Smokey Dome

8 September 2005

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Laney and I set out on a beautiful day to attempt Smokey Dome, the highest mountain in the Smokey Mountains at 10,095 feet.  It is often called Soldier Mountain.  It is a huge mountain with four major summits that rises dramatically from the Camas Prairie near Fairfield.  I had wanted to climb it for a long time, as it is very visible any time you drive to Sun Valley from Boise.
The trailhead is just past the Soldier Mountain ski area.  For the first two miles, it is easy hiking up a rough dirt road along a creek.  The toughest part is finding where to leave the road.  The guide says to watch for a trail cutting across the creek.  There are so many rough "trails" cutting off that finding the right one wasn't easy.
Once across the creek, the route cuts straight up a wooded ridge.  After about a quarter of a mile we reached the crest of the ridge.  From here the route followed the ridge upward with the forest thinning out eventually.  As it did the views got better and better.  The ridge forms one side of canyon that heads up to a cirque at the base of Smokey Dome.
Once we reached the base of the North Summit (9937 feet), we had to traverse around.  Laney did not like this part at all, as we had to cross some big boulder fields.  She didn't do too well on that type of terrain.  I guess she is a hiker and not a climber (or even a scrambler).  At one point she slipped and got a few scrapes from the rocks.
We finally finished the traverse and reached a small pond below the main summit.  At that point I got a surprise when I saw a bear in the trees about a hundred feet from us.  I was worried that Laney might mix it up with the bear, but she didn't give any indication that she even knew it was there.  The bear took one look at us, and ran straight up hill and disappeared over the col between the north and main summits.  Boy, for a big animal it was really fast going up hill.  I only got a picture of a dot just before it went over the skyline.  That was the first time I had seen a bear in all my years of hiking in Idaho.
After that, it was just a slog.  First, up to the col between the two summits, then up the final slopes to the top.  The view has to be one of the most expansive in Idaho.  It was a beautiful day as you can see in the pictures.
After lunch on top it was time to head down.  The return was long but uneventful.  Laney slept all the way home in the car.

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Starting off from the trailhead

Looking up the route.  The bare summit on the far right is the highest point.

Laney heading up the ridge

The bear we startled as it disappeared over the ridge.

Laney on the summit.  She looks tired.

A large forest fire was burning off in the distance in the White Clouds.

Looking back down the route from the summit.  Our car is a looooong ways away!

Town of Fairfield from the summit.

Laney looking a little more chipper on the summit.

Smokey Dome photo pages
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