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Grand Sawtooth Loop (Grandjean to Grandjean)
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Christopher Chupka

Locale: NTX
Grand Sawtooth Loop (Grandjean to Grandjean) July 14th-20th on 07/23/2013 18:35:43 MDT Print View

Drove the two hours from Wichita Falls to the Will Rogers Airport in OKC. Southwest to Denver, 3 hour layover with a microbrewery visit in the Denver Airport. Denver to Boise, arriving 11:30 PM local. Up early next morning we enjoy the festival downtown waiting for out table at Goldy's to open. We then scour Boise for heavy but delicious foil packages of the chunked chicken breasts. Found out we needed parking passes for the trail head, and after a trip to REI and another gear store to find said parking passes we did not need them. Find our map, replace my out of date Aqua Mira, coffee and a scone. It's getting late.

With my Snickers bars, foil packages of chicken and Indian food, we start the 2 1/2 hour drive to Grandjean. Arrive about 6 at Grandjean, last beer at the camp site restaurant, on the trail by 7PM. Only 5 miles uphill to Trail Creek Lake. Luckily the sun is not setting until 9:30, moving very slow the first day. Heading east from Grandjean the trail is a gradual climb, area is completely burned out so good views all around.

Lake Creek Trail

Plenty of water everywhere but I'm keeping my water bottles full, mostly out of paranoia. Night has fallen and we are closer. No headlamps yet, rocks on trail and surroundings are still bright white, and there are way to many stars in the sky compared to home. We see the glow of a fire up ahead, friendly unknown voices, and we are at Trail Creek Lake. Cross the log jam bridge, and setup up our shelters for the night. A few mosquitoes, not to bad.

Up by 7AM.

Trail Creek Lake 1

Trail Creek Lake 2

Fresh eggs out of the Nalgene, shelf life bacon, and a cup of percolated coffee. On the trail by 9AM, average movement time with my brother.

Today is Trail Creek Lakes to baron Creek Junction, past McGown Lakes, Sawtooth lake, over a short pass and downhill to our campsite.

Out of the burn areas:Burn Areas 1

Burn Areas 2

Over the pass with the first view of Sawtooth Lake:

1st View Sawtooth lake

1st View Sawtooth lake 2

It's hot and crowded here, I've seen at least 5 other people. The water is so cold, all I can manage is a quick pushup in the water, then I'm out. The wind is blowing fairly strong through the gap at the south end of the lake.

Quick Dip

Around the lake and through the gap, wind takes my hat off into the scree field. My brother's hat is blown down into one of the small lakes after Sawtooth.

Into the Gap

Another stream crossing:Sawtooth lake stream crossing

The Descent into the valley is hot, hot, hot. Lots of water to drink but hot. Our biggest fear was near the end of the valley down low there was gonna be a lot of bugs, but hardly any at all. My mid was open wide, up high for ventilation. Temps much not lower than 50 overnight.

Longish day, from valley end up to Baron Lake, past Upper Baron Lake, over the pass to Alpine Lake, down and back up to Cramer Lake.

Baron to Cramer 1

Baron to Cramer 2

Baron Creek Falls

Baron Creek Falls

Cramer Lake

Cramer Lake

Long warm day, time for a swim:

Swimming Cramer Lakes

And now the carnage begins. MOSQUITOES! Rae Lakes worthy mosquitoes. AUGH! Mosquitos!


Beautiful campsite:

Cramer Lakes Campsite

Zipped up all the way in my bivy, mid staked to the ground, fall asleep with the buzzing in my ear.

Lakes are so very still in the morning.

Cramer Lake AM

Today is our day off so we take a crack at Mount Cramer from the wrong side. Eat and head out with our packs, its the day off but we will shorten tomorrow's mileage a little bit.

Just to pretty for words:

Too Pretty 1


Too Pretty 3

We head up the obvious chute just short of the Cramer Divide. About 1500 vertical feel up the loose scree, horrible, but gaining altitude fast.

Up Cramer 1

Up Cramer 2

Up Cramer 3

Up Cramer 4

Up Cramer 5

Up Cramer 6

I get up around the bend past the last small section of steep snow. The rock is so loose, makes me nervous. At the top of the last small snow field a teenager size section of rock on the 45 degree slope slides towards me. I'm ankle deep in loose scree and moving to slow. The loose granite slides and catches me right below the knee. I'm thinking Aaron Ralston, but removing my leg below the knee with my very sharp Spyderco. My brother gave up about 100 feet below me. The rock stops sliding, pinning my leg right above my shin. I first try to move it and I can't, it's to heavy. I try again, getting into my Crossfit deadlift mode. I can pick up the left side and slowly shift up and over my right knee, taking some skin with it. My heart if pounding. The rock slide another foot, jamming itself against the top of the snow section. WTF!? I'm gonna head down. OK, I sit for a second, waiting for my knee to stiffen and bruise, but it doesn't.

I'm OK, time to be stupid and give it another go. I have to step across the top of the snow section with the 60 degree slope dropping away from me and get on solid rock. I lunge and I'm there. handholds and footholds are a little debris covered but alright. I move up the Class4 face about 15 feet and spy a great hand hold, almsot a mini chimney. Guess what, at half body weight I pull another teenager size slab about an inch out of position. It stays put after that, and I'm done.

We get a couple 100 vertical feet of glissading done on the way down. Fun, but now are asses are stained pink, like some backpacking baboon and bruised.

Back to the trail and on to Hidden Lake for the night.

