (which I discovered on my descent).
However, I took the left-ish turn and followed the left side of the cliff band, which guided me up a branch of the South Couloir. Unfortunately, this branch flames out and forced me to climb up face rock, cross the south arete into another gully, and confront an impassable cliff band at 9,800 feet. To avoid this band, I traversed west at the base of the cliff band and soon found myself on the Southwest Ridge! While it worked, it was not exactly my plan for the day, and I don’t recommend it.
The Southwest Ridge got ugly quickly, so I moved east and back onto the South Face to find a way up this mountain. I climbed Class 3+ ledges and cracks on the South Face and found myself back on the Southwest Ridge above the cliff bands and ridge difficulties. From here, a straightforward Class 3 ridge climbs to a minor notch in the ridge (which is the top of Darcy’s South Couloir). From here, it is about 60 feet to the gentle, albeit small, summit of Copperhead Peak and its 6-foot tall summit cairn.
Immediately below the summit is Darcy’s South Couloir, steep and loose but wide and obvious. To the east is the rugged Southeast Ridge (that Darcy correctly rates as Class 3-4), which was Darcy’s ascent route. Darcy’s route didn’t encounter the deceiving cliff band I encountered at 9,075 feet that led me astray. When descending via the South Couloir, this cliff band is just a minor inconvenience in an otherwise obvious gully/couloir.
I descended Darcy’s South Couloir Route. This route is initially very steep and loose, at least Class 3+ and arguably Class 4. It runs into the junction/cliff band where I went astray on my ascent. From here, I retraced my route back to the Freeman Creek jeep road. Thankfully, I encountered no lingering snow on the South Face (or South Couloir) of Copperhead Peak.
USGS Topo: Homer Youngs Peak
Climber Trip Reports