Thompson Peak, ID

Summit elevation:  10,751 ft (3,276 m)
Distance: ~12 miles (19.3 km)
Elevation gain: ~4200 ft (1,280 m)
Class: 3
Date: July 16, 2011
Thompson Peak towers above the unnamed lake at 9,000 ft.

Thompson Peak is the highest point in the Sawtooth Mountains in central Idaho and is one of over 50 peaks over 10,000 feet high in the range.  The peak is southwest of the town of Stanley in the Sawtooth Wilderness of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.  It is the most popular peak in the Sawtooths, but do not be surprised if you are the only one on the trail.  The peak is most commonly accessed from the Redfish Lake trailhead, but is just as easily accessed from the Stanley Ranger Station.
The Sawtooths viewed from the Alpine Way trail above Fishhook Creek (Thompson Peak is at the far right)

From Redfish Lake the tail travels along Fishhook Creek but soon turns up the ridge to the north of the valley for a moderate elevation gain before intersecting the Alpine Way Trail.  From the Stanley Ranger Station the Alpine Way Trail travels through a mostly uninteresting section of forest and has mostly gentle elevation gain.  At this point the route is the same regardless of point of origin.

The trail along Williams Peak (Thompson in background)
Thompson Peak from below the saddle

The Alpine Way trail then gently gains elevation while traveling along the top of the moraine (glacial ridge) to the north of Fishhook Creek.  This route provides fantastic views of the Sawtooths and eventually reaches the base of Williams Peak.  Here, the Alpine Way trail turns north and stops gaining elevation to bypass Williams Peak, but the route to Thompson Peak (an unofficial and unmarked trail) begins to rapidly gain elevation and travels to the south of Williams Peak.



The trail travels in the cirque (glacial basin) between Thompson and Williams Peaks and reaches an unnamed lake at about 9,000 feet at the base of Thompson Peak.  When I reached this lake it was still frozen, which is not uncommon for lakes in the Sawtooths in early summer, but the summer of 2011 followed a winter of extraordinary snowfall.
The last section from the SW saddle
A flower at the summit with Williams Peak and Stanley in the background

Williams Peak and unnamed lake from Thompson summit

From this point the trail can be difficult to follow because it is mostly bedrock and boulder fields, especially if snowfields persist.  However, you need to only make your way up to the saddle between Thompson and Williams Peaks.  From the saddle, head south around the west side of Thompson Peak and then go up to the saddle to the southwest of Thompson Peak.  Then follow the hiker's trail up the southwest slope of Thompson Peak, but just below the summit you will reach the only class 3 section, which is very short.

Thompson Peak at far left and the view from the Thompson-Williams saddle
The northern section of the Sawtooths and Williams Peak (at right) from Thompson Peak




© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.





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