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On Friday, August 7, a magnitude 4.2 earthquake shook Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountain Range. The event caused the collapse of Baron Spire aka Old Smoothie. Katy Murphree witnessed the rockfall and described it on the Idaho Hiking and Backpacking Facebook group. “The entire spire came down along with half the wall face,” she wrote. No injuries were reported.
Scott Forsyth shared the video above of the quake’s aftermath. “Just four hours before this earthquake and landslide, our party hiked through the landslide zone,” he wrote on Facebook. “Had we have been there at that moment we would have all died. It was a sobering experience.” As you can hear in the video, a member of Forsyth’s group is incredibly excited by what he witnessed.
Jordan Trevino provided some clarification for the shouting:
“My brother yelling was actually talking to three climbers who were camped on that side of the lake (going to climb Old Smoothie the next day),” he wrote. “Him and I went over to check on them right after things calmed down a bit. They were fine, but covered in about 1/4″ of silica dust. They ended up picking up their camp and staying 20 yards away with us at our camp.”
Fred Beckey, Pete Schoening, and Jack Schwabland made the first ascent of Baron Spire in 1949. Schwabland recounted the adventure in a 1950 article for the American Alpine Journal, titled “Sixth-Class Climbing in the Sawtooth Range.”
“As we looked up at the great block, we could understand why the Iowa Mountaineers had dubbed it ‘Old Smoothie,’ Schwabland wrote. “It was a magnificent piece of rock, resembling nothing so much as a monster egg standing on its end atop the rest of the mountain. It overhung all the way around; and, search as we might, we could not find a single crack or hold anywhere. Reluctantly, we hauled out our drills and bolts and prepared to do battle.”
On two consecutive days the team was driven away from the summit block by buzzing rock due to impending lightning. On the third day the weather cleared, and they summited the feature.
The epicenter of the quake was roughly 6.5 miles from Baron Spire. A report on VolcanoDiscovery.com attributed the quake to a larger event earlier this year.
The quake was likely yet another aftershock of the large 6.5 quake of March 31 80 miles northeast of Boise, which was a result of sudden slip along the Sawtooth fault, a 60-km-long normal fault extending along the eastern base of the Sawtooth Range. Aftershocks of such larger quakes often continues for many months.