Fenn Mountain
Great Climb to the Highpoint of the Selway Crags
September 12, 2013
Big Fog Mountain (7122') -
Legend Lake Peak (7515') -
Fenn Mountain (8021')
Fenn Mountain above the lowest Southern Three Links Lake

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The Selway Crags are a located in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness of north central Idaho. This is remote terrain, located just east of where the Selway River and Lochsa River converge to form the Middle Fork Clearwater River. The Selway Crags are made up of a tight grouping of impressive granite peaks intermingled with small but very pretty alpine lakes.

Michael and I had locked in a Thursday to go climbing, but as the day got closer the weather forecast was looking wet for our original target. So we had to get creative. After sampling pinpoint forecasts all over the place, we decided going north was the best option. A couple hours before departure time on Wednesday, we finally decided on Fenn Mountain in the Selway Crags, which was way north. The area had been on my wishlist for a long time as a backpacking destination, but was always passed by because of the long driving distance... We left Boise at about 6pm and embarked on our almost seven hour drive (yes seven hours) to the trailhead. The last 13 miles took an hour all on their own has we drove up the steep dirt road to the trailhead at Big Fog Saddle. It was well after 1am by the time we layed out our sleeping bags and fell asleep under one of the most amazing star filled skies I have ever seen.

We slept fast, and were up the next morning and on the trail by just after 7am. Our planned route was to go up the ridge over Big Fog Mountain and "Legend Lake Peak" (Peak 7515'), then drop into the Three Links Creek drainage on our way to Fenn Mountain, the highpoint of the range. The trail started out in the trees, but in less than a mile we were up on the open ridge with great views all around us. It was a very scenic area, and we could see the route stretched out in front of us. It took us about an hour on the trail to reach the rounded summit of Big Fog Mountain, which gave us great views of the Montana Bitterroot Mountains to the east. One peak in particular caught our eye, which Michael later researched and determined to be El Capitan. Very impressive.

The trail disappeared at Big Fog Mountain, but the going was easy as we stayed in open terrain along the ridge. The morning sun was shining on leaves in the underbrush that had already turned color to orange. It made for a beautiful contrast to the white granite and evergreen shrubs along our route. We picked up the trail again near the saddle marked with point elevation
6795' on the map. It stayed level for a while, but we left the trail once it started descending to Legend Lake, a popular hiking destination. Instead we headed back up to the ridge for some boulder hopping and winding back and forth in between various outcroppings and other rocky obstacles. It was a bit slow at times, but no real challenges.

We covered the first four-plus miles of our day in about two hours, and made it to the summit of "Legend Lake Peak" at just after 9am. It was a great place for a quick snack before starting our descent toward the 7100' saddle just to the west. From the saddle we had a good view of the south face of Fenn Mountain, and the gully leading down to the lowest of the South Three Links Lakes. We could see there were no obstacles, so down we went to the lake, with just a little bushwhacking down low.

After circling around the west side of the lake, and a quick stop at the creek to pump water, it was time to start the 1800' climb up the south face of Fenn Mountain. The terrain wasn't too steep down low, but the underbrush was much thicker than it looked from a distance, and was probably the crux of the entire day! But we forged onward, finally breaking free from the brush about halfway up. From that point on, it was just mostly class 2 climbing up to the ridge, then over to the summit.

I enjoyed a most excellent PB&J on the top of Fenn Mountain, a fitting way to celebrate my 200th mountain summit. I don't remember what Michael ate, but I'm sure it wasn't anywhere near as good as my lunch. But I digress... The view of the surrounding craggy granite peaks and numerous lakes was awesome. We were particularly impressed with Florence Lake. On the way up, we had debated about following the ridge over to Jesse Pass to avoid descending to the lake and having to climb back out. But the ridge looked tedious at best, so we decided to retrace our path back down instead of risking the unknown given the late night of driving we already had ahead of us.

Climbing back down the upper section was no problem, but the brush further down was not as easy. It was a mixture of waist to chest high brush intermingled with calf high grass disguising occasional rocky sections. But we survived without and major mishaps and were happy when we finally arrived back at the creek to fill up with water again.

Now all that was left was the 1200' climb back up to the ridge. I always love uphill on the way back to the car. NOT! It was slow going, but the scenery was great, and skies were blue, so its hard to complain too much. Then we contemplated maybe hiking down to the very pretty looking Canteen Meadows and hike out from there. But again decided better safe than sorry, so we headed on up the ridge. Fatigue was setting in, but the scenery was just too darn pretty to not be in a good mood on the hike out. We made it back to the car by a little after 6pm, after having covered 13 miles and 5600' feet of elevation gain in 11 hours. Now all that was left was a seven hour drive back to Boise, and work the next morning at 8am. Gotta love it!


Map of the route, 13 miles and 5600' elevation gain round trip.
Map of the route, 13 miles and 5600' elevation gain round trip.
First big view of The Selway Crags as the trail crests the ridge, looking across Canteen Meadows with Fenn Mountain in the distance.
First big view of The Selway Crags as the trail crests the ridge, looking across Canteen Meadows with Fenn Mountain in the distance.
Morning light on the trail to Big Fog Mountain.
Morning light on the trail to Big Fog Mountain.
Sun rising over the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana. The eye catching peak is El Capitan.
Sun rising over the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana. The eye catching peak is El Capitan.
Looking back at the glacial polished northeast face of Big Fog Mountain.
Looking back at the glacial polished northeast face of Big Fog Mountain.
We did a fair amount of boulder hopping while on the ridge.
We did a fair amount of boulder hopping while on the ridge.
Legend Lake.
Legend Lake.
Looking back south on the connecting ridge from Big Fog Mountain to Legend Lake Peak.
Looking back south on the connecting ridge from Big Fog Mountain to Legend Lake Peak.
First full view of Fenn Mountain from the saddle to the south.
First full view of Fenn Mountain from the saddle to the south.
South face of Fenn Mountain from the lowest of the South Three Links Lakes.
South face of Fenn Mountain from the lowest of the South Three Links Lakes.
Crossing Three Links Creek at the base of Fenn Mountain's south face.
Crossing Three Links Creek at the base of Fenn Mountain's south face.
About midway up the gully on the south face of Fenn Mountain.
About midway up the gully on the south face of Fenn Mountain.
Looking back down the south face gully. The saddle we descended from is in the background.
Looking back down the south face gully. The saddle we descended from is in the background.
Climbing the northeast ridge of Fenn Mountain.
Climbing the northeast ridge of Fenn Mountain.
Splattski style shot on the summit of Fenn Mountain.
Splattski style shot on the summit of Fenn Mountain.
Florence Lake and Chimney Peak from the summit of Fenn Mountain.
Florence Lake and Chimney Peak from the summit of Fenn Mountain.
Looking south from the summit of Fenn Mountain. Big Fog Mountain on the left, Jesse Pass on the far right.
Looking south from the summit of Fenn Mountain. Big Fog Mountain on the left, Jesse Pass on the far right.
Panoramic view from the summit of Fenn Mountain, stretching from Florence Lake to Elizabeth Lake.
Panoramic view from the summit of Fenn Mountain, stretching from Florence Lake to Elizabeth Lake.
Looking up at Jesse Pass from where we stopped to pump water from Three Links Creek on the way back.
Looking up at Jesse Pass from where we stopped to pump water from Three Links Creek on the way back.
Almost back to the trailhead.
Almost back to the trailhead.

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