Sawtooth Mountains

Chasing Summer’s Tail Climbing in Idaho’s Sawtooths and Castle Rocks

By Michael Lanza

In the dead-calm, 30-degree, predawn chill of a fall morning, our headlamp beams bore into the enveloping darkness on a trail through lodgepole pine forest in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Stars salt what we can see of the sky through the trees. We’re not saying much, a little tired after having driven out here too late last night to camp, and not slept quite enough before rising at 5 a.m.

But then, it’s probably wise of us to hoard our energy in reserve, given the day laid out before us: at least 14 miles of hiking, with roughly two of those miles off-trail and nearly 4,000 feet of up and down, plus a couple pitches of rock climbing to a summit neither of us has stood on before.

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