Vienna Peak
Elevation 10224'
January 21, 2013
43.8505°N / 114.8535°W
Vienna Peak

Related Links:

Vienna Peak is located in central Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains. It is at the southern end of the range, and is the highpoint of the ridge that separate Beaver Creek and Smiley Creek. There is an unofficial trail up Sawmill Canyon that makes for a nice hike in the summer, and Vienna is also one of only a small handful of 10,000 foot Sawtooth Peaks that can be reached during the winter in a single day trip.

I'd been eyeing Vienna as a snowshoe climb for a while now, and it seemed like a great choice when the folks from Outdoor Idaho contacted me about shooting some footage of a winter climb to be used in a mountaineering show they were working on. But as the date got closer, and I gained a better understanding of the filming process, I became concerned that we wouldn't have enough daylight to work with given the amount of time it would take to set up the various shots along the way. One idea was to send the TV crew and the heavy camera gear ahead on a snowmobile to save time and mileage. Eventually we decided it would be easiest logistically if we all just rode snowmobiles to the base of the peak. Normally, I would consider that "cheating", but I figure we mostly made up for it by carrying all the camera gear up the mountain.

After inviting various folks, and then a couple rescheduled dates, the group would end up being made up of George and John (Team R&R), along with Sauni, Tim, Jay, and Bruce from Outdoor Idaho. We all headed up Sunday afternoon to shoot "interviews" for the show, and then enjoyed a nice dinner and comfy night's stay at Smiley Creek Lodge. The next morning we had a rare opportunity for a hot breakfast before a climb, then hopped on the snowmobiles to ride to the base of the climb. There was an inversion, and it was almost ten below zero in the valley, so we bundled up for the ride across the flats.

We started the climb at the bottom of Sawmill Canyon. It was plenty cold in the beginning, but we warmed up quickly as we climbed through the trees. Early on we were treated to occasional views of the sunrise glow on the southeast face of Abe's Armchair. Navigation was easy as we followed some partially drifted over skier skin tracks from several days prior. After a while, the forest began to open up, and we made our way through a number of nice meadows in the middle portion of the canyon. The weather was perfect, and the sun sparkling on the snow made for some beautiful scenery along the way.

Our pace wasn't exactly setting any land-speed records, and eventually we split into two groups. Cameraman Jay and us three climbers forged ahead to the summit, while the rest of the crew took a more leisurely pace and shot footage from the very scenic basin below the peak. They ended up stopping at a great spot to take in the views of the impressive northeast face of Vienna Peak, and I think they may have even gotten some footage of us going up the ridge.

The terrain had been pretty gradual for most of the day, but the slope got steeper once we reached the head of the canyon at about 9200'. We continued to follow the mostly drifted over skin tracks as we switch-backed up the steeper open slopes below the ridge. Once on the ridge, we were treated to great views of the White Clouds, Boulder, and Smoky Mountains. The weather continued to be excellent, with barely a cloud in the sky and only a light wind blowing. Jay hung back and shot some footage of us hiking up the corniced ridge, then we waited for him to catch back up, then waited some more as he climbed up ahead of us to film us from the summit. Jay is an animal, and moved very well considering he was lugging around a 30 pound camera.

Once on the summit, we snapped some photos, ate lunch, took in the views, and did some more short interviews for the show. I'm sure the coverage of us three dynamic engineer types speaking into the camera will be riveting television. But hopefully the awesome scenery will make up for it. We set a quick pace on the way down, making it back to the trailhead in about eight hours round trip. It had been a beautiful day in the mountains, and a neat and unique experience to get a behind the scenes look at the process used by the crew from Outdoor Idaho. A very memorable day to say the least.


Map of the route, just under 7 miles round trip with 3000 elevation gain.
Map of the route, just under 7 miles round trip with 3000 elevation gain.
Celebrity interviews the afternoon before.
Celebrity interviews the afternoon before.
Breakfast at Smiley Creek Lodge before the climb. GeorgeR photo.
Breakfast at Smiley Creek Lodge before the climb. GeorgeR photo.
Making our way through the trees, near the bottom of Sawmill Canyon.
Making our way through the trees, near the bottom of Sawmill Canyon.
JohnR and Dave in a sparkly meadow on the way up. GeorgeR photo.
JohnR and Dave in a sparkly meadow on the way up. GeorgeR photo.
JohnR about to enter a stand of aspen.
JohnR about to enter a stand of aspen.
Lots of open meadows as we climbed up through Sawmill Canyon.
Lots of open meadows as we climbed up through Sawmill Canyon.
Dave in an open meadow on the way up Sawmill Canyon. GeorgeR photo.
Dave in an open meadow on the way up Sawmill Canyon. GeorgeR photo.
The summit of Vienna Peak comes into view.
The summit of Vienna Peak comes into view.
Good view of Vienna Peak as we near the ridge. GeorgeR photo.
Good view of Vienna Peak as we near the ridge. GeorgeR photo.
Nearing the north ridge of Vienna Peak.
Nearing the north ridge of Vienna Peak.
Looking down on Abe's Armchair, with the White Clouds in the background.
Looking down on Abe's Armchair, with the White Clouds in the background.
Looking up the north ridge of Vienna Peak.
Looking up the north ridge of Vienna Peak.
George making his way up the ridge.
George making his way up the ridge.
The camera looking down on us from the false summit.
The camera looking down on us from the false summit.
Vienna Peak summit.
Vienna Peak summit.
Abe's Armchair in the foreground, Castle Peak and the White Clouds in the distance.
Abe's Armchair in the foreground, Castle Peak and the White Clouds in the distance.
Splattski style shot of the four of us on the summit.
Splattski style shot of the four of us on the summit.
Jay shooting footage looking northwest across the Sawtooths.
Jay shooting footage looking northwest across the Sawtooths.
View of Peak 9367' at the end of the day.
View of Peak 9367' at the end of the day.

Follow IAZ on FB.

IdahoAlpineZone is unofficially sponsored by Skippy Peanut Butter.