Trip Report
Elephant’s Perch, Sawtooth Range, Idaho, NR Epic: Pacydermial Pleasantries 1977
Thursday February 25, 2010 11:02pm
As of 4/17/2019 Supertopo management has deleted all my photos from this & my other stories.

However! Tom Lopez hosts 3 of my best climbing stories on his website for his fine book “Idaho A Climbing Guide.” This story is one of the lucky three to survive there with photos.

It was love at first sight with me and Idaho’s Sawtooth Range. Rotten rock, mosquito bogs, and the annual July plague of biting flies: all failed to dampen my ardor.

In 1971, I discovered Elephant’s Perch. It is a massive dome of beautiful pink granite (Leucocratic quartz monzonite). Its’ very clean and solid 1,200 foot high west face, is the best big wall in Idaho.

photo not found
Missing photo ID#146463

I started technical climbing in the Sawtooth Range in 1970. I was a Ketchum native and my summer job on a Forest Service fire crew in the area gave me weekends off. Unfortunately, two years after a high point in 1971 of 28 days in the Sawtooths, I found gainful employment running an outdoor store in Moscow Idaho. After that, my time in the Sawtooths became the typical “long-distance” love affair: with short visits throughout the 70’s and early 80’s.

In 1971, I learned that Fred Beckey, renowned Seattle Mountaineer: had done a Grade V route on Elephant’s Perch. Rumor had it: a convenient belay ledge capped each 150-foot lead. Before the mid 1970’s there was no Sawtooth Range guidebook. Other than an occasional note in climbing journals, climbing history in the Sawtooth Range was all word of mouth.

While climbing in the area in 1973, I spotted a line of weakness on Elephant’s Perch that I assumed was “The Becky Route.” It took me two years to find the right partner for the route.

photo not found
Missing photo ID#146471

Summer of 1975, Chris Puchner and I decided to climb Fred Becky’s route on Elephant’s Perch. Day one: we lugged large packs full of big wall climbing gear into the lakes at the base of the wall. To carry both climbing and camping gear: each of us carried two packs lashed together. These masochistic bundles of equipment exceeded 70 pounds each, and had been dubbed “Sawtooth Overloads.”

photo not found
Missing photo ID#146477

At that point in my life (age 25) I had climbed one Grade V direct aid route: Leaning Tower in Yosemite. My chief background in direct aid was occasional use of it on an otherwise free climb. Chris had done a small amount of aid climbing, but he was a natural athlete, and always game for anything that entailed suffering.

Following what we thought was Fred Beckey’s classic line: we proceeded for seven slow leads up a suspiciously easy route, just north of the center of Elephant’s Perch’s massive face. (In current terms we were in the first major-crack system to the north of “The Mountaineer’s Route”).

photo not found
Missing photo ID#146478

photo not found
Missing photo ID#146485

Mostly we free climbed, but on our last pitch Chris ended up doing some direct aid as well. At the end of lead seven: a nice flat 10 x 10 ledge waited below a slightly overhanging, very thin crack. Since we had brought bivouac gear, we decided to wait for morning before attacking the wall above.

During the short night: a cloud of mosquitoes raised unseen from the lakes below, and in our sleep we were both savagely attacked. I remember Chris mocking my puffy face the next morning. However bug bites on a bivy were much better than a thunderstorm: always our major fear in the Sawtooths.

The next morning we discussed our growing certainty that we were on un-climbed terrain. We felt excitement about pioneering a new route, rather than depression at not being on “The Becky Route.” We always enjoyed doing something different.

Thus inspired, but stiff and bug bitten, Chris attacked the aid crack above our ledge. The crack ran vertical about 20 feet to a small overhang, then continued thin, vertical, and unrelenting for a full 150 feet to where the crack finally widened. He went up a ways, bitched about not having enough thin pitons and retreated. I accepted his judgment and we rappelled off the route.

The summer of 1977 I was back with a secret weapon and a fantasy.

The secret weapon was Mike Paine: a very good climber, who I suspected would be of great help in climbing Elephant’s Perch. I had also found more information on Elephant’s Perch and was certain that instead of repeating the Becky route: Chris Puchner and I had stumbled upon an actual new route.

My fantasy was: to do the route with Mike, and my girlfriend Jennifer Jones, just before my 10th high school reunion in nearby Hailey.

