On the morning of 31 August 2015, I left the campground and drove east before turning south onto US Highway 93. It was not long before I found the turnoff to Sawmill Gulch Road (FS-411). A bit rough in spots, this road climbs steadily from the highway up into a forested valley leading to Sawmill Pass which is the western approach for Leatherman Pass and its namesake peak. Although I probably could have driven all the way to a log barrier well within the valley, I decided to give my car a break and parked about 2 kilometres short. Doing so also added about 400 metres of extra elevation gain albeit on a rocky road which is quite easy to hike. Shortly after passing the log barrier, I left the road to hike up Sawmill Pass trail (FST-089) which is unsigned but fairly obvious (cairn). At one point, I lost the trail in a small glade, but a short bushwhack led me to an open creek bed which I followed briefly before climbing over a talus-covered ridge into the semi-open environs of Sawmill Pass. The trail is faint or sometimes non-existent here, but the route is still obvious. Instead of dropping down the east side of Sawmill Pass into Lone Cedar Creek, I stayed high by heading north and found the trail strengthening again as it traverses the southeast slopes of White Cap Peak. The trail forks beside a very large boulder about 300 metres short of Leatherman Pass, but either branch works. After taking a short break at Leatherman Pass, I followed game trails up the loose scree at the base of Leatherman Peak's west ridge. The scree eventually transitions to more rugged Class 3 terrain on the upper mountain which requires some route-finding and perseverance. The looseness of the rock here was reminiscent of that found in the Canadian Rockies--I felt like I was home! After what felt like a lengthy ordeal of traversing ribs and ascending chutes, I finally set foot on the spacious summit. I spent about half an hour there before commencing my descent.
While it had taken me about 2 hours to climb the 500 metres from
Leatherman Pass to the summit, it only took an hour for me to retrace my steps back down as I took advantage of some of the loose rock
to do some scree surfing. From the pass, I enjoyed a pleasant and
worry-free hike back to my car. I also built a more
obvious cairn in the small glade where I lost the trail earlier. Upon
returning to my car, I pulled out a lawn chair and sat in the shade of my
car to enjoy a cold drink and a teriyaki chicken wrap that I had bought at Atkinsons'.
It was a wonderfully satisfying moment after a fantastic day of hiking
and scrambling. After finishing off the wrap, I packed up and drove
back out to the highway. I would eventually head north to the town
of Challis where I checked into a much more reasonably-priced hotel for
the night. Borah Peak attracts all the attention to the northwest.
A lot of elevation gain can be saved
by driving up the Sawmill Gulch road, but a vehicle with high
clearance and possibly 4x4 capability is recommended.
A giant log effectively blocks any
motorized traffic except for maybe dirt bikes beyond this point.
The Sawmill Pass trail (FST-089) starts about 125 metres further
along the road.
Leatherman Peak and Bad Rock Peak
dominate the view east of Sawmill Pass.
From Sawmill Pass, a good trail
traverses the slope at far left to reach Leatherman Pass.
The West Fork Pashimeroi River valley
is an alternate approach to Leatherman Pass. Visible at left is
This is a foreshortened view of
Leatherman Peak's west ridge from Leatherman Pass.
The initial climb from Leatherman Pass
is mostly up loose scree as shown.
The terrain becomes more complex
Pass Lake is situated below Peak 11967
at left. On the right is Mount Idaho, the seventh highest peak
in the state.
This is typical of the Class 3 terrain
on the upper mountain.
Embedded in this rock are some
Sonny stands on the summit of
Leatherman Peak (3719 metres).
Here is a more comprehensive view of
Pass Lake, Peak 11967 (centre), and Mount Idaho (right). At
left is White Cap Peak.
The Lost River Range stretches away to
the southeast. At right is Mount Church, the third highest peak
A flag and a 4-iron are the most
notable items found in the summit cairn.
The Pioneer Mountains can be seen on
the horizon to the southwest. Sawmill Gulch (western approach
for Leatherman Peak) is visible at lower right.
Leatherman Peak remains prominent in
this view from the mouth of Sawmill Gulch.
This is Sonny's "trailhead".
Leatherman Peak is still visible in the distance.
Total Distance: 13.8 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 8 hours 55 minutes
Net Elevation Gain: 1494 metres
Borah Peak attracts all the attention to the northwest.