Chamberlain Basin and Castle Peak Idaho Aug 25 - 27, 2011

Gavin and I hiked to the Chamberlain Basin in the White Clouds in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and setup base camp so we could climb Castle Peak.

Here are a few good web sites.

The Road

Pole Creek road is fairly good traveling most of the way. The road is narrow in some spots that would make meeting another vehicle a problem. There are at least three or four significant creek crossings that make high ground clearance a necessity. We crossed late in the summer and some crossings were a foot deep. Earlier in the season I imagine it would be deeper. There is a sign identifying Three Cabins Creek and that is the trail head. There is a place to sign a register, but no distinct parking lot.

The Trail

The trail follows Germania Creek until it meets Washington Creek. Make sure to stay on the left fork of the trail near Washington Creek. The trail turns north and follows above Washington Creek until it comes to a right hand fork heading to Chamberlain Basin. From the turnoff near Washington Creek to the summit above Chamberlain Basin climbs 2300 feet in three miles, but it is very good trail. Here is an elevation map of the hike.

We camped at the first unnamed lake in the basin. There was one established camp site right off the trail. There were several good established campsites at Lake 9197 on the east side.


I think there were no fish in the lake where we camped and the same for Lake 9197. However in Lake 9477, there were lots of healthy cutthroat trout. In one hour of fishing and hiking, I caught three 12-14 inch cutthroat trout and one 10 incher. I was using only a caddis with a yellow body and had no problem getting strikes.

Climbing Castle Peak

We got to the south base of Castle Peak near Lake 9197 and starting climbing about 7am. I thought I had read somewhere that the recommended route from the south side was to follow the left gully and then cut right and follow the gully up to the left of the two peaks and then go up and down to get to the right peak, which is listed as the tallest point on the topo maps. However, after having come down the main gully between the two peaks, we realized we should have gone up that way, too. The zigzag lines on the descent showed places near where we could 'ski' down sections of smaller, loose rock. Those places of loose rock (talus) could be easily avoided on an ascent where there is lots of firm and solid rock. There are many sections of class 3 climbing and it was easy to find routes requiring class 4 and 5 moves. We found a trail near the bottom but it disappeared after a few hundred yards and we simply chose our routes as we went along. We saw no cairns marking a route. I would recommend going up the main gully (shown in green) and picking the easiest route at the approach to the right-most peak. We got to the top at 10am. The descent took two hours. If you like scrambling and can deal with the occaisional class 4 or 5 exposure, it is a really fun mountain to climb.

We ran into some fellow mountain climbers on our ascent.

The views from the top are awesome. The one above shows Chamberlain Basin to the south.

Useful links

Leave No Trace.