Story and photos by Wyatt Caldwell
After returning to Idaho from an incredible trip to Haines, AK, this year, Chris Coulter and I were still hungry for a spring snow-camping adventure. We heard word that our fellow teammates Zach Crist and Eric Leidecker were going to make a ski traverse across the Boulder White Clouds Mountains, and they were going to need a food restock about halfway through their journey. Chris and I were quick to volunteer for the job of bringing in Kent McBride to meet up with Eric, Zach, and their photog and good friend, Cody Doucette.
The crew set out touring from the SNRA headquarters, north of our hometown of Ketchum, ID, and began the trip north. The next day, Reggie Crist and I jumped in a plane with Lexi Dupont and her dad, Chris Dupont, to fly over to the boys, and they hiked and skied off the first peak of their trip. We also flew out farther north to scout the route for sleds and a place to camp near Castle Peak, a monster mountain that we planned to hike and ride. I was so excited to be able to fly over to mountains I have been exploring for 10 years on sleds and finally see the way into many zones that become very hard to navigate on the ground due to dense trees and creek crossings. I was able to get a few good pics of Zach, Eric, and Cody hiking this massive peak as well as a few good aerial shots of Castle to help orient myself geographically for later when lost on the sleds.
Chris, Kent, Lexi, Spencer Cordavono, and I set off in a blizzard on snowmobiles and traveled about 8 miles east, directly into the remote Boulder White Cloud mountain range to meet up with the crew as they crossed a known mining road on their way north across the range. We successfully met up with them despite the blizzard and traveled by sled about another 7 miles deep into the range. We traveled till dark before setting up camp at the base of a creek tributary that flowed out of the Chamberlin Basin where Castle Peak was located.
After attempting to get the sleds as close as possible, we were shut down by steep hillsides above raging creeks and set off on splitboards with our huge packs on our backs to catch up with Eric, Zach, Kent, and Cody, who had been hiking since dawn. We enjoyed every minute of camping and hanging out in the mountains with our new teammates and learning new techniques to stay comfortable and pack light while winter camping.
I felt privileged to be able to spend any time in the mountains with these guys because their knowledge of the mountains and how to winter camp is invaluable. I have never thought it possible to camp in the winter for 8 days, travel on foot over huge mountains, and have as small of a backpack as these guys were carrying. Their scene is truly on point. Every last ounce of weight is only what they need, nothing they don’t. Unlike my half pound of carnitas I brought, which froze after the first meal never to unthaw, or my 20-degree sleeping bag that made me freeze and lose sleep in 6-degree temps. So much for spring camping. The night temps were unseasonably low, and our snowboard boots were frozen solid until at least a half hour sitting in the morning sun.
We all hiked a line off of Castle and got incredible powder turns just as the sun was about to bake it into hot pow from the 6-plus inches that had fallen the night before on our approach. Chris, Spencer, and I said our goodbyes to the crew as we left to go back to our sleds and head out for civilization. Zach, Eric, Kent, and Cody continued on five more days trekking across the remote jagged ridges into the frozen lake basins that make up the Boulder White Cloud mountain range.
It will never cease to amaze me how massive the mountains are in our backyard, 20 miles away from the desert of southern Idaho! Thanks to Chris Dupont for the truly epic flight and the insight on how to keep exploring this mountain range for many years to come.
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