Abe's Armchair
Elevation 9956'
February 26, 2010
43.8665°N / 114.8344°W
Nearing the summit of Abes Armchair

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Abe’s Armchair is located at the southeast corner of central Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, just south of Smiley Creek Lodge. When viewed from the north, the peak has two ridges that bear some resemblance to the arms of a chair, with the summit block as the head of the chair. It’s a good peak for a quick summer climb, but is also close enough to the highway to be within striking distance of a winter ascent.

I met up with Michael and Bob at Splattki’s house, and after a 3-hour drive, we hit the trail starting from the Vienna historical site sign at around 8:30. It was a balmy 15 degrees (warmer than expected for the Sawtooth Valley) and ambled along the flats towards the peak. Thanks to some snowmobile tracks we made good time, and reached the base of the mountain in about an hour. We’d originally planned to hit the toe of the northeast ridge, but the snowmobile trail was more than we could pass up. We eventually followed John’s nose off the road and found our way onto an old ski uptrack. It was already riddled with footprints, so we didn’t feel too bad about snowshoeing on it. We were later very thankful to find this trail, as the seemingly bottomless sugary snow on the route would have made it nearly impossible to summit today without a trail.

The trail switchbacked its way up through the trees, giving us a good workout. After a while, the terrain opened up and we began to have great views of the Sawtooths to our north, and the White Clouds across the valley behind us. Bob lead the way up the ridge on his splitboard, salivating over the abundant powder. We traversed to the north side of the summit ridge, then found a gap in the summit cornice to climb through before strolling the final hundred yards up to the summit. The views from the top were fantastic, and we spent some time identify the various peak that are visible form this part of the range.

After some brief discussion, Bob and head board headed back for some turns on the east side of the peak, while the rest of us decided to try our luck and head southwest along the ridge hoping to reach Vienna Peak. After a while it became apparent that turning back would be the best option. The conditions were slowing us down, some dark clouds were starting to roll in, and time just wasn’t on our side. So we decided to backtrack to the summit of Abes Armchair. Getting back to the top was a relief, and the climb back up had taken a lot out of us.

On the way back down we admired Bob’s track and met him a couple hundred feet below the summit. His game plan was to snowboard down the north face gully (the one visible from the highway) and meet us Smiley Creek Lodge. The rest of us would snowshoe back the way we’d come, then drive back to meet him.

As we made our descent, funky snow conditions and fatigue led to a face-plant or two for each of us. Surprisingly, none of the falls were caught on film. After what seemed like a long time, we made it back to the snowmobile tracks for the long trudge back to the car. It wasn’t really all that long, but it felt long on our tired legs. Our timing was just about perfect because shortly after we arrived,  we spotted Bob on the road not far from the lodge. He was in a pretty good mood after his ride. If you bring along your binoculars, you can probably look from the highway and still see his tracks up in the gully.

Our route was about 9 miles round trip and 3200' elevation gain. (Would have been 8 miles & 2700' without exploring.)
Our route was about 9 miles round trip and 3200' elevation gain. (Would have been 8 miles & 2700' without exploring.)
North side of Abes Armchair and Vienna Peak from the highway near Smiley Creek Lodge.
North side of Abes Armchair and Vienna Peak from the highway near Smiley Creek Lodge.
The east side of Abes Armchair from the flats.
The east side of Abes Armchair from the flats.
Bob on the lower slopes.
Bob on the lower slopes.
Climbing through open terrain as we neared the ridge.
Climbing through open terrain as we neared the ridge.
Looking across the valley at Castle Peak and the White Clouds.
Looking across the valley at Castle Peak and the White Clouds.
Bob shooting for the gap in the cornice.
Bob shooting for the gap in the cornice.
The final stretch to the summit.
The final stretch to the summit.
A colorful crew nearing the summit.
A colorful crew nearing the summit.
John heading southwest towards Vienna Peak.
John heading southwest towards Vienna Peak.
The view northwest into the Sawtooths.
The view northwest into the Sawtooths.
Vienna Peak, just out of our reach today.
Vienna Peak, just out of our reach today.
Returning to Abes, whose summit is kinda pointy from this side.
Returning to Abes, whose summit is kinda pointy from this side.
Nearing the summit of Abes, for the second time today.
Nearing the summit of Abes, for the second time today.
Michael heading across the flats on the way back to the car.
Michael heading across the flats on the way back to the car.

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