In the Moment
On Three County High Points
Story and Photos by Alice Schenk
On the way down 11,200-foot Webber Peak-East Peak in the Beaverhead Mountains last summer, I encountered dirt and scree that was so loose I could not sidestep through it to reach the safety of solid black rock nearby. I lay flat out, face-first, and grabbed hold of a rock above me. To slip now and slide down to a drop-off would not be good. I couldn’t quite touch the black rock, and because I was completely stretched out, I couldn’t draw up my legs to dig my feet in, either. My grip on the rock above me was by the fingertips of one hand. My husband Wayne called out an offer to come help but I thought, “No way, you’ll slide, too.” Then the rock I was holding onto started to shift. Before it could give way completely, I quickly moved to my left and grabbed onto the black rocks. Whew! I couldn’t watch Wayne as he came across the loose scree after me, but he made it.
Webber Peak, in Clark County, is Idaho’s fifth-highest mountain. It also was number thirty-eight in my quest to tag the highest points in each of Idaho’s forty-four counties. Wayne and I had unintentionally chosen a more challenging ridgeline to ascend than was necessary. It ended at a traverse that required tight skimming around huge rock walls and negotiating sliding rock that was angled in some places as steeply as forty-five degrees. From the cliff edge, it took more than two hours to reach the saddle we were aiming for. Part of the ascent involved rock-climbing and then we had to maneuver in the hands-and- feet position, which was exhausting.
At one point, Wayne said, “You probably ought to prepare yourself in case we need to spend the night.”
He was thinking we might reach the high point and then not be able to get down the mountain before dark.
“Wait, what?” I thought. “Oh, goodness. I blew it.”