Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mount Kepros is a delightful, 10-mile hike - part of the Boise Grand Slam!

Summit of Mt. Kepros, elevation 5,428 feet ... Big views for 360 degrees! 
View from Kepros looking back at the two-track road going back toward Peak 5380.
Three Point Mountain is the next ridge to the east.  
The trail is steep in places ... and steep coming back! I used hiking poles to take some of the stress off my knees. 
Hi all,

I had a nice window of time last Saturday afternoon for a long hike. It'd been a pretty rainy week, so I hadn't gotten out much, and my pointer Huck was totally chomping at the bit to get outside and do some serious miles. And I was too!

I had been thinking about the Boise Grand Slam -- a concept created by Tom Lopez, author of Idaho - A Climbing Guide -- and trying to knock off either Mt. Kepros or Mt. Heinen. I emailed Tom to see what he recommended, and he wrote back, saying he was half way out the ridge on the way to Kepros, and the trail was great! Ha! What a coincidence!

Great to run into Tom Lopez on the trail! 
Tackling the Grand Slam peaks in the spring presents an opportunity to jump-start getting your body in shape for the summer hiking and backpacking season. Mt. Cervidae, near Spring Shores Marina at Lucky Peak, usually dries out first, so that can be the first one on your list. Lopez recommends Kepros as the next trip. Shaw Mountain or Lucky Peak are No. 3. And Mt. Heinen is the last, and often the last to be snow-free. All of them are strenuous hikes, but that's the whole point, right?

I put together a quick lunch, some Clif bars, and packed up my Osprey hiking pack for the 10-mile hike. I looked up a topo map of Mt. Kepros on Caltopo and printed it out for navigation. I zipped out to Black's Creek Road on I-84, a few miles east of Boise, and drove about 10 minutes to the first summit on the way to Prairie. That's the trailhead for Kepros (elevation 4,800 feet).

On the west side of the road, there's an old motorcycle trail that marches straight up the mountain. That's your trail. The route climbs 400 vertical feet to an initial saddle next to Three Point Mountain (optional side trip). And then the singletrack vectors off to the northwest, following a series of Camel's back ridgetops over to Peak 5380.

There are some cool granite outcroppings along the way
I ran into Tom Lopez in this section. He mentioned that there are a number of bypass trails along the route, short-cutting the main trail that goes over a bump on the ridge and then dives down the other side, losing most of the elevation. The bypass trails are marked by rock cairns in some cases. But they do save you energy. Great to know!

It took me about an hour to reach Peak 5380 -- actually I took the bypass trail to the right to avoid hitting the summit -- and Mt. Kepros looked like a LONG ways away, even though it was only 2.5 miles away. Worse, the road I would be following now to the north actually was going downhill, losing elevation, and then I could see I would have to make up that elevation again to summit Kepros. Watch for bypass trails.

It took me about another hour to summit Kepros (elev. 5,428). Huck flushed several small groups of chukars and one big blue grouse along the way. That's always a rush to hear a big blue take off right next to you, scaring the holy hell out of you.

The ridge walk to Kepros is really delightful. You can see Bogus Basin and Boise off to the west, the Boise National Forest to the north, the sparkling waters of Lucky Peak Reservoir down below, and the Trinities, all smothered in snow, off to the east. On a sunny afternoon, without much wind, it's just beautiful out there. A friend told me that the wildflowers on the ridge can be spectacular in May.  

Please see Tom's Grand Slam post or my Grand Slam post for more details about the other mountains. I have the hike to Mt. Cervidae detailed in my Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home That one is much more of a quick trip, than Kepros.

It took me about 4 hours to do the hike out and back at a brisk pace. The hike features at least 1,700 feet of elevation gain. My GPS malfunctioned, so I don't have the exact numbers. There are many spots where you could stop for lunch. I decided to pull over in a grassy spot where the pines trees came up to the ridge road, about a half-mile below Kepros.

It's always cool to learn about a new hike in your backyard. I highly recommend Mt. Kepros and the Boise Grand Slam!
- SS