Elevation: 9,616 ft
Climbing and access information for this peak is on Page 134 of the book. Updated November 2019
Van Horn Peak is a rugged mountain with a LONG, magnificent Southeast Ridge. The North Face of the mountain is particularly rough and has probably never been climbed. This is a rarely visited summit. Here are two new routes not discussed in the book. USGS Black Mountain
East Ridge, Class 2+
Date of Climb: July 27, 2019
Van Horn Creek Road/FSR-061 is located 12.2 miles up Morgan Creek Road/FSR-055 from US-93 north of Challis, ID. Park along Morgan Creek Road at a large pullout on the west side of the road just past the Van Horn Creek Road turnoff. The elevation here is 6,179 feet. (With a 4WD a person could drive your all the way to the point where the,route,described below leaves the road. There is a private ranch on the RHS of the road in a meadow about 1/2 mile or so before where I left the road and he gets there with his pickup truck.)
From the base of Van Horn Creek Road, follow the road for just over 3 miles to the 7,000-foot level in a flattish area with a relatively easy crossing of Van Horn Creek. The East Ridge is above and to the L/S of you here and it is obvious. It is magnificent. Leave the road/trail and jump across the creek to begin the arduous, steep climb southward up the charred remains of a pine forest. You should reach the crest of the East Ridge about 200 vertical feet up from the creek. The steep, burn-scarred hillside is full of blackened, downed timber and you will do much weaving and/or climbing over the logs.
Scramble W up the ridge through a charred pine forest (with some live pine trees mixed in). There is still lots of downed timber to contend with. The ridge becomes more of a face and merges with the Southeast Ridge in an extended, flat, saddle-like, forested area [which makes it almost impossible to find the East Ridge on the descent]. The ridge now becomes steeper and rockier. Skirt the L/S side of a rocky outcrop on the ridge to reach a small, gentle saddle at the base of a somewhat steep, loose slope of talus/scree/gravel.
Grind and switchback your way up this loose mess to reach a re-emergence of the forest. This area now has live pine trees and pine bushes. The ridge is still steep, but the forest base helps. Higher up, the slope gets VERY steep and is rockier/looser. The final push to the narrow, rocky summit ridge is the steepest but has solid rock outcrops to help (e.g., ledges). The summit of Van Horn Peak is small and narrow (a ridge crest). It is quite rocky up here. There is a large cairn at the South high point and a smaller cairn at the North high point (of equal height) about 75 to 100 feet away. The August 2010 “Van Horn” fire devastated this entire area.
Southeast Ridge (Descent), Class 2
Same as for the East Ridge Route. This route completes a loop route which begins and ends at the base of Van Horn Creek Road/FSR-061.
From the summit, descend the East Ridge back down to the flat, forested, saddle-like area. Follow the main ridge crest as it bends R/SE to reach open Point 8220. From here, you have a superb view of the Southeast Ridge and you are already on it. Follow the easy, open ridge SSE then SE. The terrain here is mostly sagebrush, but there are a few sections of forest to go through, especially in the gullies/saddles. There are no burnt trees or downed timber but this ridge is LONG and the sagebrush is mid-sized without a lot of gaps in it, so it is a bit tedious.
You will find a game trail high up and then a cattle trail in other areas to help, but it is not always there. You must climb over two sizable ridge humps (requiring 255 feet and 115 feet of vertical elevation gain, respectively) on the way down to the final section of ridge. When you finally reach the flattish ridge section where the ridge is about to descend to the valley floor, descend L/NE to intercept Van Horn Creek Road just above where the private ranch land begins. There is a nice shoulder to descend here. After a final short section of forest, you reach Van Horn Creek Road. Follow the road for about ½ mile back to its junction with Morgan Creek Road and your parking spot.