Fritz, high school social retard and non-athlete (voted most likely to be a nuclear physicist): would show up for the class reunion having just knocked off a prestigious first ascent in the Sawtooth Range. I would of course have my tanned and muscular woman on my tanned, muscular, and hopefully slightly scarred-up arm.

Once again, we had to haul a huge load of climbing gear into the base of Elephant’s Perch. However, we had stashed three climbing packs full of food and climbing gear at the entrance to the canyon that goes up steeply to Elephant‘s Perch on another climbing trip into the Sawtooths, a few days before.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at the place where I had hidden the packs under bark and vegetation: they were no longer there. Some searching revealed fresh bear scat with aluminum foil in it. A wider search revealed two destroyed packs, no food, and some climbing gear scattered around.

Finally we found the third missing pack over two hundred yards away. It had been full of only climbing gear, weighed about 30 pounds and was intact, but covered with tooth marks. United with our gear: we were short of food, and low on water containers, but had enough equipment to proceed.

Mike and I had been climbing together a lot that summer; but Jennifer had climbed not at all: since she had been off on an archeological dig in Washington. We humped our “Sawtooth Overloads” up the steep climbers trail from Redfish Lake Creek into Elephant’s Perch Valley. Then Jennifer and I spent the late afternoon on a short warm-up climb for her.

photo not found
Missing photo ID#146495

Early the next morning we were off and up: burdened with bivouac gear and water for a two-day climb. Mike and I swapped leads, making rapid progress up the first pitches; which had taken Chris Puchner and me a whole day two years before.

photo not found
Missing photo ID#146481

photo not found
Missing photo ID#146482

Unexpectedly, early in the day, we found ourselves back on the fine flat bivouac ledge: just below Chris and my high point of 1975. We had turned the seven leads into five leads: with my knowledge of the route, and Mike’s willingness to run out the rope. Mike had also free climbed through an area where Chris had resorted to much slower aid climbing. Directly above us, in a right facing corner: stretched the thin aid crack.

As the direct-aid expert, or more correctly, as the only person with much direct aid climbing experience: I got to lead the long, thin, aid crack. I had brought every thin piton and nut I had available for the aid crack. I used them all.

The small overhang was not difficult to aid over; but above that the crack stayed unrelentingly thin: accepting Knife Blades and thin Lost Arrow pitons only. It finally started to widen just as I was running out of thin pitons.

I must confess: my lack of aid climbing experience and the vertical wall kept me placing aid pitons more closely together than good style dictates. The “clean-climbing, throw away your pitons & use nuts for protection” revolution had occurred in the early 1970’s. We were fervent users of nuts, when possible. In this crack it mostly wasn’t possible.

photo not found
Missing photo ID#146488

photo not found
Missing photo ID#146487

Somewhere, well up the aid crack, I ran so low on thin pitons I was forced to resort to very small wired-nuts (Copperheads) for aid placements. Some of these did not exactly fit well into the skinny crack: so I resorted to bashing them into place while nervously humming that old British ditty -- “When is a chock a peg?”

It seemed like I was approaching a likely spot for the dreaded “zipper” fall. I was aware that below me were a bunch of fairly insubstantial nuts and pitons. Of course, one of the nuts I had hammered on: popped out of the crack, just after I fully committed my weight to it. Thankfully, my “zipper” fall only pulled two more pieces of aid out of the crack before the rope stopped me.

I was used to taking lead falls, but generally there was nut protection I trusted, in cracks below me. Here, the little demons inside my head were chuckling loudly about my good chance of taking a huge fall, when every thin piton below me zippered.

I pushed my fear into action, and renewed a controlled struggle back up the crack. At almost the end of the 150-foot rope the crack widened slightly and accepted several large nuts. I felt relatively safe.

WOOHOO! I had a decent semi-hanging belay, with even a slight footrest. I had vanquished the thin, vertical, aid crack.

Mike jumared up the rope to me, shared some water that I was very grateful for, and attacked the next lead. Above my belay: the crack was wider and in a much larger right-facing corner. Mike was forced to aid climb up the crack, and suffered considerably.

There were two problems. First, although Mike was a great free climber, he had done very little direct aid climbing. Second, the suddenly wide crack demanded large nuts, which we did not have a copious supply of.

I had convinced myself the worst was over after my lead: but Mike’s thrashing and muttering above me indicated otherwise. However, I knew that even if Mike ran out of nuts for the crack: we had brought along “the bolt kit.” This consisted of a ¼ inch drill in a steel holder, and a small supply of bolts.

