Idaho and the Sawtooths

We spent about 24hrs in Boise (Boy-cee), taking advantage of the hotel vouchers Neil's mum had given us for Christmas. Apart from a brief foray out for dinner and an early morning run round the park we barely left out hotel room. Our excuse was that it was raining (we have gone soft) but really we were just loving having a bath with fluffy white towels, being able to sit up in bed without banging your head off the van roof, making a coffee without having to light a stove and perma-wifi.

Stocked up on luxury and enough work news/ cat photos to last a few weeks, we decided it was time for some off-grid adventure. The next stop was Stanley, a tiny hamlet in central Idaho and gateway to the Sawtooth Mountains. This is one of the most stunning places I've ever visited- made all the more special by the amazing weather and low visitor numbers. If downloaded a Mtb app (Mtb project) which showed loads of cool loops around Stanley. So while Neil went off for some solo Sawtooth scrambling, I had one of the best 'alpine' bike rides I've ever done. Starting with an epic climb up the Boundary Trail that had me gasping for breath. I'm not sure if it was the altitude or the 900m of vertical ascent over 6km on tight switchbacks but I certainly took every pretty vista or alpine flower as a good excuse for a photo-stop!

This was followed by a good 20min of pushing to get to the summit but with a huge reward of miles of technical, steep, rocky descending into an alpine meadow. Not seeing another soul definitely focuses the mind so I was riding very carefully and had to walk bits until lower down, where the trail got mellower. This ride had a bit of everything, including river crossings and, unfortunately, several miles through the charred remains of a huge forest fire in 2012. This made for frustrating going for a while, dragging the bike across fallen trees, but eventually I made it to the William's trail, one of the areas best descents and this was a whoopy, bermy trail to complete the ride.

I had fallen in love with biking in Idaho so managed to squeeze in another two rides before leaving Stanley, at Redfish Lake and Elk Mountain. I could have taken so so many more photos!!

Climbing info for the Sawtooths is somewhat patchy and difficult to come by but we'd printed off what we could at Boise (some black and white maps and hand-drawn topos) and planned to take the boat across the lake then do two days of climbing with an overnight wilderness camp in between. The first day we climbed on 'super-slab' which took a while to find. When we did, it turned out to be slightly more difficult than the web had suggested but still ok for me, as I quite like that style of climbing. (On second- I wouldn't have like to have been leading it). It was also a couple of pitches longer than what we'd heard so we weren't feeling hugely confident about our intel for the climb we were planning the next day, on Elephant's Perch. This climb proved even more difficult to find and by the time we had established the route it was already well passed midday. I was keen not to miss the 7pm boat back and was also feeling a bit breathless and tired from the heat and possibly the altitude. I'm not really used to carrying a heavy climbing pack! So all things considered it didn't quite feel the right time to be starting what could potentially be a bit of an epic, based on the (lack of) info and route finding difficulties. Instead we just enjoyed the sunshine in a beautiful place and came back that night to put a huge slab of Idaho steak on the bbq and have a quick dip in the lake before bed.

On our way out of Stanley we stopped off to visit a hot spring site, where scalding sulphurous water mixes with the cold river water. You can move the rocks around to create channels and barriers and control the temperature. In practice, it was quite difficult not to end up with half your body scalding and the other half freezing. It was so warm outside anyway that I was happy enough just dangling my legs in the cold river. I'm looking forward to more wild swimming as the trip goes on.

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