Slip-sliding into 'Hell's Hole', Part 2: Climbing out of 'Hell’s Hole' - East Idaho News
Living the Wild Life

Slip-sliding into ‘Hell’s Hole’, Part 2: Climbing out of ‘Hell’s Hole’

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Editor’s Note: This is the second part of Bill’s adventure in “Hell’s Hole. To reach Part 1, click here.

After collecting some beautiful material and debating what to leave behind, it was time to try to get back out. We decided that we could not make it up out of the hole the way we had come down, and decided to take a more gradual ridge even though it would mean climbing a half of a mile out of our way.

It was not easy. We would go 20 steps – rest – 20 steps and rest, when needed we would take our picks, dig a hole for our butts in the shade of a tree and nap/rest for 30 minutes.

Then I discovered I had some major problems; I had run out of food and water, my pack was too heavy and I found a pocket of sky blue agate on the ridge I was headed up.

Time to regroup.

Bluegreen Agate
A five pound piece of blue-green agate that replaced three pieces on the authors way out of Hell’s Hole. | Bill Schiess,

I high-graded the material I had in my pack, stashing three pieces in exchange for one beautiful piece before continuing. I yelled to Mike about my find, but he was too tired to return and see it.

I had not gone very far when Charlie visited my calves, thighs and hands, causing great pain, and I needed more time to rest. Mike had half a bottle of water which he gave me that helped some, but the trip up the mountain would take us another four hours. What looked like a gradual climb turned out to be a series of little draws and ridges all the way up.

Near the top, we encountered a sheer cliff where we needed to go around. Joe decided he would drop down the ravine, work his way through a boulder field and head for the top of the ridge. After a 30-minute rest laying in a dug-out bed, Mike and I decided to go left of the cliff to some trees that appeared to be hiding a break in the cliff.

Hiking in Hell Hole
Mike Bruton struggling up the steep mountain with a pack filled with precious rocks.

When we got there, we found the saddle – but it was so steep that I had to crawl on my hands and knees to get up over the top, intensifying the cramps. On top, we discovered the chance to walk downhill for the first time after over three hours of climbing, and saw Joe about 400 yards in front of us. Going downhill was a blessing for Mike, but my cramps increased with the downward walking.

Thirty minutes later Mike and I met Doug, Joe and two elk hunters where we had left our buckets of rocks early that morning. Just before I got to them, my legs refused to move, and I fell into the sagebrush. Doug and the hunters had water, salted nuts and energy bars, which they gave me. After 20 minutes, I was able to struggle the last mile down to the truck.

Lessons learned, oh yes. Will I go back? Probably, but with a lot more planning. I have studied all the Google Earth contour maps of the area that I can find and have mapped out a plan where I can stash drinks and food on the way down. I will also prepare days before I go so my 78-year-old body is fresh before I attempt it.

Black Agate
A slab of black agate found in the Hell’s Hole area, cut just in time to celebrate Halloween.

I have decided that hunting rocks on Monday; cutting, hauling and splitting a cord of wood on Tuesday and then the trip down the razorback ridge into the hole, were not smart things to do.

A lot of prayers and concern were relied upon that day, I am sure at one point, I heard Heavenly Father say, “Not you again,” but He did not tell me to “act my age and stay home watching TV.”

On the ride out, I queried Joe on what his take on the day was, he said, “On the way down that ridge, I wondered how you guys were going to get out. I think we chose the right way out.”

It was by far the hardest rock hunting trip I have ever been on – was it worth it – yup. Will I ever take anyone there – nope, it is Joe’s area for him to decide who goes there. Is it hard to find – yup, a 10 x 20 foot area in thousands of square miles of Central Idaho is like a needle lost in thousands of haystacks.

Blue Agate
A deep blue agate slab from Hell’s Hole. | Bill Schiess,

But if you are willing to work at it, study geological maps for the right land formations or have friends who are explorers and crazy enough to hike through difficult terrain, you may discover an untouched agate seam. They are out there to be stumbled upon or found.

There are hundreds of “Hell’s Holes” out there that may produce heavenly rewards, and every day I live I am more thankful for beautiful mountains and great friends who are wonderful, caring for elderly people.

Good Luck and be careful; God blessed us with snow so I wouldn’t be tempted to try it again this fall. But maybe we will get an Indian summer in November because every rock I brought out whets my appetite for some more!

A beautiful decorative agate from Hell’s Hole from Central Idaho. | Bill Schiess,

Living the Wild Life is brought to you by The Healing Sanctuary.


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