Although we knew "bolting" was accepted technology for rock climbing: we knew it was also considered to be “bad form”.

A possible slide into the low morals of using bolts for upward progress was taken out of our hands. During Mike’s struggles, the drill and holder: which had been in his pant’s pocket, worked loose. I heard a melodic ding, ding, ding, a muttered “oh sh#t,” and the bolt kit came flashing by me. We were now limited to cracks for placing our protection.

After more struggles, Mike finally called down to me that he was giving up on the crack he was in. He wanted me to lower him from a secure nut he had placed at his high point and he would pendulum to another crack about 20 feet to our right. I started lowering Mike back down to my belay point to make the pendulum. However, when he was about 15 feet above me he started rolling his eyes and groaning.

Mike had a mild form of epilepsy from a high school football injury. I had seen him have seizures twice before, and the symptoms he was exhibiting now were identical to those starting a seizure. I knew he would instantly be fine: if he could take his medication pill, which he always kept handy. I feared he might not be able to access those pills without my help. The consequences could be horrible.

I dropped Mike to my belay quite quickly. At that point he looked at me with alarm (as he was bouncing up and down) and exclaimed: “Christ, Fritz, what are you doing? The nut I’m dangling from isn’t that solid.”

I quietly asked, “You’re not having a seizure?”

“No way man,” Mike replied, “The climbing harness was just killing my kidneys.”

So, with that crises over: Mike was able to run back and forth on vertical rock, supported by the rope, and grab onto the crack 20 or so feet to our right. He scrambled up some lower- angle rock a few feet, put some nuts in for a belay, and I thought we were all set to go higher.

The maneuvers I would have to perform to follow Mike’s pendulum were a little complicated to me, and put me at risk of a considerable fall onto Mike’s belay. For that reason, I asked Mike to reassure me that he had a good belay: just in case something went wrong.

He wouldn’t give me any mental comfort. I just wanted him to tell me it was ok. We proceeded to have a fairly loud discussion on the subject, that ended with him shouting: "Christ Fritz!” “When is a belay, ever, really good!”

At this point: we decided to call it a day and retreat to our bivouac ledge 150 or so feet below.

By this point Jennifer had been waiting patiently on the bivy ledge for about six hours. She had been alarmed by increasingly urgent yells between Mike and me, and had early on noted the passing of our bolt kit.

Somewhere in that long stressful afternoon, she decided it looked a lot like Fritz and Mike might well go ding, ding, dinging, down the wall: just like the bolt kit.

After that epiphany: she prudently untied from the potential mutual suicide pact that she suspected the climb had become. Securely tied to her ledge, but not to us: Jennifer had somewhat tearfully, waited for the drama to play out.

I should mention, in a 40-year climbing history, I have only witnessed one other incident where a climbing party member had decided to un-rope, before a possibly deadly group fall could occur.

I was climbing in the Canadian Bugaboos in the mid-70’s with Chris Puchner. We impressed a couple of very competent female climbers with our ice-climbing abilities. They subsequently dumped the English lads they were climbing with, and went off to the Canadian Rockies to climb with us.

Climbing conditions were horrible, due to recent heavy snow. In desperation, we ended up doing the tourist route on 11,100 foot Mt Victoria: which had enough fresh snow to make it “very interesting.”

On the descent from the summit of Mt. Victoria, I belayed my (more competent than me) female climbing companion down a steep, but very snowy, chimney. She exited onto a ledge and vanished from my sight. After a few minutes, she called “On Belay.”

I climbed and skidded down the mixture of loose rock and snow in the chimney without ever finding a substantial hold. Several times I believed I was about to fall, but knew the rope to my partner would catch me. After a while, I reached the ledge and walked around a corner to see her tying back into the climbing rope.

She looked up and saw me, then quite calmly said: “I couldn’t find any anchors to protect a belay with.” “Didn’t see any reason to die with you, if you fell.”

Women are so practical!

Once Mike and Fritz rejoined Jennifer safely on the bivouac ledge, all was soon better. A little food and water led to a good night’s sleep. No mosquitoes or thunder storms arrived during the night; and the next morning we woke ready to continue the climb.

Mike and I jumared back up to my high point. Mike cleaned the nuts from his pendulum lead, protected by my good belay anchors, then jumared up to his doubtful belay. With more nuts he was able to improve the anchors and pronounced it “pretty good”. (Of course, if we hadn’t dropped the bolt kit we could have set “bomb-proof” belay anchors with it.) I then jumared up to Mike’s belay, while Jennifer took up my old belay station, as a safety backup.

