Idaho High Point Hike

Highpoint 43. Idaho, Borah Peak, 12,662 ft, 8/24/05

Used Wingers' book for guidance. Zumwalt's book has an ok map. Also used a MapSource map.
This was an amazing adventure. People have died at this site. I met only 3 people on Wednesday. Two chickened out at Chicken-Out Ridge. I would criticize no person who chickened out at Chicken-out Ridge. