Peak 9100 (Smelter Gulch Peak) by Livingston Douglas

Elevation: 9,100 ft
Prominence: 520

This peak is not in the book. Published November 2019


Peak 9100 sits at the head of Smelter Gulch, an active mining area back in the day. It towers over Willow Creek to the north and provides outstanding views of the higher summits on the Continental Divide on the far side of Willow Creek. Do your recon of Jumpoff Peak from here. Please note that Nicholia is private property, but access is allowed if you stay on the road. One cautionary note: there is a sign at the entrance gate stating “Private Property; Road Closure Possible.” USGS Eighteenmile Peak

South Face/Southwest Ridge, Class 2

Date of Climb: August 30, 2019

Access

From the junction of ID-28 and ID-33 in Mud Lake, drive N on ID-28 for 42.5 miles to [signed] Nicholia Road. Nicholia Road is located 6.1 miles N of the Kaufman Picnic Area on ID-28. Turn R/NNE onto Nicholia Road and drive 3.4 miles up this excellent gravel road to reach the entry gate for Nicholia. Park just outside the entrance alongside the road. The elevation here is 6,940 feet. The USGS topo map is invaluable in keeping you on the correct road(s) for this climb and subsequent descent.

The Climb

From the gated entrance to Nicholia, walk about 0.2 miles W along the road into downtown Nicholia (a metropolis with a resort ranch facility, 1 or 2 other houses, and a few barns) to find a side road heading R/N. This dirt road is signed for “Viola Mines” and is a public road passing through private land. Let’s call this “Smelter Gulch Road.” Follow the road N to reach a meadow just after passing a junction (at which a hard R turn leads to the Viola mines). Don’t go to the mines; go to the meadow.

Continue following Smelter Gulch Road NNE for another ¼ mile to reach a fork in the gulch and an unsigned junction in yet another meadow. Go straight (not L) here and quickly reach a road closure gate (split-rail version) that blocks vehicular traffic. Hike a short distance past this gate to reach the toe of the South Face of the Southwest Ridge. Rocky Point 8488 lies due N and over 1,000 vertical feet higher. This point is a mess of rocky outcrops, trees, brush, and shrubbery. How will you ever get up to, and past, that mess? Well, you can. Read on.

Leave the road here and scramble N up a steepening grassy slope, aiming for the ridge crest just R/E of Point 8488. You are initially on a face, then on a shoulder, then in a gully just to the R/E of the shoulder. The terrain changes from a grassy slope to talus/scrub/mountain mahogany. Avoid the rugged, rocky outcrops and thickest mountain mahogany on the L/W side by angling diagonally rightward. You eventually leave the minor forest and reach open grass after working your way up a dry gully. A grassy slope leads up to the ridge crest.

You are now on the Southwest Ridge of Peak 9100. The ridge is densely forested on its L/N side and has lots of rock on or near the ridge crest—talus/boulder slopes and ridge humps). Almost immediately, you face a ridge obstruction—a rocky ridge outcrop/hump. The easiest way to deal with it is to simply scramble up and over its slope of boulders/talus (reasonably firm). Skirting it only works from the R/S side, if you choose to do so.

Continue NE up the open forest on the ridge, navigating through sections of minor ridge rock and open sagebrush. You eventually reach a forested high point, but this is a false summit. The ridge bends L/N at this point. Scramble N along the ridge, dropping 40 feet to a minor saddle then climbing up to the open, rocky summit. The summit area is a narrow ridge crest with a small cairn atop the highest boulder. The views of the Continental Divide peaks and Jumpoff Peak are stunning. Do some recon here.

Northeast Ridge/Southeast Spur (Descent), Class 2

Access

Same as for the South Face/Southwest Ridge Route

The Descent

From the summit, you can see the expansive, gentle saddle to the east with an old jeep road coming up to it from Smelter Gulch. Your goal is to get to that saddle and descend the road. Leave the summit and follow the ridgeline NNE then NE. This ridge section is narrow, rocky, and choppy with lots of nasty brush and pine bushes mixed in. Skirt the R/E side of two rocky ridge points here. Thankfully, these ridge difficulties don’t last for long. You soon emerge into wonderful open terrain about 200 vertical feet below the summit.

Once in the open terrain, turn hard R/SE to follow the Southeast Spur down to a wide saddle. You will find an old, grassy jeep track there. This old road is not shown on any maps, but it makes for a good hiking trail nonetheless. This road saves you from having to bash through tall, thick sagebrush for a long distance. Follow the old 2-track road SW down Smelter Gulch on the R/W side of the drainage to get back to the road closure gate and road junction. Continue down Smelter Gulch Road (now an ATV/jeep road) down to Nicholia and then follow the main road E for 0.2 mile to the Nicholia entrance gate and your parked vehicle.

Additional Resources

Mountain Range: Beaverhead Range

Longitude: -112.98449   Latitude: 44.39549

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