At that point, Mike took off on the most difficult free-climbing lead of the route. It involved a delicate balance of friction and crack climbing on a very steep slab. Mike thought it was 5.9 and after following the lead with jumars, I was willing to agree.

photo not found
Missing photo ID#146492

My next lead took me into a huge lower angle chimney. When I reached the end of the rope: I propped myself into the chimney, placed anchors very carefully, then belayed up my partners. The problem was: the back of the chimney, about 5 feet below my belay, was piled with loose rock. If our climbing ropes disturbed any loose rock, those below me would not have enjoyed the subsequent projectile shower.

As I belayed up Mike and Jennifer, I coiled the rope over my legs to avoid disturbing rocks. Mike led on up, Jennifer went next, and about 1 ½ hours after propping myself across the chimney; I could finally move. I immediately discovered a problem. My left leg had gone to sleep: it was numb from the knee down.

After doing all the standard things you do to wake up a numb limb: I gradually accepted I had a problem. The leg worked; I just couldn’t feel anything with it. I climbed up to Mike and Jennifer and informed them I had a slight incapacity.

Mike led the final three easier leads and we were on top of Elephant’s Perch at about 1:00 in the afternoon. We loitered around the summit for a while; then decided that if we were going to make my class reunion party we had better start down.

photo not found
Missing photo ID#146490

Since my leg still had not awakened, Mike and Jennifer took most of the weight for the climb down. The easiest routes off of Elephant’s Perch are mostly walking down talus. I soon discovered I had to pay very careful attention to foot placement with my left leg: otherwise it would buckle under my weight.

Despite my care, I took a couple minor falls getting down to camp. Once we hit camp, we immediately jumped in the lake for a much-needed bath.

Cleaner and much revitalized: we set off down the steep trail to Redfish Lake Creek. We had also picked up our backpacks and camping gear and now had more weight. Mike had martyred himself: carrying a huge amount of weight, but I had about 50-60 pounds of gear in my Kelty frame backpack. Of course, my leg was still numb. The mile or so down to Redfish Lake Creek is very steep and I had to be very careful. I took more minor falls along the way.

Finally, we hit the creek bottom and some smooth granite slabs for walking surface. In the dim forest light of early evening, I failed to see a small stick that rolled under my right foot. I lost my balance and quickly threw my left foot out to catch myself. My left leg collapsed: (it was numb-you remember) and I found myself stumbling faster down an inclined slab with the heavy backpack and gravity forcing my upper-body head first toward the granite.

About two inches before I slammed head first into the granite: the frame-extension on my pack hit the slab first. I somersaulted over into a sitting position and screamed: “That’s it!!” I think my bulging eyes nearly touched the rock just before the frame extension hit! I had been acutely aware my skull was about to be shattered like a ripe kumquat!!

It was not in my stock of outdoor trivia that a pack frame-extension could also function as a “roll bar.”

photo not found
Missing photo ID#146470

There was still a delicate log to walk over Redfish Lake Creek, then two downhill-trail miles to the lake, and hopefully a waiting motorboat. After we reached the far end of the lake, we would have had a 65-mile drive to Hailey and the party. We camped right where I had fallen instead.

Yes, I gave up on making the class reunion party!! They probably would not have been impressed with our smelly bodies and matted hair. I didn’t have any good scars on my arms either.

Next morning we cleaned up the remains of the picnic the bear had made of the two stashed climbing packs a few days before and had a mellow walk out. My leg recovered in about six months. I made it to my 20th class reunion.

One disappointment was: we only took one picture the second day of our climb. I have discovered that the number of pictures taken is inversely proportional to the difficulty of the route. Somehow the camera never got much use when I was suffering through an epic. I think it all has to do with priorities: for us, staying alive was more important than taking pictures.

I wrote up the route as “Pacydermial Pleasantries” for the American Alpine Journal. They published the description, but not my cool route name.

I indignantly protested: since I had achieved a pinnacle of status in the climbing community with a free charter membership in the DFC&FC (Decker Flat Climbing & Frisbee Club), as well as a paid membership in the American Alpine Club.

My protest was ignored. The rumor mill told me the AAJ editor only allowed route names that were in Webster’s Dictionary, or were proper nouns. “Pacydermial” was not in Webster’s and did not make the cut.

photo not found
Missing photo ID#146494

  Trip Report Views: 10,032
About the Author
Fritz is a trad climber from Hagerman, ID.


Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
  Feb 21, 2010 - 03:35am PT
Thank you, Fritz, for the old pictures and the story from outside the Valley. 1970 was the year we canoed from Riggins to Grand Rand. Idaho was exotic to us Easterners. A campment of locals in the Seven Devils were friendly and talkative. Something about Mazamas, winter kills of fishes in the high lakes, and Downhill Gougers.

Also interesting the way perspective on High School changes over the years.
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  Feb 21, 2010 - 09:09am PT
Right on for tossin' this great story in the mix, Fritz(RRR).
I got up to the Perch for the 1st time last Summer, & that's the best damn Rock in Idaho.
Oh, And that AAJ editor is an idjit.or a snob.
C.S. Concerto, anyone?

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Feb 21, 2010 - 12:17pm PT
Thanks everyone for "posting up."

The only other "Perch" route I ever did, was on the north-west side of the formation in the early 1980's. It had some trees down low and went free at around 5.8. Too obscure to ever write up as a new route.

I am curious if anyone here has done a direct start on the next tower to the south of Elephant's Perch? It is called "The Tusk." I climbed it three times, but we couldn't quite get up it on a direct start line. We would scramble a short way up a gully on the right side of The Tusk, and then get onto its face.


Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
  Feb 21, 2010 - 02:31pm PT
Awesome, great story! It's always neat to hear about the "old school" climbing stories from someone other than my dad!

Mountain climber
Boise, Idaho
  Feb 21, 2010 - 04:34pm PT
Great report!! That is one area I definitely need to get to know better. Thanks for sharing!

  Feb 21, 2010 - 07:26pm PT
Great TR. I've never had the chance to get into the Sawtooths, but sure as heck want to make some time now. I don't know about hauling loads like that in though, my knees might object.

Trad climber
East of West
  Feb 22, 2010 - 02:39pm PT
Great TR! The sawtooths were my 1st long back country climbing trip. 9days of awesomeness! there's soo much to do around that area. keep these TRs coming.

Ice climber
  Feb 22, 2010 - 04:20pm PT
The tusk has a direct start....i think it is 5.11cR. Your route has seen a couple ascents since yours. I almost went up there last summer with a buddy of mine, but the sawtooth storms turned us back to stanley. The sawtooths are a speacial place. I enjoy the area back by Baron a bit more. Funny that you mention a bear, I have spent a collective of 60 days in the tooths the last three years and have only seen 1 deer. I have alwasy wondered why there is a lack of wildlife in the tooths.

Do you have any info on the supposed "cookie cliff" of the sawtooths? Heard from some locals that back in the 70's and 80's there were some bosie guys that would trounce back a ways for this cliff that was like the cookie clif in Yoes, but haven't been able to pin the location.

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Feb 22, 2010 - 09:44pm PT
Thank you everyone for "posting up."

If you enjoy the story: I love a postive comment!

Bschmidtz: Thanks for your info on the direct start for The Tusk. We tried it around 1974, after I had already climbed it by the easier route. The direct start looked encouraging, but my buddy peeled. In those days, for us: anything harder than 5.8 was 5.9.

I refreshed my memory on "The Cookie." I can't think of anything like that in the "tooths." You probably know about the inviting jam crack on Big Baron Spire: that is a couple leads of less inviting climbing from the bottom, on SW side.

Thanks again, for "posting up." Fritz

Trad climber
Central Coast
  Feb 23, 2010 - 12:21am PT
Looks like a really neat place. Thanks!

  Feb 23, 2010 - 12:13pm PT
Great TR! Nicely written! Love those old school pics too! Thanks!


Ice climber
  Feb 23, 2010 - 02:09pm PT
The inviting jam crack on Barons SE Face?(long splitter in a orange face) The SW is not really much of anything. If you look over on mountain project uner the sawtooths maybe some photos of the baron area will inspire you to join me for some adventures this next august. With the boat...humping loads up and into the Baron area is not nar as bad! Thanks for the sawtooth is my favorite alpine area in the U.S.

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Feb 23, 2010 - 03:58pm PT
Bschmitz: Gotta be the same crack. I just looked at my USGS quad and I will compromise to S. Face. It is up about 3 leads. I remember it did not look like pleasant 5.10d to get to the crack.

Here's a photo of the whole route, with the crack somewhere up there at the top.


