Thursday, May 4, 2017

Climbing Mount Heinen, the toughest of the Boise Grand Slam Peaks, is a rewarding trip

Looking back at Mt. Heinen on the north side ... very steep approach from this side. 
Jack, Joanie and Steve on top of Mt. Heinen 
Celebrating the completion of Steve's Grand Slam on top of Mt. Heinen with Jack, Joanie and Judy 
Hi all,

I've been pecking away at the two remaining Boise Grand Slam peaks this spring to complete my Grand Slam, and by climbing Mt. Heinen with three friends on Saturday, I did it! 

At 6,390 feet, Mt. Heinen is the tallest of the Grand Slam peaks, and definitely one of the most strenuous hikes. But we hiked it on a gorgeous sunny day last Saturday, with temps in the mid-60s, and it felt wonderful to be out hiking in wildflowers, green grass and relatively warm weather! 

Just for background, the Boise Grand Slam was created by Tom Lopez, a retired lawyer and the author of Idaho: A Climbing Guide. The concept is to give Treasure Valley residents an early goal of hiking the Grand Slam peaks to begin getting in shape for the summer backpacking and mountain climbing season. 

Joanie with her pup in the snow field on the north side of Heinen. Hiking poles were very handy on this trip. 
The other three peaks are Mt. Cervidae (closest to Boise and shortest, but still hard -- 2 miles straight up, 2,000 feet of climbing), Mt. Kepros (10 miles and over 2,000 vertical feet), and Lucky Peak/Shaw Mountain, the top of the eastern flank of the Boise Foothills.   

There are multiple approaches to Mt. Heinen. We drove up to the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead in the Boise National Forest, about 1.5 hours from town, next to Arrowrock Reservoir. We hiked one steep ridge up to the main ridgetop leading to Heinen Peak, and hiked another steep ridgeline back to the trailhead. It was a great adventure tour with no real trail most of the way, but pretty easy route-finding staying on the ridges. 

My friends Joanie Faucie, Jack Van Valkenburg and Jody Thorne went with me. We made for a good group, all hiking at about the same pace. We brought lots of water, a lunch, wind breaker, hiking poles and GPS for the trip. It took us about 4.5 hours to do the whole hike. Mileage was 7+ miles. Vertical gain over 3,300 feet. It'd rate the trip strenuous. 

Our route took us up a ridge above Garden Gulch, through the forest and then on a main ridge heading for Mt. Heinen.
From Cottonwood Creek Trailhead, we went back down the road toward Arrowrock Reservoir for a short bit, crossed the creek and climbed up a ridge above Garden Gulch. Be sure to respect the private property in the vicinity by the creek bottom. Once on the ridge, we climbed steadily through grass sagebrush terrain and wildflowers until we reached the timber zone, and then we had to navigate a little brush to reach the top ridgeline. Once on that ridge, we ran into a couple that was hiking to Heinen from the South Ridge, or Irish Creek Campground by the reservoir. This route is 4.5 miles one-way, with 3,880 feet of gain. Our route was more direct, but perhaps more punishing. 

It was super pleasant on the ridge, and an easy walk up to Heinen. We had almost no wind up top, so we could hang out and eat our lunch. There are two rocky peaks on Heinen that seem to be the same elevation, but the peak furtheast west is the one with the USGS marker on top, and a water bottle containing some note paper for hiker notes. I signed my name. 

The descent off the north side of Heinen was super-steep! There was a snow field that we slid down on our boots laterally, and then we hiked down the face of the mountain over the ridge we planned to descend. It was a delightful walk downhill along the backbone of a steep ridge, with major elk habitat in the dense timber, and open brush, or bird and deer habitat on the sunny side of the ridge. Huck flushed three big blue grouse on the way down, and at least two on the way up. 

Matt Clark of the Idaho Trails Association says he calls climbing Heinen, a Heineken-type of hike because you earn your beer -- and your dinner -- on that one! I sure was glad to have a hot tub to jump into when I got home, with a PBR in hand. 

See more pics on my Facebook page. 

Have fun! 
- SS 

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