The Pioneer Mountains offer endless opportunities for adventure in some of Idaho's wildest country. Including many of the state's highest peaks, the Pioneers draw all sorts of climbers, hikers, skiers, etc., and the high alpine lakes carved by glaciers long ago make the perfect camping destinations in the area. The fishing is pretty phenomenal, too, but I usually wait until the rivers are less turbid later in the summer.
Yesterday morning, family friend Michael, my dad, and I loaded up the truck with water bottles, extra layers, and a few snacks and drove to Wildhorse Canyon in the heart of the Pioneers. Along the way, we saw dozens of Pronghorn Antelope, a "Mama Moose," and a handful of white-tailed deer. I got stuck sitting in the backseat, but the wildlife made up for it!
We parked the truck by an old mining cabin, threw on our packs, and hit the trail. Our goal was to hike the roughly four miles to Arrowhead Lake (elevation just over 9,900 feet), but since it's still so early in the season we knew that we could run into some serious snow. The first few miles along the right fork of Wildhorse Creek were easy going, and aside from the sloshing noises coming from our water-logged boots we were in good spirits.
Once we started gaining some serious elevation, our trail disappeared amongst snow drifts, logs, and boulders. No longer able to rely on the predetermined path, our pace plummeted as we fell through wet snow into streams, dislodged our feet from hidden branches, and backtracked to find safer routes (our first hint that we should turn around). We eventually made it to a wide bowl beneath Hyndman Peak, which is a whopping 12,009 feet, and saw the first of many small avalanches (our second, more concerning hint to turn around).
The lake was only a quarter of a mile away, but we decided to call it. The narrow chute we were trying to scramble up had tons of loose snow that covered a stream, which was obviously super dangerous (STUPID!). The view from our highest elevation, which google earth shows as 9,597 feet, was epic, but it would have been awesome to see the valley from the lake. Next time!
After painstakingly making our way back down the mountainsides, we were all ready for a break and some lunch. Thank goodness for the homemade cookies my mom threw in my bag! It might have been too early in the season to make it safely to the lake, but the views were spectacular and it was nice to just be outside.