Trad climber
100% Canadian
  Feb 23, 2010 - 10:53pm PT
Great photos and what an adventure ! Thanks Fritz !!

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Feb 24, 2010 - 12:02am PT
Super retro bump!

Just livin' the dream
  Feb 24, 2010 - 02:51pm PT
Fritz--One of the best written, most subtly humorous TR's it's ever been my pleasure to read. And the archival photos were awesome!


Now please post others...I know ya got 'em. ;-)

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Feb 26, 2010 - 12:15am PT
This report has also been posted on "The Forum." It pops up, and then rapidly vanishes in the frenetic postings there. However, some good comments have been posted: and I added a new reply late yesterday.
Trad climber
June Lake, California Feb 20, 2010 - 07:23pm PT
SWEEEEEEEEET FRITZ!!!!! Now that's the stuff!!!!!!!!!!!!

pdx Feb 20, 2010 - 07:23pm PT
Great story and pics Fritz! Thanks for sharing it!

Captain...or Skully
Social climber
Last clip of Lichen Lunch Feb 20, 2010 - 07:36pm PT
The Perch is my Favorite Rock in Idaho, so far.
It doesn't get any better than THAT!

Right on, Fritz(RRR). Although you shared that one with me before.
Good to see it here, as well.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud. Feb 20, 2010 - 08:07pm PT
that's jacked up they wouldn't publish the route name.

AAC/AAJ used to be so snotty. Plebs weren't accepted back in the 80s even.

Great TR. Thx Fritz!

Trad climber
electric lady land Feb 20, 2010 - 08:13pm PT
excellent fritz!!!

the e.p. has the best
alpine granite i've
ever climbed on.

Clint Cummins
Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA Feb 20, 2010 - 08:17pm PT
Great stuff, "Fritz". Thanks for putting this together and sharing!
"noun: abnormal thickness of tissue (as of skin or of the laryngeal mucous membrane)"

Trad climber
Idaho/Beyond Feb 20, 2010 - 10:32pm PT
Super awesome story. Thanks so much for sharing. Although I managed to knock off many of The Perch's free lines the aid kept me off your route. Nice line regardless. It always looked tempting.

Social climber
calif/texas Feb 21, 2010 - 01:59am PT
hey there say, fritz... this is GREAT! .... PICS HAVE NOT yet downloaded for me, so i will be back.... and lots to read... so i just have to skim it tonight...

but i WILL BE BACK...

say, just saw this in the trip report section, too, and it was tugging at my heart... just saw it here now, to got to hope in fast...

also, skully, as to this quote:
The Perch is my Favorite Rock in Idaho, so far.
It doesn't get any better than THAT!

what a great thing to say! thanks for sharing a fave...

and dudeman:

the pictures are so wonderful, yours DID show up right-fast...

i love the veiw, and could near wonder what it might be
like to travel through all that... would be fascinated for DAYS!

THANKS so very much, fritz...

Social climber
WA, NC, Idaho Falls Feb 21, 2010 - 07:26am PT
Thank you so much Fritz, you have a real way with words!

You have been writing some of the best stuff on this forum!

Barcelona Feb 21, 2010 - 09:11am PT
Thanks for the TR. That rock sure looks nice, I may have to try to pay a visit. So many climbs, so little time!

Trad climber
Berkeley Feb 21, 2010 - 10:13am PT
Nice Fritz!
Great story. Thanks for posting.
Another great looking rock to put on the list.

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID Topic Author's Reply - Feb 21, 2010 - 09:18pm PT
Per discussion today on Super-Topo: I am always happy to have someone express their positive feedback on any of my literary efforts.


Bumpism is much better than -----extinction!

Best Wishes!


Captain...or Skully
Social climber
Last clip of Lichen Lunch Feb 21, 2010 - 09:22pm PT
I want to climb the Tusk.....That thing looks cool.
Maybe next time at the Perch, we'll see.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific Feb 21, 2010 - 09:36pm PT
Great story Fritz-Not to worry about missing your 10th high school reunion-you forgot to get a tan anyhow. Did you ever discover what caused the loss of sensation in the leg? 6 months is a long time to have that type of problem with no evidence of physical trauma?

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID Topic Author's Reply - Feb 21, 2010 - 09:46pm PT
Guido: Thanks for asking. I was too cheap to ever see a doctor about it. The numbness got better all the time, and gradually receeded down my leg.

I had a similar problem earlier in my climbing career, that again related to being in a fixed position for a long time: with a tight climbing harness on.

