Baptie Lake: Pioneer Mountains, Idaho

I look forward to any backpacking trip but I was especially anxious for this one.  The scheduling of this trip (by myself and Matt Caldwell) happened to coincide with a full moon.  This led to me researching the times and locations (azimuths) the moon would be rising and setting which was easily done with the use of Heavenly Opportunity software.  I also read as many trips reports and studied photos (as well as Google Earth) to find the best spots not only for the moon shots but for general photographic purposes.  I also looked forward to this trip for the many lakes that we’d see.  Goat Lake above Baptie Lake is regarded as the highest in Idaho (though Lonesome Lake in the White Clouds is just a few feet higher).  Regardless of the proper superlative, Goat Lake along with Baptie and Betty Lakes was beautiful and worth the three night trip.

The full moon occurred on our second night, but shooting moonrise is best done the night prior to the full moon.  This allows the moon to rise while still having ample ambient light so as to capture the moon properly (not overexposing or having the subject blurred due to movement).  Despite all my research and effort, the moon photos weren’t anything exceptional.  Moonset would have required a climb up Standhope Peak early in the morning which I wasn’t willing to do once at the lake.  Nonetheless this was a fantastic trip with equally fantastic scenery.

The first morning I woke up at dawn, looked out the tent and saw the cirque under a beautiful glow.  I took a few photos from Baptie Lake but soon decided I was going up to Goat Lake for the light show.  Matt joined me too as we hiked the quarter mile and approximate 300′ elevation gain up to Goat Lake.  This was our first sight of the lake.  Though it is above tree line and virtually void of trees (except for some scraggly, squatty limber pines)  the views were great.  As the morning sun lit the cirque, I was drawn to some still pools surrounded by rocks along the shoreline.

After enjoying sunrise, we went back to camp and completed our breakfast with some oatmeal.  The weather was great and the day was going to be filled with hiking.  We struck out across a boulder field to Betty Lake so that we wouldn’t lose any elevation.  This lake was as nice as Goat Lake and also treeless.  We rested and had a snack while both being drawn to the ridge above the lake.  I told Matt about a trail going to the saddle overlooking Surprise Valley.  Next thing I knew, we were hiking up another 500′ to the saddle.  The trail provided a rather easy ascent to what looked like nasty scree.  Here is a video I shot from atop the saddle:

After taking in the views and dissuading Matt to climb a nearby peak, we took a straight descent down the scree back to Betty Lake.  We continued on a loop and went to the small lake above Betty Lake, then over a saddle to Goat Lake.  It was here that Matt couldn’t resist the temptation to climb any longer and ultimately set out to summit Standhope Peak (11878′).  I, on the other hand, was very tired and hungry and opted to go back to camp and wait for Matt.  About three hours later Matt came back to camp.  Despite the climbing of the peak, he was still ready to go but he did need some food and water.  After about an hour of rest we set our for our final hike of the day.  There is a tarn above Goat Lake (to the south) that sits at 10712′.   The hike from Baptie was straight forward but also straight up (~600′).  It proved more tiring that expected but we had both done a lot of hiking already.  The views were quite nice, being able to look down upon Baptie and Goat Lakes.  The cloudless morning had changed into a cloudier afternoon.

The next day didn’t start off well.  I awoke early once again but the clouds kept me from going out.  Rather than getting up at 5:30, wind and rain led both of us to sleep in until 8:00!  Once out of the tent, there was still light, intermittent rain and the sky was blanketed with clouds.  Since we had seen pretty much everything the day before, we decided to go see Round Lake off of the Jarvis Trail.  (I had wanted to climb Standhope Peak, but my knee and the weather made me choose otherwise.)  It took about a mile of hiking to finally get to Round Lake.  Though small, it was quite nice.  Perhaps the nicest aspect of the hike was the high meadows that we encountered.  The whole area was filled with streams both from snow melt and outlets from the lakes.

The cloudy conditions finally started to break later in the afternoon which provided a very nice sunset.  I went to the ridge overlooking Broad Canyon from Baptie Lake at 8:30PM and was actively taking pictures for about 50 minutes.  Both of these shots were taken using a 3-stop hard edge reverse graduated neutral density filter with my trusty 24-105L Canon lens.

I was extremely excited after such a nice sunset and was anxiously awaiting and hoping for a nice morning.  For the final morning I awoke at 5:15AM again but this time the conditions looked great.  Matt (again) joined me as I grabbed a cereal bar and granola bar and hiked up to Goat Lake.  Unfortunately we were quite early (could have slept another 15-20 minutes!) but I had already scouted out where I wanted to shoot.  I set up the camera, made adjustments from time to time and fired away for about 20 minutes.  The clouds gave me hope that they’d light up providing an optimal scene.  This didn’t happen but the sunrise was still spectacular.

I’ve only been backpacking for three summer seasons but of the places that I’ve been throughout Central Idaho, only Pass Lake in the Lost River Range rivals the beauty of Baptie Lake and its surroundings.  I had high hopes for this trip but they were somehow exceeded.


4 thoughts on “Baptie Lake: Pioneer Mountains, Idaho

  1. Amazing scenes! Almost unbelievable there are places like that!
    Really, really good pictures. I enjoyed “my tour” very much.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I really enjoyed the pictures. I have the Baptie name on Google and that is how I received these. I have heard about Baptie Lake but have never been able to learn just who it was named after. It is certainly beautiful.

  3. Great photos and thanks for sharing!!! I am curious though why you say “Goat Lake above Baptie Lake is regarded as the highest in Idaho (though Lonesome Lake in the White Clouds is just a few feet higher).” The USGS 1:24,000 topo maps indicate that Lonesome Lake is 10,435 feet while Goat Lake is 10,438 feet, three feet high than Lonesome. I know that GPS units can give different elevations than those shown on the USGS maps, but due to the accuracy limitations of most GPS units in determining elevation, I am inclined to go with the USGS elevations unless the elevations were taken by survey grade GPS equipment.

    Actually, there are other “standing water bodies” in Idaho higher than Goat Lake but whether Goat Lake is the highest depends on how one defines a lake. For example, there is a standing water body just south of Goat Lake (which is featured in one of your photos above) which is approximately 10,700 feet, the standing water body in Upper Cedar Creek in the Lost River Range which is 10,510 feet, and the standing water body just west of Donaldson Peak in the Lost River Range which is approximately 10,820 feet.

    • Thanks for the comment Bart. I realize that it’s easy to throw around superlatives like this. I can’t exactly remember how Lonesome Lake qualifies. Maybe it had to be officially named or officially surveyed by the USGS. Even above Goat Lake in the Pioneers there is a tarn that would be higher than Lonesome Lake. Also, I think different maps show different elevations for Goat and Lonesome Lakes. Obviously the USGS map would be the most official. I’m glad you liked the photos!

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