When I moved to Idaho in 2011, the first thing I did was get a copy of "Idaho, A Climbing Guide" by Tom Lopez. I scoured this book, many internet sites, and lots of topo maps looking for potential adventures close to my new home. The closest steepish named mountain that I could find was Cervidae Peak.
It has one steep trail to the top, as well as a handful of class 2 and 3 routes. After visiting the peak several times, and hiking several of the routes to the top (The Rocks Route in the winter is sweet Class 3 rock and ice!), I was happy to have such easy access to almost 2,000 ft of elevation gain straight out of my car, and only a short drive from home!
|Me on the Rock Route on Cervidae Peak in February, 2012|
|Add ankle weights and a heavy pack to Cervidae and you've got yourself one heck of a workout!|
And they danced, and they danced, but I never got around to doing it. Prior to the recent awakening of my running addiction, I typically tried to prioritize my adventures based on their climbing/hiking ratio, preferring options with more technical climbing, and less hiking. At 23 miles round trip with not a lick of climbing, this trip never made it to the top of my list . . . and yet, the thought of linking the peaks together via a seldom-traveled, aesthetic ridge continued to stew in my mind . . .
Fast forward to 2014: My focus has shifted to "running", although my ideal runs still take place in, on, and over the mountains. With the distances and elevation gains of my regular runs increasing, new mountainous possibilities seem to be opening up that I previously would have deemed too far to travel in one day.
In January, I decided to give the Cervidae-Heinen linkup a try. Thinking myself fast and invincible, I packed stupidly light for the mountains in winter, bringing only a light fleece and an uber-light windbreaker as a jacket to supplement my t-shirt and soft shell pants. Since there wasn't much snow in town, I wore running shoes with no gaiters. I made it about 5 miles along what would end up being an 11 1/2 mile (one way) run, before the shin-deep post-holing and howling icy winds convinced me to turn back. Mountain travel in January in Idaho demanded more respect than I had given.
|A clear but cold and windy January day somewhere on the ridge between Cervidae and Heinen|
I tried, and failed. Now I REALLY wanted it! Nothing like getting your ass handed to you to motivate you come back and succeed!
This past Saturday I went after it again. The forecast was still iffy (30% chance of rain), so I traded the wind breaker for a hard shell jacket. Temps were warm enough that I could ditch all the warm layers and just go with shorts and a shirt. I thought I'd be running for about 4 or 4 1/2 hours (guessing incorrectly a round trip of 21 miles with 6000 feet of elevation gain), so I decided to pack 9 Gus (figuring 1 every 30 minutes), plus a banana for good measure. I knew there would be no water on the route, but it wasn't supposed to be too hot and I didn't want a heavy pack, so I brought only 40 ounces total. That's it. Such is the beauty of "trail" running, there is no rope or rack to weigh you down!
The trail to Cervidae Peak starts out steep, and stays that way the whole way up! It gains about 1,900 feet in less than 2 1/2 miles. I tried to keep my pace in check since this was but the warm up. Using a combination of hiking and running, I gained the summit of Cervidae in about 47 minutes. I said hello to a few hikers who were lounging on the summit, and got some weird looks when I blasted past them instead of turning back the way I had come. From here I would be in no-mans land. There is no trail other than occasional sections worn in by herds of deer and elk that frequent the area.
|The trail to Cervidae Peak|
|Blue sky, white clouds, and green hills|
|Giant tent in the middle of nowhere (lower left)|
|The lone pine tree that marked my turn-around point in January|
|Looking back along the bumpy ridge. The top of Cervidae Peak can be seen peaking over the top of a spur ridge middle left.|
|Mount Heinen is in the far distance middle right.|
The next three miles of dirt road running would be the easiest and fastest portion of the route, despite the fact that I still gained over 1000 feet of elevation. It was sometime during this portion of the run that the clouds turned from white to dark. They appeared to be unleashing heavy rain in the distance, but thus far I was still dry. I kept moving.
Eventually the road petered out to nothing. Mount Heinen looked close now, except that it was on the other side of a steep and deep drainage! To get to the summit ridge, I would first have to find my way up and over the high-point at the top of that drainage which linked my ridge to Heinen.
|Mount Heinen. So close, yet so far away!|
|I would have to travel to the head of the drainage to get around and onto Heinen's summit ridge.|
|Better living through bushwhacking!|
|Summit baby, yeah!|
|Looking back along the summit ridge to the top of the drainage that I would need to cross on the way back.|
I ate my banana and took stock of my Gu supply. 3 left, plus about 10 ounces of water. I made a game plan as to where I thought I would consume the 3 Gus on the way back, and made sure to conserve enough water to wash them all down. Yippee! The adventure continues!
On the way back down I managed to find a better way through the brush, but the going still was not terribly fast. I was getting fatigued, and there was still a lot of climbing! I ate one Gu after finding my way back across the top of the drainage and onto the main ridge. I ran the road, and then ran fairly quickly back down the long descending ridge. It hailed for a short bit on my way down, and I thought perhaps one of the large storm clouds that I'd seen floating around all day had finally caught me, but after about a minute it stopped. That was the only precipitation I encountered all day.
At the bottom of the ridge I had planned to eat another Gu, but realized that one of them had fallen out of my pocket on the run down. Oops. Better wait awhile for that last Gu . . .
|Tired and hungry on the run back out.|
|As tired as I was I still had to stop and admire the wildflowers.|
|Third summit of the day (2nd time on this one)!|
|It's hard to beat springtime in Idaho!|
Finally I arrived at my car, 6 hours and 55 minutes after leaving. I celebrated a most excellent adventure with a chocolate milk on my way back home.
Final stats were 23.1 miles with about 8,900 feet of elevation gain.
Strava run data