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake 2

Wake to the next day with overcast grey skies. Nice change in temperatures. From Hidden Lake we move down the trail past Virginia Lake, Edna Lake, Vernon Lake, Ardeth Lake, Spangle and Little Spangle Lake. We stop on a rock bluff above Spangle Lake, after a comfortable day of 50 degree drizzle.

Hidden to Spangle

Hidden to Spangle 2

Hidden Lake 3

Hidden Lake 4

We are at a campsite early enought to get some exploring in. I head up to the nearest high point, still pretty nervous about the loose scree so I'm moving pretty slow.

Exploring 1

Exploring 2

And the dramatic selfie of contemplation.

Exploring 3

Next morning clouds clear but cool temps remain. Time to head back to Grandjean, some 25 miles or so remain, but it's going to be a nice 2 day downhill walk.

2 days of downhill, past waterfalls, and still lakes, and more waterfalls and more still lakes.

Way Home 1

Way Home 2

Way Home 3

Way Home 4

Way Home 5

Way Home 6

Vince and I:Vince and I

Edited by FatTexan on 07/23/2013 21:47:52 MDT.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Grand Sawtooth Loop on 07/23/2013 20:59:16 MDT Print View

Excellent pictures and TR!!

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Grand Sawtooth Loop (Grandjean to Grandjean) on 07/23/2013 21:23:11 MDT Print View

Careful with those sliding slabs of death! Great pictures and writeup!

Kevin Garrison
(kgarrison) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area
Great Trip on 07/23/2013 22:41:03 MDT Print View

Chris, thanks for the great write-up and pics. I'm really looking forward to seeing this area next week. Our plan is to approach Sawtooth Lake from the Iron Creek Trailhead.

I'm thinking about one deviation from your path, however. Rather than following Baron Creek downstream thru the valley, I'm thinking about crossing the North Fork of Baron Creek and heading on a cross country route south in the general direction of Baron Peak. We'd take a pass just to the east of Baron Peak. On paper, this looks like a great alternate to the long stroll thru the valley toward Baron Lake(s). I understand that the path thru the valley may be overgrown. Did this look possible?

We'll also be heading cross country from Spangle Lake towards Heart Lake and the Alpine Creek drainage. The plan is to exit via the Alpine Creek trailhead near Alturas Lake.

James Castleberry
Fantastic TR! on 07/23/2013 22:48:13 MDT Print View

OMG at many of the photos. I'm sure the maker of your tent will want copies of your campsite pics. Stunning views, with great pitches. Really an enjoyable TR.

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
Route details on 07/28/2013 15:46:45 MDT Print View

Kevin, two things: your idea of moving cross country thru the NF of Baron is really really difficult. There is one small pass, and it is really hard to find and get over. The ridge here is almost vertical, and very loose. You lose site of the notch very easily, and you are more often than not forced to retreat all the way. It is much easier to use the trail down the NF. Locals usually don't take this trail, as we typically don't include that area on our way to Baron. The trail up to Baron is not in a valley, its almost a 10 mile climb up the drainage! Its different for visitors who are trying to get as much of the range as possible on their trip. As for the other route, there is indeed a cross country route that takes you out at the Alpine Cr drainage. It is accessed via the Flytrip Cr area, (Camp Lake) and on the map will take you over a saddle just above Lake 9167. The saddle is just south of Snowyside Peak, and you can see it on the map right where the counties of Elmore and Blaine are printed on the topo map. There is good traveling thru there, and then a good use trail that takes Alpine Creek all the way out to the trail junction before continuing on to the TH at Alturas. Just follow the outlet stream at Lake 9167 and stay on that and you will be good!

Chris, I think some of your pics were mixed up. The granite spires with three triangular shaped faces are the peaks at Baron Lakes not Cramer. These sometimes are referred to as the Verita Spires, but the true Monte Verita spires are farther West in the Warbonnet area. Big Baron Spire above the lake is a true landmark in the climbing world as another one of Fred Beckey's crazy routes way back when! Great trip, glad you enjoyed the Sawtooths and its wonderful lakes!

Edited by idahosteve on 07/28/2013 15:52:17 MDT.

Kevin Garrison
(kgarrison) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: Sawtooth Route Input on 07/31/2013 09:10:29 MDT Print View

Steve, terrific input. You've clearly spent a lot of time in the area. We just finished the trip 2.5 days. My son was in a hurry. LOL. By the way, we really enjoyed the bypass up Flytrip Cr and over the pass south of Snowyside. The upper Alpine Creek Drainage was beautiful.

I'll put up a trip report with more detail. If you have any other suggested trips in the area, let me know.

Christopher Chupka

Locale: NTX
Mixed Up on 07/31/2013 10:05:28 MDT Print View

I am sure you are right about the pics being mixed up. I have almost 300 photos from the trip. Too many beautiful lakes to keep track of. I need to start some sort of trail journal.

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
awesome area and trips! on 07/31/2013 10:42:07 MDT Print View

hey guys, way to go on getting up here to Idaho and enjoying the area! Its really cool for me to hear about folks traveling to Idaho and hiking in the Sawtooths.

Taking tons of pictures is so easy now with a digital camera. I found out this year after returning from the JMT that I had shot over 400 pics! Trying to keep track is insane! Its all good!

The route thru Flytrip is awesome, glad you guys went that way. Really outrageous country up there!

Just really excited for you both and your trips!

Mike Schasch
(MSchasch) - F
Yo on 08/14/2013 19:37:31 MDT Print View

Nevermind, answered my own question.

Edited by MSchasch on 08/14/2013 19:59:42 MDT.

John Taylorson
(heyjt) - M

Locale: SoCal
Next Time... on 08/18/2013 18:43:26 MDT Print View

Great report and pics! I'll have to put that trip on my bucket list.