Little Diamond Peak 11,272′ – Lemhi Range
The south and easterly aspect of Little Diamond Peak when viewed from the Birch Creek Valley caught my eye several years ago. At the time i was looking for interesting winter climbing; not possible ski lines. From a distance, the upper reaches of the East Ridge appears nearly fin like as it rises the remaining 600 vertical feet from a 10,650′ (approx) sub peak. Continuing east from this sub summit on the East Ridge an eye-catching spoon-like headwall and gully drops steeply for more the 2,200′ into the Pass Creek Valley below.
The 4:07am alarm left little to be desired. Shortly after, Heather and I were headed into Rexburg to pick up our friend Morris before continuing on to Sage Junction where we would rendezvous with Turbo, Ricardo, and Wade.
Our crew was six large… maybe the biggest ski possy the Lemhis have ever seen??
As the first hint of light made it way into the eastern sky our two vehicles loaded with skis, packs, and tired bodies sped toward Eightmile Canyon; the starting point for our “up and over” approach to Little Diamond Peak.
“I knew there would be snow…”
Our two vehicles stopped short by snowdrifts across the road, crushing my hopes of making it to the end of the Eightmile Canyon Road. Without question, we shouldered our packs and headed toward the North Fork of Eightmile. Back and forth between snow and frozen mud, our six pack hiked through the early morning hours toward a high mountain pass that would take us into the upper reaches of Pass Creek and eventually, the base of Little Diamond Peak.
Heather and Wade making their way around small cliff bands
We made quick work of the cross-country approach despite switching back and forth between hiking and skinning a few times. After reaching the mountain itself, we climbed toward that moment we would know if our intended ski line would go. The anticipated answer of what the final 600′ to the summit would offer concealed itself behind the summit of 10,650′.
Breath taking scenery in every direction made the chore of steep uphill travel quite enjoyable. Lemhi giants crowded the sky to our north and south, the southern end of the Lost River Range to our west, and the Birch Creek Valley and the minuscule Tetons to the east.
Directly behind sub peak 10,650′ a narrow knife-edge ridge leading to several cliff bands with very steep and exposed slopes above put to bed our idea of skiing from the summit back down the East Ridge to the “must ski” spoon on the east face of 10,650′.
We soaked up the sun and scenery as we prepared for the down, and one by one we skied a short pitch from the sub summit to the top of a nice long 40 degree headwall.
Leap frogging down the headwall and into the gully below, we’d ski long pitches of excellent corn snow until our legs burned and our turns got sloppy forcing occasional pit stops in random safe zones. The spoon seemed to go on forever as the six of us whooped and hollered into the Pass Creek Valley below! Near the end our good snow turned isothermal; bringing about the unexpected trap door in random places scenario.
Turbo and Ricardo broke out in front and took on the horrific task of breaking trail in isothermal snow back to the top of the pass that would drop us back into the North Fork of Eighmile. Eventually, we all arrived back at the shoe tree ( the tree where we changed from hiking shoes to ski boots and then hung our shoes in the tree to retrieve on our way back). Shortly after switching back to hiking shoes we made our way into Eightmile Canyon and followed the road back to our cars.
As we drove toward Sage Junction, Little Diamond Peak glittered in the afternoon sun as i stared out the back window.
An excellent Lemhi adventure behind us and another one ahead of us.