First Ascents

And Later Climbs in the Sawtooths

Story and Photos by Ray Brooks

“Rugged country,” a painter friend of mountaineer Robert Underhill said about Idaho’s Sawtooth Range in the early 1930s. “Awful rugged country. Miles and miles of sharp jagged pinnacles of firm granite.”

The painter quoted in the above paragraph isn’t named in a 1934 article by Bob Underhill’s wife Miriam, but it almost certainly was Idaho native Archie Teater. He had hiked the Sawtooth Range for weeks with a pack burro, while painting and prospecting for gold. Archie, whose life and work have been profiled in this magazine (see “Archie Teater Restored,” August 2016, and “Folksinger on Canvas,” September 2013), started spending summers at Jenny Lake, at the base of the Tetons, in 1929. There, he painted pictures of the mountains and sold his paintings to tourists. When Bob heard this story about the Sawtooths, he was in the Tetons for a few weeks, pioneering big new routes on the Grand Teton and other nearby peaks.

Bob and Miriam researched climbing club journals and soon discovered that the Sawtooth Range was unknown to the climbing world. Their two subsequent adventures in the Sawtooths captivated me, as a climber who has summited many of the peaks that the Underhills were the first to conquer in the 1930s. I gathered the couple’s writings on their climbs.

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