It had been more localized and also went away, so I wasn't too worried about the larger numbness after E. Perch.

Luckily, I was not numb above the leg!!!

Old Pueblo, AZ Feb 24, 2010 - 02:55pm PT
"That's it!"

Thanks Fritz!
Great story and photos.
Nothing to add, other than...
"Damn, I've always wanted to go there!"

oh, and

"Why the hell is this thread buried deep with only 17 posts?!"

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado Feb 24, 2010 - 03:23pm PT
Great story! Let's hook up at the Perch in mid-August. Mosquitos will be scarce but the trout tacos won't be.

Just surfin' the tsunami of life... Feb 24, 2010 - 03:28pm PT

I saw this on the rarely visited TR Tab ;-)...and read it again here because it's SO DANG GOOD!!!

Keep posting gems like this, will ya? Five-Star TRs are rare


Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Feb 26, 2010 - 09:09pm PT
Gentlemen: I am honored by you folks "resurrecting" this story and appreciate the positive comments. I am amazed at how many have looked at the story in the TR section.

Donini: Your on! The lakes under Elephant's Perch are "Brook Trout" lakes--which usually means a lake over-populated with starving and stunted fish. The first time I went there, was day 13 of a 15 day trip in 1971.

We were close to starving when we got there. My journal tells the fish tale.

"We went skinny-dipping immediately, then fishing from the same rock. First trout I ever caught nude: very esthetically pleasing.

Harry and I caught 11 Brook trout each. They were in the 8"-10" range and we consumed them all for dinner."

"Last night I ate so much that it was a real battle not to throw-up. My stomach is now friends with me again."

We had trout for breakfast, and another ten each for dinner along with rice, noodles, and some greens we found. After fish for breakfast the next morning: we hiked out in much better shape.

The lakes were not so abundant with trout the last time I fished them, but there must be enough for a taco.

Gym climber
New York
  Mar 3, 2010 - 08:19am PT
Yeah,the photos are really cool.What is the place?!

Trad climber
Triumph, Idaho
  Mar 11, 2010 - 05:41pm PT
Fritz, this is fun reading. Thanks for taking the time to tell the tale. Let's go climbing !

Trad climber
Bariloche, Patagonia , Argentina
  Mar 17, 2010 - 12:54pm PT

Ray, I loved the pics
you still the same!

Ice climber
  Aug 18, 2011 - 12:11pm PT

Rest of the TR here

....we didn't finish, we ran out of day light, and didn't bring the bivy gear. Needless to say I think that it needs to see a lot more ascents before this crack would get big enough to go free.


30 mins. from suicide USA
  Aug 18, 2011 - 01:43pm PT
Bump...what an awesome story.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Aug 18, 2011 - 01:53pm PT
Retro Bitchin' bump!!!

How the hell did I miss this one before?

Fritz, you are the man, and my new favorite Taco author!

Excellent story, well told with good writing.

Thanks man. That took me back to some pretty excellent epics of my own......
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Aug 18, 2011 - 10:30pm PT
Fritz, I frigging loved the part about the Canadian woman unroping on your descent when you thought you were on belay! Classic!!!!
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  Aug 18, 2011 - 11:01pm PT
Woot! Friggin' Perch!
It's a ROCK, man.

  Aug 19, 2011 - 12:01am PT

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Aug 19, 2011 - 01:43am PT
Thank you everyone for your comments.

Survival-----Woohoo and double thanks!

After doing the FA of the route in 1977: I thought long and hard about if it would go "free."

Some very competent friends tried to "free it" a few years later, but discovered the apparently "free-friendly" aid pitch is a "un-free-friendly bitch."

It appears Pachydermial Pleasantries is still a "next-generation" free-climbing problem.

No bolts please.

Best Wishes to all!


Big Wall climber
Republic, WA
  Aug 19, 2011 - 02:11am PT
Fritz, You are the Shitz. In a good way. I'm using lingo not from my generation. I love your trip reports.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Mar 15, 2012 - 01:09am PT
Fritz, I really like this story and really want to climb at the pearch. You must have spent a lot of time writing this up.

Big Wall climber
seattle, Wa
  Mar 16, 2012 - 03:16am PT
Shangri-La it was. The Perch. The most beautiful (orange and pink crystalline!!), consistently difficult and exposed routes, as good or better than anywhere. Be ready though. It's some intense routes. Quality best of all.

