Leatherman Peak
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Base Camp

  • Statistics:
    • Date Hiked:  August 16, 2003
    • Miles Hiked:  7.3
    • Elevation Gain:  5,028'
    • Hiking Partner(s):  None
  • Description:
    • There are 9 peaks in Idaho over 12,000'.  Leatherman Peak is number two on the 12er list at 12,228'.  Eight down, one to go.
    • This weekend had been planned for quite some time with a slightly different itinerary and various routes proposed.  My first suggestion was to use the east route of Leatherman on Saturday and then approach Mount Idaho from Merriam Lake attempting the north ridge on Sunday.  Dan passed and wanted to use the west route of Idaho.  I then suggested we approach both peaks from the west in order to save driving time.  Dan again passed and wanted to drive to the Pahsimeroi for Leatherman.

    • It was decided that we’d use the east route for Leatherman and west route for Idaho when once again; the plan changed after Dan and Zack’s scheduled hike to Mount Breitenbach was postponed.  As a result, this left both Dan and I with two 12ers left to complete all nine and only one of them being the same.  After a few emails, we determined that we would simply hike separately on Saturday (Dan to Breitenbach and myself to Leatherman) and then finish with Mount Idaho together on Sunday.

    • We left Boise Friday afternoon and stopped for some pizza in Mackay (ID).  Dan encouraged me to climb the west ridge of Leatherman Peak since I would now be alone and this is initially what I was pushing for anyway.  I took his advice and after checking the west route road, I asked Dan to verify where 7,200’ was with his GPS on the drive out.  I wanted to make sure I gained 5,000’ on both days to see if I was up to it.  He told me where to start, and then we drove over to the Breitenbach trailhead where we visited for a while and Dan set up camp.  I returned to my starting point, prepared for my hike, and was sleeping at 10:00 pm.  (I should note that the road to the west route/ridge trailhead of Leatherman Peak requires a high clearance vehicle at a minimum.  I actually had it in 4WD low most of the way in and out.)

    • I didn’t sleep well and was up at 3:00 am so I decided just to get going; I was hiking at 3:20 am.  The quasi-alpine start was fine with clear skies and a road to begin the trip.  Before too long, I was off the road and on what appeared to be a rarely maintained trail.  In my opinion, the west route and west ridge, which was previously considered the “standard” route, has now become the “classic” or “climbers” route.  I would contend that the east route is now more heavily used and should appropriately be considered the “standard” route.  In support of this theory, I can only say that both Dan and I went fishing for information about the west route on his message board and at Yahoo’s Idaho Outdoor Group, only to receive one response which ended up being suspect.

    • Anyway, I lost the trail a couple of times on the way in as the weather deteriorated during the morning.  Approaching the top of Sawmill Gulch, Leatherman Peak began to look rather intimidating; especially the steep west ridge.  With a small amount of light rising from the northeast behind the peak, its outline looked very dark and ominous.  I picked up the trail again and traversed both under and over a couple of different sets of cliffs on my way to Leatherman Pass.

    • When I got to the pass the sun still hadn’t risen, but I was too cold to wait for the view.  I already clad myself with all the clothes I had packed along, and the stiff breeze wasn’t letting up, so I started up the west ridge.  From the pass, there is a faint trail on loose steep scree that leads to the right of the ridge for a couple of hundred feet.  When the trail faded, I found myself just slightly past a white band of rocks looking up (north) at the ridge.  Here is where I dropped my sticks and the fun started.  From this point on, the climbing and scrambling began and didn’t relent until the summit.  I would have to say that this is likely the longest stretch of sustained class 3 climbing (approximately 1,600’ from the pass to the summit) that I have done to date.  The exposure was relatively high in some pitches and the rocks I kicked off the mountain went a long way.

    • After gaining the ridge, I attempted to stay right on top of it or to the left (north) of it.  Not only was this recommended in the guidebooks I used, moving to the left kept me out of the wind; it was still relatively cold and overcast.  As I worked up the ridge, I ran into several sections that were clearly beyond class 3 or low class 4.  At these points, I would work my way to the left, usually across scree (occasionally picking up what appeared to be a faint trail), until I found a ledge or chute to climb and regain the ridge.  I simply repeated this process of moving to the left whenever I got too uncomfortable with the ridge.

    • Although somewhat demanding, it was a fun climb which I would definitely recommend.  I had planned on hanging out on top for a while and try to radio Dan, but I was too cold and had to start down.  I took a few photos, drank some water, and enjoyed the views.  Of course the climb down was much faster, but you still had to concentrate.  I found myself wandering too far from the ridge a couple of times to routes that looked “easier”, only to realize that I would have been hung up by some serious cliffs had I continued.  Other than a few minor slips, the descent was fun and again, much faster.  The hike out was uneventful and I was back at my vehicle by 10:00 am.  (Continued with Mount Idaho trip report.)

    • Time Statistics (3:20 am to 10:00 am)
      • Trailhead - Leatherman Pass  2:30
      • Leatherman Pass - Summit  1:40
      • Summit Time  0:30
      • Summit - Leatherman Pass  0:45
      • Leatherman Pass - Trailhead  1:15
      • Total Trail Time  6:40
  • Maps:
    • Click here to view a 2D map of the area where this hike is located.
  • Photographs:





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