McCormick Lake

I’m back to kick off my summer with a trip report of a great adventure I had last weekend. Last summer I visited Fault Lake where I climbed the southern ridgeline and saw the trail-less McCormick Lake in the basin to the south. Since then, I’ve wanted to hike into McCormick and make an attempt at scrambling up Hunt Peak, which sits high above both lakes, but is much harder to access from the Fault Lake side.

Hiking towards the High Country
Hiking towards the High Country
McCormick Lake
McCormick Lake
McCormick Lake
McCormick Lake

So Friday morning, I was once again joined by my buddy Justin and we set out towards the Pack River drainage in the Selkirk Mountains between Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry, Idaho.  The plan was to hike about 5 miles up the Fault Lake trail before cutting southwest cross-country up to McCormick Lake. It was a very hot day and the long exposed trail seems to take forever as you look at views of the high country into which you are ascending towards. When you finally reach this high country area the trail begins to wander through an area that has a dramatic alpine-feel unlike a lot of other places in this strip of the Selkirks. The landscape is dominated by granite in the form of boulders and slabs, separated by areas of bushes and lush grass, and sparsely scattered small trees. After leaving the trail, we fought through patches of low brush and attempted to find the best route through the large rock slabs up to the lake. We were excited to finally get to the lake after only about a mile of bushwhacking and we quickly found a spot to set up our tents. The sun dipped down early behind the high walls of the cirque where the lake sits and we enjoyed the sunset as we sat around the campfire.

McCormick Lake
McCormick Lake
McCormick Lake Pond
McCormick Lake Pond
Fault Lake from Hunt Peak
Fault Lake from Hunt Peak

The next morning, we decided we felt like we could indeed make up Hunt Peak from that side. Thinking we might be able to follow the ridge down from the peak and into the Fault Lake basin, we packed up camp and began the climb with full packs. The base of the climb was easy to get and we began the steep scramble with a large boulder field, which turned into an even steeper grass slope littered with precarious rocks for footholds, and finally led to a traverse around the nearly vertical pinnacle which makes up the top of the peak. Finding an easier to climb slope on the west side of the pinnacle, we made our way to the top and were rewarded with incredible views. From the peak, one gets a good look at Priest Lake and the gentle tree-covered hills which slope gently up from the west. The east side of the ridgeline is very different because it forms a crest which drops abruptly into a granite cliff-filled wonderland of sub-alpine goodness. To the north, Chimney Rock is a visible part of this ridgeline.There are footings leftover on the peak from a lookout tower which is now long gone and was most-certainly accessed at one time from the much easier to hike west side. As we were unable to tell if we’d be able to scramble down the ridge from north of Fault Lake, we decided to go back down the way came and hike cross-country over to Fault Lake.

McCormick Lake from Hunt Peak
McCormick Lake from Hunt Peak
Fault Lake Outlet Falls
Fault Lake Outlet Falls
Pass above Hunt Lake
Pass above Hunt Lake

After making our way back to the Fault Lake trail, we followed it up to the lake and found a campsite on the ledges to the north. We set up camp and made the short trip to the top of the  point to the north of Fault Lake. From this point, one gets a great view to the south of Fault Lake with Hunt Peak above it and to the north the pass which sits above Hunt Lake.  After dropping back into camp, we did some swimming in the cool lake. Noticing that the fish were doing quite a bit of surface feeding, I grabbed my fly rod and quickly caught 7 cutthroat trout, 4 of which I kept. That evening, we cooked the fish on the campfire and once again enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

Hunt Peak above Fault Lake
Hunt Peak above Fault Lake
Fault Lake
Fault Lake

Overall this was a trip into an incredibly beautiful area in the high elevations of the north Idaho Selkirks. Although it was an extremely hot weekend and the bugs were out in full force, we managed to have a very good time and were constantly amazed at the stunning views. Although Fault Lake has a trail to it, it is a long uphill hike, with some steep and rugged trail towards the end. The bushwhacking over to McCormick lake isn’t too tough, but requires some basic route-finding. The scramble up to Hunt Peak from the McCormick Lake side is a little steep and exposed at some points and should therefore only be attempted by those who are comfortable with class 3 and even 4 scrambling. Enjoy my video of the trip below:

4 thoughts on “McCormick Lake

  1. As always love seeing what you are doing and enjoy the writing about the journey and pictures your on.Mom 🙂

  2. Hi Cody: Get back to me with a direct email, I’m having trouble contacting you. Great area you explored ! Over that same weekend, we camped on the summit of Billiard Table and my good friend Dave Nye broke his leg going down the mountain at the 6300′ level. We had a devil of a time getting him off the mountain for the first 4 miles, and radioed to the Sanders S&R for help when we found the end of the Hamilton Gulch Trail, they used a stretcher with a single wheel for the last 4 miles, it took 17 hours to get Dave back to the lodge, he had two breaks in his left fibula, what an experience! ……DC

  3. Hi Cody,
    Love seeing you and Justin on your weekend adventures! Thanks for sharing your story and the amazing scenery with us…makes us feel like we are right there with you guys!
    Sandy & Don

    1. I’m happy to share and I’m glad you get the feeling you were there. One of the biggest goals of my blog is really show readers these incredibly beautiful and remote places that they’ll most likely never see on their own. Justin and I have more plans for adventures in coming weeks so keep checking back. Thanks for reading!

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