Lemhi Riddle

The Riddler 11,598′ – Lemhi Range

I’ve often wondered if anyone has skied the Riddler. It seems to be one of those obscure peaks, even for summer peak baggers despite stunning views of the peak from its popular neighbor, Diamond Peak. Not to say that people don’t visit the Riddlers summit, but you rarely hear of such an occurance.

It is a complex mountain with a difficult summit to obtain. Some visitors traverse from Diamond Peak and scramble to the summit of the Riddler via its teetering and chossy 4th class North Ridge. Rick Baugher reports another route on its southeast face. Mike Howard has made a solo ascent of the North Face.  All require a bit more effort than its taller neighbor to the north, making for an obscured summit in the Lemhis.

Lets get back to skiing.

I find great pleasure in making the path less travelled the object of my desires. Enter the idea of skiing the Riddler. The taller and more popular neighbor, Diamond Peak, see’s the bulk of ski traffic for the Lemhis which for some reason moves it down in the list of personal projects. Wierd, i know.

Heather took the day off from school and Turbo joined in on the fun. He’s always keen to drink the cool-aid of an adventure to the unknown and Heather is on a personal journey to explore what she’s capable of doing. So, armed with an idea, we left the car at the end of Pass Creek Road and made the unexpectedly pleasant hike and skin up the broad basin separating Big Boy Peak from the Riddler.

The morning temps were cold and the snow firm. Travel was easy albeit a lengthy distance from the car to the upper basin between Big Boy and the Riddler. We plodded alongside a large amount of day old wet slide debris as we climbed steeply up the final head-wall on the southeast face. Temps were heating up and the final short stretch of steep couloir to the summit was laden with heavy soft snow over a hard crust. The warming temps and the intense solar radiation in the confines of the sun-baked couloir combined with the reactiveness of the snow prompted the prudent decision to stop just short of the summit. Already on 40+ degree slopes with boulders and cliffs below; even a small wet slide could send us into and/or over obstacles with consequences.

We soaked up the sun and light breeze as we switched to downhill mode. Heather and I then watched from a safe perch as Turbo skied the steep head-wall into the basin below. Heather followed…

As the southeast face twisted left below the north side of Big Boy Peak, we skied some fun alpine features and dropped into the basin below.

Eventually we ended up below tree line and continued skiing good corn snow in the lower elevations. Just over 4,000′ of continuous skiing later, we took our skis off, attached them to our packs, changed from ski boots to hiking shoes, and strolled back down the canyon to Pass Creek, and eventually the car. No thrashing, struggling, blisters, or central Idaho epics. Just a perfect spring day in the mountains with two of my best friends.

A far away snow capped Diamond Peak in the background as Heather casually walks toward Pass Creek after skiing the southeast face of the Riddler.

~Dean Lords


8 responses to “Lemhi Riddle

  1. So, what you are saying is Diamond gets too much traffic? Dean! You would be lucky, or unlucky in your case, to ever see anyone on Diamond no matter what time of year it is. That is not to say that the Riddler isn’t a great destination, but dude….. you can’t seriously tell me that is a valid reason to choose between the two!!!!

    Just giving you a hard time!! Nice day to do this sort of thing, today looks great too, wish I was there. You had way more fun than me yesterday, no doubt about it!! Great TR!

    Question…how far were you able to drive in, and exactly where did you park?

  2. Ha, JB! It was the complexity and obscurity of the Riddler that beat out Diamond, not the traffic! Actually i’m quite mystified with the South Face of Diamond as a descent line. It has been done many times, but that doesn’t matter, a good line is a good line!

    You were on my mind a bit as i wandered through those Lemhi Canyons with skis on my pack. I wondered if i’d turn the corner and see you and your snowboard up ahead of us…

    We were able to easily drive to the very end of the Pass Creek Road. Instead of turning right for Diamond, we continued up Pass Creek. There is a nice camping area at the end of the road and a good atv trail heading up the canyon from there, which we followed for about 30 minutes before turning west up our chosen canyon to follow a faint cow trail. It was a very nice hike to the snowline and and easy travel after that as well.

    Thanks for the comment! It put a big smile on my face!

    Dean Lords

  3. Well, I didn’t see that coming, Riddler is fun climb but I never would have thought to ski it. that upper bit is exceedingly complex, akin to skiing in a pinball machine I’d guess. I’d also be be confident saying skis haven’t been on that face before. That’s a long huck back in there!

  4. Yeah Wes, it’s a pretty long way back in there but i would definately say it is easy going. The Southeast Face, combined with the basin between Big Boy and the Riddler, make for a very high quality ski mountaineering experience. I would recomend it to anyone as a worthy objective. The final couloir would be easily skied with good conditions. The length is signficant and the position is spectacular, but you gotta enjoy putting some miles on your shoes and seeing a lot of country side in the process!


    • Hi Dallin.
      I do not recall what time of year it was; spring I think, but don’t quote me on that. What I do know is that Mike Howard is one of the most accomplished winter mountaineers in Idaho. His extensive accomplishments in the Lemhis and Lost River Range are extremely impressive. Not to mention his exploits in the other great Idaho ranges.

  5. I was just curious. A buddy and I are planning a trip up the north face next winter and we can’t find any trip reports from previous ascents. If you have any additional information that would be most helpful.

    I’m sad I don’t know more about Mike Howard but his reputation in Idaho is outstanding.

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