Tue Mar 5, 2024 03:16 PST

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String Cheese Incident

Warbonnet Lake, Sawtooths, Idaho

August 19 - 21, 2005. Adrian Pfisterer, Gary Chadwick, Mike Sharpes

Gary, Mike, and I backpacked in to Warbonnet Lake. What a beautiful basin. It was one of the hardest hikes I've done in years. Start at 6550' and climb to 9450' (almost 3000') over about 7 miles and two saddles. Then descend 500' feet to the lake. Not a lot of miles but it was tough terrain once we left the trail near Alpine Lake.

Everything was just perfect for the trip:

  • weather (not too hot during the day nor too cold at night; sunny the whole time)
  • fishing
  • degree of difficulty on the hike
  • scenery
  • solitude (had the whole Warbonnet Basin to ourselves on a weekend in August)
  • company (aw...shucks)

See the map at the bottomfor our route.

Next to Redfish Creek near the start of the hike.

Looking across Alpine Lake at the ridge we would have to deal with to get into the Warbonnet Lake basin. The chute we ascended is just behind the left-most peak in this picture.

Above Alpine lake at about 8500' heading to the bottom of the chute.

At the bottom of the steep part. The chute winds around to the left.

Mike, Gary, myself.

Ready to start the climb.

Not much snow at all compared to two years ago when I did this same gully. The snow was so much easier to walk on.


Nearing the top. It was a bit of a scramble up there. The whole chute was about 900' and just kept getting steeper. At least we were in the shade for part of it.

From the saddle at about 9450' looking north and back down our ascent. We decided at this point to consider alternative routes down; it would have been really difficult descending with full packs.

Mike, Gary, myself.

This is the saddle we would have to side-hill over to. That was actually trickier than the chute we had just come up. This saddle sits between the Upper Redfish basin (drains to the Salmon River) and the Warbonnet Basin (drains to the Payette River). So water falling on either side of this saddle by inches ends up joining the Snake River over 140 miles apart and takes vastly different routes.

Aaaaahhhh....our destination. We camped just on the other side of the 2nd lake (Lower Warbonnet).

Sunset on the Sawtooths. It took us about 8 hours to get in but we had a couple of lengthy breaks (one for Mike to ice his ankle in Redfish Creek due to a minor roll of the ankle).

Camp. Getting settled in.

Nice, healthy little cutthroat. The fishing was excellent. The fish were a bit small (average about 10")in Lower Warbonnet but very plentiful and hungry. Panther Martins were working best although at one point I threw a grasshopper (a real one) in the water and it was scarfed up within 20 seconds. Gary then proceeded to catch 4 fish on 4 grasshoppers in the space of about 10 minutes.
The fish in Warbonnet Lake were bigger. Gary claims he got a couple of 16" but that story can't be corroborated.
On Saturday we took an afternoon trip down valley to Feather Lakes and Bead Lakes. The fishing was below average in Feather Lakes but very good in Bead Lakes.
It was about this time it occurred to Gary where the naming of these lakes came from. Feathers and beads are things one would put on a Warbonnet.

Ready to begin the hike out.

This is the wall we'd have to ascend to get out.

At the saddle between Upper Redfish Lakes and Warbonnet Lake. Elk Peak is the high one in the back.

On our way out the plan was to sidehill around the south side of the ridge in an east-by-southeast direction to descend a different chute (to avoid the long, steep chute we had come up). We hit the ridge too early and my jaw just dropped when I looked down this chute thinking we'd have to descend it or go back. Turns out there is a much easier descent further down the ridge just to the east of point 9337.

On the way down the "easy" descent.

Cleaning up at Flat Rock.

Mike body surfing.

At last! A nice cold one at the end! What a great trip.

Map of our route. It was about 7 miles in and about the same out.