The Sawtooth Range in central Idaho is one of the most beautiful and overlooked alpine climbing destinations in the United States. Only two and a half hours northeast of Boise (1hr north of Sun Valley), these mountains tower above the tiny town of Stanley and offer an incredibly pristine setting in which to climb.
Topping out under 11,000 feet, these granite peaks cover an area roughly 30 miles tall and 20 miles wide. The range was protected by Congress in 1972 when they designated it the Sawtooth Wilderness and a National Recreation Area. The Sawtooths are also one of the pilot sites for the 'Fixed Anchor Ban', so new routing can be tricky. Fortunately the rock is often vertically fractured, lending itself to natural protection.
The best month for rock climbing is August, but there is some type of climbing to be had all year long. Many impressive couloirs split the jagged peaks and towers and exposed alpine scrambles are far too numerous to count. Winter here is very cold.
The Elephant's Perch is the center of rock climbing in the range, offering 25+ routes from 5.9 to A4 and up to 12 pitches in length. Other standouts include the Finger of Fate, The Super Slabs, Barron Spire, Mount Heyburn, Blue Rock Buttress, and the extremely remote North and South Rakers.
Though the rock quality is impeccable in some places, there is no shortage of bad rock in this range, so expect some adventure when you're off the beaten path.
There is no modern guidebook to the area, but many of the classics have topos that can be found online. Beyond that, the best overview for the range may be Idaho - A Climbers Guide by Tom Lopez.
Stanley offers a few restaurants, a small grocery, laundry, and hotel rooms during the summer tourist season.
From the west on Interstate 84:
1. Take the ID-21 / GOWEN ROAD exit- EXIT 57- toward IDAHO CITY. 2. Follow ID-21 for 3 hours through Idaho City and Lowman to reach Stanley.
From the east on Interstate 84:
1. Turn north on 93 (used to be 75) near Twin Falls. 2. 93 will become 75 and leads over Galena Pass into the Sawtooth Valley.
From the northeast:
1. Take 93 south through Challis. 2. A few miles south of Challis turn right (west) on 75 and proceed to Stanley.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for The Sawtooth Range:
This is a great Idaho climb. The mountain is very prominent and beautiful. The climb is not too difficult, but should be taken with someone who has mountaineering experience, or has been before. Climbing it in the winter or spring presents many more challenges and dangers. In winter slipping down is an important issue that should be addressed. All members of your climbing party should be able to adequately self-arrest with an ice axe in the event of a slip. Slipping down many parts of the mounta...[more]Browse More Classics in ID