View from the top: Hartselle Mountain Hikers summit Thompson Peak
By Connor Loyd
For the Enquirer
In 2022, local hiking group known as the Hartselle Mountain Hikers successfully completed a trip to North Cascades National Park in Washington State and was planning on visiting Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho soon after in September. However, in September of 2022, wildfires happening in that area forced them to cancel, so they opted instead to postpone that trip to this July.
The hiking group, consisting of Victor Fentanes-Orozco, his son, whose name is also Victor, and his friend Antonio, landed in Boise, Idaho and drove to Stanley, a town on the outskirts of the mountains they’d be hiking for the next week.
They began their hiking on July 6, kicking off five days in that area of the park which Fentanes-Orozco described as “perfect for hiking,” consisting of temperatures ideal for hiking and sleeping; days in the 80s and cool nights in the low 40s. They made their way from the trail head to Farley Lake, where they camped by the lake. That night, Fentanes-Orozco and Antonio decided to try taking a dive into the water, which ended up being 50 degrees.
Over the next few days, the hikers came across several interesting spots, including a snow field crossing point which required the use of boot spikes to safely trek across, and several dead roots to what were once giant, old pine trees. Fentanes-Orozco said he believes the roots he came across must have belonged to trees that had been there for hundreds of years before becoming infested with pests which ultimately killed them.
By the third day, the group had made it to Edna Lake. Fentanes-Orozco and Antonio took the time to tour around the 1.2 miles perimeter around the lake, which took an hour and 16 minutes to fully circle, taking pictures as they made it around.
The group was grateful to be able to take pictures of their beautiful surroundings, including the water of Edna Lake. “There is nothing such as water from melting snow,” said Fentanes-Orozco. “It is just crystal clear.” Clear enough, in fact, to even drink. Although the team brought filters with them for the journey, they weren’t needed for the water they drank out of the Edna Lake.
The most strenuous hike came the following day on Sunday, heading from Edna Lake to Alice Lake. “It was a complicated day in terms of distance and roughness,” said Fentanes-Orozco. “It was just huge.”
Although the trek was long and demanding, with much climbing and descending, the views Alice Lake provided were well worth the exercise. Fentanes-Orozco described the site as “Beautiful. I mean, honestly, it’s the best camping site I’ve ever been at through my experience in the mountains. Just picture perfect.”
After making it from Alice Lake back to Stanley, the hikers prepared themselves for the climb to the summit of Thompson Peak, the highest peak in the Sawtooth Range.
They left their hotel at 8:15 a.m., and by 9 a.m. they had begun their hike back into the mountains. Along the way, Victor Jr. demonstrated his skills as the team crossed a creek; he was the only one to make it across and keep his feet completely dry, an impressive feat. They reached their campsite below Thompson Peak’s massive east face by 5:48 p.m., where they took a rest and had a good dinner, ready to tackle the summit the next day.
“Our last day in the mountains of Idaho was nothing less than a spectacular day,” Fentanes-Orozco said. “We made it to the summit without any problems, a delicate scramble before to reach the summit, then a moderate descend for some 80 yards below the summit were the most tense parts of the day.”
For pictures on the way up, the climbers used a GoPro, needing both their hands free during the climb. Like most mountain peaks, Thompson had a small box at its summit where climbers could put notes, including things like their names and the date that they made it to the peak. The trio was sure to leave a note including their names, “Hartselle Mountain Climbers,” and the date, July 12. From the summit, they could see the small town of Stanley where they had come from far down in the distance.
At the summit, there was cell phone signal, so they made some brief calls to some family friends, his mom, and his wife. In total, they spent about an hour at the summit, much longer than their usual 20-25 minutes, and then began heading back.
“Half of the mission is to achieve the summit, but the other one is just return safe,” explained Fentanes-Orozco. “And typically, that is the most dangerous part of the climb. That’s where 90 percent of the accidents happen, when you’re going down.”