The Devil's Bedstead
Guest Contributor: Tyler Allyn
Read Time: 6 mins
It didn't take long before we were hiding in the bushes. Heavy machinery and watchful eyes lumbered down the rocky road below us. I suppose that's what we deserve for attempting to ride a closed road. But to our credit, we were on bikes and obviously, traffic rules don't apply. My brother, laying horizontal behind a log on an exposed hillside, couldn’t stop smiling. He was able to briefly escape the turmoil of medical school at the University of Washington to join me in Idaho for an annual get-together. This year’s objective was to ski the Devil’s Bedstead, a prominent peak in the Pioneer mountains of Central Idaho.
From Ketchum, Idaho, Trail Creek Road ascends 2500 feet over a jagged pass, working its way eastward to the Lost River Mountains. The road is steep, narrow, and perched precariously on a notoriously unstable mountainside. Unrelenting avalanches and deep snow force the road closed in the winter. But with the spring thaw, Stuart and I hoped to use this road to ride the 22 miles from my house in Ketchum to access the Bedstead. The plan was to ride to the put-in, camp, climb and ski the peak the following day. After the ski, we planned on riding back to town in the evening. With misguided confidence, I coordinated with our friend, Jon to meet us for the final bike leg home. As it would turn out, we had sandbagged ourselves yet again.
On a beautiful morning in mid May, we strapped skis and camping gear to our bikes and took our first pedal strokes towards the Devil’s Bedstead. The bikes were heavy and the going was slow. At the speed of a glacier, we made our way through a tangle of turns to the top of the pass. While certainly physical, everything was going as planned until we were suddenly stopped.
A road construction crew was busy clearing rocks and logs that were violently discarded on our road by an entire winter of avalanches. The workers spotted us and quickly moved a front-loader to block our way. The site lead was furious. We were told that the road was closed (obviously) and that it was too dangerous to continue. We needed to turn around.
In the mid afternoon sun, we debated what to do. Go back? Hike our bikes and gear across a likely impassible hillside? Try again tomorrow? With Stuart’s suffocating academic schedule, we agreed to at least try to get around the construction. Apparently, hiding in the bushes and waiting for the road crew to finish was the best plan that we could come up with. So, after several hours and a handful of close calls with the construction crew, we were back on the bikes.
Glancing behind us for signs of the crew, we finally finished our climb. Fortunately, the road had been plowed recently and only a few patches of snow and remnants of avalanches remained. The snow gave way to dry, high desert as we descended the back side of Trail Creek Summit. At last, the Bedstead erupted out of the sea of sagebrush. Wisps of spindle swirled off the top. With the peak towering over us, and our first looks at the exposed face we hoped to ski, I felt a flash of fear
We continued up a small dirt road until the snow was too deep to ride though. This would be our camp. We went about preparing for the next day. Blanketed in pink alpenglow, the mountain face shimmered 4000 feet above us. We agreed that no matter what, the next day would be wild.
We were on the trail by 6am the next morning. We navigated a labyrinth of patchy snow fields; Walking at first, then skiing, then walking again. The route became steep and walls of downed trees made route finding difficult. Eventually, we gained enough elevation to break through the trees and had enough snow to make progress without walking.
By mid morning, we had made it to the bottom of the face we had come to ski. We donned ski crampons and began making our way up the north ridge. Anticipation, fear, and excitement were simultaneously building. After too many kick turns to count, the mountain’s incline increased until we could no longer ski. On went the boot crampons and out went the ice axes. Recent snowfall forced post-holing through the deep, punchy snow. My thighs burned and our pace slowed. However, a shining sun kept spirits high.
We worked our way upward over the next couple of hours. We were moving slower than expected but eventually found ourselves on the final summit ridge. This was an opportunity to scout what we would soon ski. We discovered that the dwindling spring snowpack had produced a minefield of rock obstacles. The first 100 feet of the descent was going to be technical and exposed. However, the steep technical section would give way to a gorgeous, open face. The skiing looked incredible once we passed though the top section.
At last, we summited. A quick high-five was followed by silence. An air of nervousness for the opening ski moves
settled around us. Just feet below the small transition platform we stomped out were the first moves of a micro line that
disappeared over a horizon line. We quietly transitioned back to skis and decided to get things over with.
Stuart went first. The sound of his skis scraping over rocks broke the silence. He side slipped down, jump turned, and
wove through a line that was less than a foot wide. He ended up at the crux. It required a small, but committing move located a the top of the two-thousand foot rocky face. Stuart looked at me, smiled, jumped, and skillfully wove though the series of channels between rocks to access the open face below. I went next. In a much less graceful manner, I scraped over some rocks, pointed my skis through a notch, and slammed on the brakes immediately afterwards. I was grateful to make it past the most dangerous part of the day
Several hundred feet later, we were completely through the technical section. While there was ever present exposure, the skiing would turn much more straightforward. The fear that I had been carrying evaporated. The rest of the run would become one of the best ski lines of my life. Leapfrogging, we made our way down though rock outcroppings, gullies, and eventually, trees. As we descended, the snow warmed into a thick, mashed-potatoes consistency. The warming snowpack signaled instabilities and brought forth a sense of urgency. I was grateful to be off the exposed face. At one point, a hillside reacted to our weight and slumped a few inches. It was a sobering reminder that we weren’t out of the woods yet. Eventually, we skied our way to the valley floor.
By 4:30, we were back at camp. We were many hours behind schedule. A sudden, violent storm cell forced me to run underneath a falling tree on our ski/walk out. That same cell had completely decimated our camp. After collecting our scattered gear and repacking the bikes, we were back in the saddles. We had arrived at the point in the adventure where we possessed too little energy to talk. We slowly drifted apart as we rode. Heads down, we both existed in our own worlds. We had a pass to ride over and many miles ahead. Because it was so late, I had also abandoned all hope of meeting our friend, Jon. Stuart and I were on our own. Our legs burned and the sun slowly crept towards the horizon.
Around one of the countless bends in the road, we came upon a much needed moral boost. By the luck of the universe, Jon was changing a flat tire. A large (empty!) Bud-light Clamato lay at his feet. Our fresh companion provided a boost of energy. Once again, we were laughing. Over the next few hours, our team of three inched our way up and over the pass. In the fading light, we rode down the other side, back to my home. I was wrecked and I can’t overstate how much we needed Jon. Stuart and I completed our journey. At the end of the day, the silly objective that we attempted was arbitrary, contrived, and mellow by many standards. However, the trip served its purpose as a platform to interact and engage with my brother. We shared an experience that pushed both of us physically and mentally. These rare encounters mean the world to me and I am equal parts excited and terrified for next year’s reunion.
About the Author:
Tyler Allyn is a mountainous monster with a ravenous thirst for seeking what's around the next corner or peak. Born and raised in the shadows of the Sawtooth Range in Southern Idaho, he is the quintessential active outdoor lifestyler. When he's not creates jaw dropping content as the Senior Producer at Idarado Multimedia, Tyler's preferred human powered outings revolve around paddling, skiing, climbing ... or stitching them all together in an outrageous multi-sport effort
Journal - The Devil's Bedstead
Comments are closed.
Human Powered Journal
Writings and musings of an active lifestyle
Adam Bratton is the Founder and Head Enabler at Human Powered Movement.
Guest Contributors are more compelling in written word and life in general.