On June 13th John Platt invited me to traverse Diamond Ridge and its four peaks in one long day. Any time you accept a climbing invitation from John be prepared to suffer but know you will experience an excellent climbing journey with great scenery. . . and to hike till you want to drop. This ridge traverse was no exception as we climbed four complicated peaks and visited four enticing mountain lakes while covering over 11 miles and ascending and descending 3,700 feet. The four peaks were Peak 8525 (Solitaire Peak), Peak 8386 (Diadem Peak), Diamond Ridge Peak and Diamond Rock. Also, 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 the paved Warren Wagon Road which leaves McCall on the west side of Payette Lake. The best access at this point in time is to follow the Warren Wagon Road north for 21.1 miles and then turn east (right) 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 one mile to the base of the ridge at Deep Lake. You can hike crosscountry to all four of the ridge’s peaks from the trailhead but be forewarned that this area was heavily burned and in places crosscountry 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 thus, I cannot recommend it at present.
My GPS Track for the walk.
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 the 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 are gone in many places. This has opened up the terrain but also created vast areas that can only be crossed by clambering over downed trees.
The hike was destined to be trailless 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 country.
Deep Lake is as nice as any Idaho Mountain Lake. It is one mile and 750′ of elevation gain from the trailhead via a poorly maintained trail. We hike 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 in 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 not too difficult. We passed by the high point on its southern side.
Peak 8386 viewed from the pass between it and Peak 8525.
Following John is a humbling experience. No matter how hard I push myself, he stays a head of me. He is an incredible mountaineer not to mention a fantastic bike racer.
Our first closeup view of the summit block as we traversed on its south side was not encouraging.
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 till 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 summiting Peak 8386 we were confident we would succeed in our goal of climbing all four peaks but we knew we had several hours to go. Breaks were short.
Looking northeast from the summit of Peak 8386 demonstrates 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 further down the ridge. Diamond Ridge Peak is the highest point on the ridge. From the distance it looked easy but it turned out that it’s ridge was another granite maze. We bypassed what we could and climbed over what we had to.
Deep lake sits in the cirque below Diamond Ridge Peak. You may recall that we started the crosscountry 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. No idea as to its origins 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 furthest, treeless summit.
Finally, the summit of Diamond Rock. Almost to tired to take a photo. John tells me it’s “two miles” to the truck. Of course, he down plays the up and down along the way and both of us are destined to find we have to cross a half mile section of blown down trees that will require a lot,of balancing work.
It’s only a half mile descent to the lake on mostly easy slopes. Now, we have to 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 it was broad, flat and covered by downed trees. All laying from one to three 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 one of me crossing it.
Believe me, it’s worse than it looks. John Platt Photo
Google Earth shot of the downed timber.