12 Summits
> Summit 9: Thompson Peak, Sawtooth Range, Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho (10,765 ft)

September 1st-2nd, 2007
Thompson in Morning Light
High Camp
Serrated Sawtooth Towers
(Panoramic)
Sawtooth Silhouettes
(Panoramic)
The Summit Approach
Thompsons Summit Marker
Staring Into the Distance
(Panoramic)
A Sea of Rugged Peaks
(Panoramic)

The Sawtooths located in the central part of Idaho contain some of the highest and wildest peaks in the state. It is also a protected wilderness, and one of the more famed backpacking spots of Idaho. Almost every tourism related picture from Idaho seems to show the same shot from Redfish looking out at Mt Heyburn. Thompson Peak is the highest peak of the Sawtooth range, and is a long and healthy Rocky Mountain scramble up hard class 3 talus to reach the summit. I have eyed Thompson for many years now, but never attempted it. However, during Labor Day, I posted a quick briefing on the internal website at my company asking anyone if they would be game to climb it during the weekend. Many people chimed in saying that they would like to join me, but almost all of them had the same excuse that they were too busy for the weekend to actually go for it. Kelvin Yee, a electrical engineer from New Zealand that recently moved to the area came to me about a few days before I was set out to climb, asking me if I was still going, and if he could join along. So, a trip was finally set.

Thompson Peak is one of those towers that just looms high over the Stanley Basin on Highway 75. To reach the summit requires about a 14 mile round trip hike from the backpackers trail at Redfish lake. Overall, you have to gain about 4300 feet in elevation to reach the summit, and almost all of that elevation gain is during the last few miles once you reach the ridgeline of Williams. For the most part, the hike is up the Alpine Way trail, until you reach the turnoff at the Williams ridgeline, at which point you follow the steep climbers trail up the ridgeline and aim for the headwall that divides the saddle from Williams and Thompson Peak. From there, you have to skirt around the west side of the mountain until you find the South couliar which contains a class 3 route that leads up to the summit.

Kelvin and I started hiking around 3:00 pm on Saturday afternoon. Our goal was to backpack in to camp under the upper alpine lake that sits directly under Thompson's east face. We started out with the goal of making it up to the camp by 7:00, however we accidentally took the wrong trail, which ended up costing us about an hour of time. We eventually found our way onto the Alpine way trail, and after about 4 more hours of hiking, we finally made it to a flat area in the upper alpine zone that sits under Thompson's east face. We made it just as the sun was starting to set. Overall, the area was very scenic, and the views of the White Clouds were quite impressive.

After a good nights rest, and a good hearty carboloaded breakfast of fish and rice, we continued on to finish the climb. Once you get to the upper lake, the rest of the hike is through steep talus and scree, which can be very slow going. We angled our way around the headwall, and then made our way up Thompsons west face, where we eventually found the south couliar that divides the face and leads directly to the summit. Kelvin and I made it to the summit just around noon, where we stayed for a little bit to enjoy the highest point of the Sawtooths. Overall, the top of the summit is very exposed and contains steep dropoffs on most of the upper tower. However, the views were incredible, of the surrounding peaks. We took a few photos, then made our way back down to camp, and back to Hailey. Overall, it was a very nice climb, with no complications other than getting sore shoulders from my 50 lb pack that I carried into the upper alpine terrain. I did take some video of the trip, but unfortuantely the tape I used during the trip was bad, which I discovered when I tried to digitize it onto my computer.

Kelvin Summits Thompson
(Panoramic)
Sawtooth High Country
(Panoramic)
Laboring Day Weekend
(Panoramic)
The Eagle Eye Zone
(Panoramic)
Idahoan Wild Country
(Panoramic)
Last Winters Ice Fields
(Panoramic)
A Talus Perch
Sawtooth Scenery Overview
(Panoramic)
Wild Idaho
(Panoramic)
Alpine Lakes
The Talus Zone
(Panoramic)
The Summit View
Views of the White Clouds
Castle Peak and the White Clouds
The White Clouds
(Panoramic)
Gazing Out to Redfish
Being There
Kelvin's Photos
Scree Approach
Thompsons True Summit
Working My Way to the Summit
GTW Summits Thompson
Images and text copyright 2007 by GT Wilson.
Reproduction or reuse prohibited without written consent from Gary T. Wilson