Seven-day 65-mile loop trip in August 2017 from trailhead off Slate Creek Road to replicate portions of 1975 and 1979 hikes. NAVIGATION INSTRUCTIONS: (1) To follow trip, start with red and green dots at top of map—trip started/ended at Slate Creek road. (2) Zoom in & out on Google map by clicking on + or – at in upper left. (3) Move around map (pan) by clicking “white hand” to hold & move map. (4) Click “Terrain” to change map backgrounds. (5) Remove photos, mileages or way points from map by unchecking “Layers” on upper right. (6) Enlarge photos (change size ratio of photos to map) by clicking tabs below “Layers” icon (top narrow bar gives largest photo and smallest map). (7) To view photos in location taken, click on “camera” icons throughout map. Captions above and below offer more information. (8) Also view photos in sequence under Points of Interest; click on photo to highlight corresponding camera icon on map. MAP DETAILS: (1) Numbers on map are mileage distances; may look confusing in a few places for out & back sections. (2) Software treats route as continuous, creating multiple mileages on out & back hike sections. Zoom in on orange route to see multiple tracks (slightly offset due to GPS error). (3) Map route made from Garmin BaseCamp software which seems to subsample track points underestimating mileage about 15%. (4) Note that photos at each campsite include Garmin 64st daily data log.




Created by: dc_chojnacky
Distance: 55.6 mi
Ascent: 15,868 ft
Date: 11/03/2017
Duration: 9,515 min
Descent: 15,808 ft
Tags: Trailless lake basins, Idaho wilderness
Difficulty: Experienced


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Points of Interest

Near trailhead parking for several vehicles
Began hike at four-way intersection on Slate Creek Road. Parked vehicle at Last Chance Creek trailhead on national forest, then hiked road on private land to Livingston Creek to old route up the creek. Overall loop was about 65 miles and included 33,000 feet total ascent and descent.
First trail signs
No trailhead sign but handmade sign and vehicle closure sign at a gate. Livingston Creek trail to Crater Lake is an illegal mining road (built in 1960s) that washed out about 20 years ago. Forest Service never repaired road as did not want to encourage use of basin.
Same Livingston Creek camp for Days 1 & 7
Mileages, miles per hour and ascent/descent were calculated from camp to camp using Garmin 64st GPS; these listed because BaseCamp maps appear to underestimate this mileage as much as 15%. For this camp, Day1 distance was 1 mile at 1.7 mph with 380 feet ascent and 140 feet descent; Day7 distance was 17.1 miles, 1.9 mph, 3450 feet ascent and 5275 feet descent
Steep scramble to Gunsight Pass
We more or less followed snow slides to right.
Fishing Gunsight Lake
David caught nice rainbow for dinner.
Looking back towards the “Gunsight”
Scramble down was easier than up from other side.
Day2 camp at Sheep Lake
Hiked 11.5 mi at 1.4 mph, climbing 4600 ft and descending 1550 ft according to Garmin tracking data. However, on Gunsight Pass noted GPS error added mileage in steep terrain (e.g. recorded 3.2 miles from Crater Lake to pass, probably closer to half that distance).
Neck Lake
Behind this lake is a ridge we crossed in 1979 and dropped into O’Calkens Lake Basin.
Cindy descending 1979
Perhaps dropping to O'Calkens basin from pass above Cirque or Neck lakes.
David's 1975 solo trip
In 1975 David did a solo loop through the White Clouds and the Sawtooths. He recalls hiking an old trail/route from O’Calkens Lake into Big Boulder Basin. Photo appears to be Big Boulder Basin as seen from a ridge.
Cindy's cautious descent
There were multiple eroded "social" and game trails down pass to Cirque Lake; Cindy elected to have David ferry her pack.
Snow Lake
We planned to follow ridge from above Snow Lake to Hidden Lake, but impending thunderstorm, a rugged-looking route and camp site uncertainty suggested more prudent basin route. But we dropped our packs and looped into this lovely basin.
Day3 camp at Island Lake
Rather than cross ridge and go further, we made a gentle cross country descent from higher lakes and stopped early because of rain. Daily tracking data: 5.4 mi at 1.4 mph distance climbing 1200 ft and descending1775 ft.
Shedding goat hair left on rocks
Encountered no mountain goats entire trip except viewing tiny specks grazing on Castle Peak; but greatly appreciated their pass and ridge routes.
Pass above Hummock and  Hidden Lakes
Castle Peak in background.
Pack free descent for Cindy
Red pack below was ferried down chimney by David; Cindy moved down using “butt-slide“ technique that ripped her pants.
Looking back to chimney we descended (lowest saddle)
This was most difficult descent of trip; and we wondered if we went up this route in 1979 to cross into Big Boulder Basin. Both of us remembered more of a trail then.
Mountain death camas and blue larkspur
All camus plant parts contain poisonous alkaloids more toxic than strychnine.
Trout cooked on fire at Quiet Lake camp
Fish broiled in own fats within aluminum foil, quite tasty.
Day4 camp at Quiet Lake
Daily tracking data: 6.1 mi distance at 1.2 mph climbing 2000 ft and descending 2070 ft.
Goats maintain trail
“Trail” often good if popular goat route restricted by terrain to common path; otherwise little trail from Quiet Lake.
Ridge route started out reasonable
In 1979, we hiked this ridge from Castle Divide trail #047 pass (above Chamberlain) to Boulder Basin.
Dropped off ridge after half mile
Ridge seemed rougher than we remembered in 1979, and camping in upper Chamberlain Basin looked inviting.
Saw more chipmunk than pica at high elevations
We recall more pica (coney) in past visits to White Clouds.
Day5 camp at upper Chamberlain lakes
Daily tracking data: 6.1 mi distance at 1.2 mph climbing 2050 ft and dropping1725 ft.
Cindy at Lower Chamberlain recording notes in warm morning sun
Cindy breaks camp first on trail-hiking days, while David packs up tent then races to catch up.
Smoky skies from fires
In 2017, smoke from Montana and Frank Church Wilderness fires circulated throughout cental Idaho.
Dead whitebark pine from recent mountain pine beetle epidemic
Recent beetle outbreak generally associated with climate change but similar 1930s epidemic occurred in White Clouds (Dust Bowl years); some of these ghost trees (snags) persist today.
Goats maintain trail to Castle Lake
We confirmed goat route (or old mining trail) visible from across basin is good lake access; but one tricky spot.
Wilderness boundary
New boundary established by Congress in 2015; outside wilderness trails popular for motorcycles. Rest of backpack trip outside wilderness.
Day6 camp under spruce near spring
Daily tracking data: 16.7 mi distance at 2.1 mph climbing 3000 ft and descending 3700 ft; good trails speed up hiking!
Political sign
Larger more dramatic landscape sign can be seen on Google Earth.