Thompson Peak is the tallest mountain in the Sawtooth Mountains at 10,751'. It is located just southwest of Stanley, Idaho, and west of Redfish Lake. It can be seen easily from Highway 21 along with Williams Peak. I picked up Bruce Saturday morning and we left Boise at 5:30. We stopped at the scenic overlook north of Stanley, Idaho, for a quick breakfast and were on the trail at 9:00. We parked at the trailhead parking lot at Redfish Lake and started west on the Fishhook Creek Trail for about 0.8 miles. From here we took a short trail north to the top of a ridge for about 0.5 miles and then went back west on the Alpine Way Trail towards the Sawtooths and Marshall Lake. The elevation gain to this point is nominal until you have to jump off the beaten path and bushwack to a no named lake at 9,000'. The off trail hiking wasn't bad because of an unofficial climber's trail created by previous hikers. We left the established trail before passing the east ridge of Williams Peak at around 3.7 miles. From here, you follow the faint climber's trail to a large grove of trees. Beyond this, it is only about 0.75 miles to lake 9,000' where we set up camp.
The views throughout the first leg of our hike were incredible. We looked out over thick forests, lush meadows, and running water falls. After reaching the lake and finding a camp site, we spent the afternoon and evening scrambling around the rocks and enjoying the scenery. I had a rough evening as I spilled my dinner and popped a hole in my Therm-a-Rest. As the evening came to a close the rain started to fall. We went to bed relatively early in order to prepare for our ascent of Thompson Peak the next morning. As the night wore on, our hope of a climb to the summit dwindled. The rain, wind, and even a bit of hail seemed relentless. My tent held up well through the night as our sleep was fitful at best. We listened to the wind howl down the mountains at us with the rain popping away on the tent. Both of us felt as though the morning would reveal gray skies and wet rocks to climb, which would certainly send us home without an opportunity to attempt the summit.
We awoke around 5:00, had a bit of breakfast and decided to try and make it as far as we could. We hiked around the north side of the lake and back to the west towards a saddle between Thompson Peak and Williams Peak. The only sketchy section of this portion of the hike involved crossing a steep snowfield above a smaller lake right before the saddle. We successfully negotiated the snow and found ourselves looking south at a daunting Thompson Peak. T he weather was holding, so we continued south up the north ridge of Thompson. We caught glimpses of a trail here and there from previous hikers, but you basically had to pick your way through the unstable rock. After reaching a point where the north ridge became technical, we circled around the west side and approached the summit from the south. We climbed a narrow gully to a notch in the mountain where we finally saw the lake to the east and the summit a short distance to the north.
We made the summit where we snapped several photos and celebrated our climb. We were the tenth party to summit in 2002. We made an entry into the log book about our wives, and then started our descent as we were unsure of the weather. We reached the summit at 8:45 and we spent approximately 10 minutes on the top enjoying the views before descending. We broke camp at 10:30 and were back to the trailhead by 12:30. This was a exceptional hike I would recommend to anyone heading into the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.