After my grand driving tour from New Mexico up through Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, I end up camped
at the base of Borah Peak in Idaho. There weren't many real campsites here, the main ones were already
taken, so I found a small shaded spot off the road and pitched my tent. Afterwards, I walked over to the
trailhead and chatted with two cops in the shade of their camper. They were also here to climb Borah in the
morning. We watched a few hikers coming down from the summit and chatted with them about the route and
weather conditions on the peak. We were all treated to a gorgeous sunset.
|View of Borah Peak from the south-west.|
I woke up early broke camp and cooked some breakfast. Taking my coffee to go, I headed to the trailhead
and snapped on my headlamp. As I set foot on the trail I checked my watch: 5:47am. The first part of the
trail gains little elevation and was easy to follow. I soon turned off the headlamp.
|Sunset the night before my climb.|
Up ahead I started to make out another hiker who must have started out just ahead of me. I usually don't like
disturbing quiet early morning hikes for others, but I also didn't want to startle him by suddenly appearing
behind. I started kicking a few rocks to make just enough noise for him to hear me, but I apparently startled
him into momentarily thinking there was a bear behind him. We chatted briefly and I passed by as the trail
climbed toward the saddle near point 8714.
|The trail as it leads to the summit.|
After this momentary flat spot, the trail drives straight up, unrelenting until just past tree line. Throughout
this portion the trail is braided with multiple routes (all steep), but thankfully you start receiving excellent
views of the valley running below and a distant range to the west. Also, the pine trees are spectacularly
weathered and contorted.
The trail finally levels out and hugs the southern, more gently sloping side of the ridge. Then the trail
begins to wind up through loose rocks and rubble. After gaining the main ridge again, the trail begins the
"Chicken Out" portion.
I didn't find the Chicken Out Ridge to be very frightening. However, I'd been on similar ridges in Colorado
before. Much of the ridge is basically walk-able, provided you are comfortable with the exposure (the north side
of the ridge is very steep). I also noticed that there appeared to be a "use" trail running below the ridge,
winding it's way through the loose rocks. Personally, I think taking such a trail would be more dangerous
than sticking on the ridge itself. At least on top of the ridge the rock is solid.
|Scrambling on the ridge proper.|
At the end of Chicken Out Ridge, is the 3rd class down climb. Someone had left a section of climbing rope
here, which I didn't use, but could appreciate how some people would not want to down climb this without
a rope. Once down, there is often a small snow bridge, but this year the snow bridge had melted out. However,
if snow was present, crampons would be a wise idea, as both sides are steep slopes and a long way down.
Newer route guides show the trail contouring around point 11898, however older guidebooks (like the Zumwalt)
follow the very top of the ridge from here to the summit. Feeling adventurous, I decided to follow in the
footsteps of the earlier Borah climbers. Gaining ground to point 11898 was a steep, but easy ladder-like
climb of a cracked face. I just climbed up a series of ledges 2-4 inches thick and conveniently spaced.
From the top of this point, you head back down class 2 terrain until you meet the current trail again. Then,
once again, my route departed from the current convention. The trail slowly climbs to the summit of Borah Peak,
switchbacking and winding through the loose rocks. I followed right up the main line of the ridge, making
"real" climbing moves much of the time and being rewarded with great views to the southeast. Plus, I was
able to hike in the sun, but I was also receiving more of the wind's force.
|Looking south over the standard route from the summit.|
Finally I reached the summit. While it was quite windy (a phenomenon I was getting quite used to after the
summits of Sniktau and Wheeler), there were some great views of the neighboring mountains. I found the
ammunition container/summit register and signed in. My watch was reading about 8:50am, so it was about
3 hours from trailhead to summit.
I started down climbing the same way I came up, and on the way I saw the fellow I'd passed early on just finishing
his climb. At this point, I was no longer alone high up on the mountain, so I figured I should stick to the
trail so as not to inadvertently knock any rocks on those below. As I came off the summit I started passing
more and more of hikers on their way up. At the beginning of Chicken Out Ridge I came across the two cops, who
had gotten a bit later start. It looked like they had clear and stable weather for the rest of the day, so
I hope they made it.
My descent took as long as my climb, about 3 hours, since I stopped quite often to chat with people and give
them encouragement. Finally back at my car, I left and made the drive to Evanston, WY which would be my
launching off point for Kings Peak, Utah.
|View of Chicken-Out ridge from the summit.|