On June 13th, 2015 John Platt invited me to traverse Diamond Ridge and its 4 peaks in one long day. Anytime you accept a climbing invitation from John, be prepared to suffer but know that you will experience an excellent climbing journey with great scenery. . . and to hike until you want to drop. This ridge traverse was no exception as we climbed 4 complicated peaks and visited 4 enticing mountain lakes while covering over 11 miles and ascending and descending 3,700 vertical feet. The 4 peaks were Peak 8525 (Solitaire Peak), Peak 8386 (Diadem Peak), Diamond Ridge Peak and Diamond Rock. Check out John’s trip report.
Before I get to the narrative, here are a few details:
Diamond Ridge is located northeast of Upper Payette Lake on the East Side of Warren Wagon Road which leaves McCall on the West Side of Payette Lake. The best access at this point in time is to follow Warren Wagon Road north for 21.1 miles and then turn right/east onto FS-431 and follow this graded dirt road to its end. A fair trail leaves the East End of the parking lot and climbs roughly 750 feet in a mile to the base of the ridge at Deep Lake. You can hike cross-country to all 4 of the ridge’s peaks from the trailhead but be forewarned that this area was heavily burned and in places cross-country travel will involve crossing acres of downed trees. The Victor Creek Trail traverses this country and crosses the ridge between Peak 8386 and Peak 8525 (Solitaire Peak). As of 2014, the trail was blocked by numerous downed trees and I do not recommend it.
My GPS track for the hike.
The GPS elevation track.
John’s GPS track.
We reached the trailhead at 8:15AM. At 41 degrees, it was a perfect time to start.
Our traverse started and ended at the Deep Lake trailhead which is reached by a dirt road from Warren Wagon Road.
Much of the section of the Salmon River Mountains known as the Lick Creek Range has burned since 1990. Deep thick forest is gone in many places. This has opened up the terrain but has also created vast areas that can only be crossed by clambering over downed trees.
The hike was destined to be trail-less for all but the first mile. So we savored the first mile and fondly remembered it at times when we were struggling across less-friendly terrain.
Deep Lake is as nice as any Idaho Mountain Lake. It is one mile with 750 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead via a poorly-maintained trail. We hiked away from Deep Lake by crossing the ridge on the right-hand side of this photo.
Trail Lake is not as big or deep as Deep Lake. It is not reached by a trail. From this lake, we climbed the ridge on its West Side angling up toward the saddle between Peak 8525 and Peak 8386.
We eventually found the Victor Creek Trail hear the top of the ridge and followed it to the saddle.
From the saddle, the view south is to Storm Peak.
The view from the top of the first peak encompasses a huge section of Western Idaho and the Wallowa Mountains of Eastern Oregon.
The peak’s Class 3 East Ridge.
This shot was taken from near the summit of Peak 8525 and is looking northeast along Diamond Ridge. The first peak is Peak 8386, the second is Diamond Ridge Peak (the highest point on the ridge) and way in the distance is Diamond Rock. Yes, we have a long way to go.
After descending back down to the saddle, we turned toward Peak 8386 which looked to be a more complicated summit with its many towers. It turned out that the ridge leading to the summit was a maze of granite blocks and towers but was not too difficult. We passed the high point on its South Side.
Peak 8386 as viewed from the pass between it and Peak 8525.
Following John is a humbling experience. No matter how hard I push myself, he stays ahead of me. He is an incredible mountaineer as well as a fantastic bike racer.
Our first closeup view of the summit block was not encouraging as we traversed its South Side.
Peak 8386 looked intimidating from the distance because we opted to leave the technical climbing equipment at home. We gambled on finding an easy route up any obstacles we found. Our gamble paid off but the terrain kept us in suspense until the last minute.
The West Side of the summit block. The Class 4 route is shown in red. Climb the lower section on the right. Once you reach the shelf at the top of the first move, step across the gap to the higher block to the left and then scramble to the top. You can also climb the equally-airy lower summit from the shelf.
After reaching the summit of Peak 8386, we were confident that we would succeed in our goal of climbing all 4 peaks but we knew that we had several hours to go. Breaks were short.
Looking northeast from the summit of Peak 8386 demonstrates that the East Side of the peak is an easier approach. Our route continues by following this ridge to the northeast.
The next summit is a mile farther down the ridge. Diamond Ridge Peak is the highest point on the ridge. From a distance, it looked easy but it turned out that its ridge was another maze of granite. We bypassed what we could and climbed over what we had to.
Deep Lake sits in the cirque below Diamond Ridge Peak. We began the cross-country part of the trip from that lake.
Ascending the peak’s Southwest Ridge. John Platt Photo
John on the summit. Time for a late lunch.
Descending the treacherous Northeast Ridge of Diamond Ridge Peak, we found a cairn in the middle of the ridge. We have no idea as to its origin or the reason for its existence.
Summit Lake sits in the cirque on the North Side of the ridge between Diamond Ridge Peak and Diamond Rock. Eventually, we will pass by the end of the lake as we make our way back to the trailhead. However, at this point, our energy is directed to our next goal and fourth peak, Diamond Rock.
I’m not sure how Diamond Rock got its name as it is the least distinctive summit on the ridge and its high point is not crowned by a summit block. In any event, it was another mile along the ridge. The high point is the farthest, treeless summit.
Finally on the summit of Diamond Rock. Almost too tired to take a photo. John tells me it’s “two miles” to the truck. Of course, he downplays the ups and downs along the way and both of us are destined to find that we have to cross a half-mile section of blowdown that will require a lot of balancing work.
It’s only a half-mile descent to the lake on mostly easy slopes. Now we must cross the ridge on the right side of the photo. Looks easy.
I did not take any photos of the last mile but when we crested the ridge above Summit Lake, we found that it was broad, flat and covered by downed trees–all laying from 1-3 feet off the ground. There was no way around them, so we climbed over them for an agonizing 40 minutes on tired legs. Here is a Google Earth shot of the actual terrain showing the downfall and photo of me crossing it.
Believe me, it’s worse than it looks. John Platt Photo
Google Earth shot of the downed timber.
Next: Fall Trip 2015: Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Arizona