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Nov 14, 2012 - 12:48am PT
I reviewed this trip report tonight and do not want to change anything.

I give it a DF!! (Darn-fun++) rating.

Please comment if you enjoy it!

Best Wishes!

Big Wall climber
Portland, OR
  Nov 14, 2012 - 01:26am PT
With "in laws" in Challis and Stanley, I have wanted a trip to the Perch for many years. One day. . . .

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Nov 14, 2012 - 05:10am PT
Woody the Beaver

Trad climber
Soldier, Idaho
  Nov 14, 2012 - 08:42am PT
Neat thread! As I recall, the Beckey/Marts/Swedlund outfit made the first ascent of the Beckey Route on the Perch in 1963 -- that's 50 years ago next year! With my own retirement looming up next years, I was thinking of doing a 50th anniversary ascent, necessarily in old-guy style, maybe 5.8 C2 or so. My son is also interested; I urge him to think of it as a local Idaho substitute for the South Face of Washington Column! I think he's buying it. He can actually climb hard stuff, so he's a plus for the team. Maybe we can see other forum writers there?
Dave Hough

Keene, NY
  Nov 14, 2012 - 11:44am PT
Wow good job on the TR brings back fond memories. Spent many days here in the 70s, 80s trying and sometimes getting up different routes. I love to read historical accounts of the Perch as much of the histoy was not well documented....Made a free attempt on Pac. Plea. with a group of friends once, too hard for us.

Social climber
  Nov 14, 2012 - 12:31pm PT
Great story, very nicely written. Quite an adventure, for sure. Climbed at the Perch once and had a blast; beautiful place. Your story brings back fond memories.


Fun route name too. Puzzled by the AAJ attitude; surely, if a word that forms part of a route name is not in the dictionary then it is, by definition, a proper noun.

But, since you bring this up, and as I'm a sometime guidebook editor who does try to use the first ascent party's name and spelling, a question on the spelling:

I wrote up the route as “Pacydermial Pleasantries” for the American Alpine Journal. They published the description, but not my cool route name.

Downthread you spell this Pachydermial Pleasantries, with an "h" which would seem more consistent with the elephant being a pachyderm.

What is your preferred spelling?

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Jun 7, 2013 - 09:17pm PT
Great write-up Fritz! I knew the Perch had some sweet rock but the
rumor mill had divulged the heinoussness of the approach so I never
made it there. Your story makes me wish I had.

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Jun 8, 2013 - 12:40pm PT
I glad to see more people enjoying this tale.

Woody! 50th anniversary of the Beckey Route this summer. Hmmmm. I don't think I could be lured into packing big-wall gear up there again, but it might be an excuse to visit. Haven't been up to "The Perch" since the late 90's.

Crunch: It appears that the name should be Pachydermial and not Pacydermial. I'll think about correcting it. Thanks!

Reilly: The Sawtooths might have been too mellow for you back when you were doing Cascade death routes.
Off White

Tenino, WA
  Jun 8, 2013 - 11:40pm PT
Reilly, the approach into the Perch is not dissimilar to the approach to Colchuck Lake, albeit with a boat ride thrown in. I suspect the tales you heard were designed to keep out the riffraff. The wilderness permit sure is a hassle though, you have to fill out a tag at the trailhead after you get off the boat.
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Apr 10, 2014 - 01:07am PT
Thanks for putting together a well written and fun read. I gotta go check out the Perch.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Apr 10, 2014 - 01:10am PT
Love this story and so need to go there.

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
  Oct 10, 2016 - 10:16am PT
bump for cool BITD report
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
  Oct 10, 2016 - 12:21pm PT
Golden , olden finest stuff on the taco

Is the stuff from 04 thru 2012. C.








Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Oct 10, 2016 - 07:11pm PT
It's fun to see this TR again. Thanks to all, who post their thoughts on it.

My other 1970's Sawtooth trip report is pretty fun too.

Big Wall climber
  Oct 10, 2016 - 07:26pm PT
Classic back country climbing and liked the old Chouinard Patagonia double knee climbing pants!

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Jul 3, 2017 - 07:42pm PT
backcountry climbing bump

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  May 17, 2019 - 08:26pm PT
As of 4/17/2019 Supertopo management has deleted all my photos from this & my other stories.

However! Tom Lopez hosts 3 of my best climbing stories on his website for his fine book “Idaho A Climbing Guide.” This story is one of the lucky three to survive there with photos.

Best wishes! Ray Brooks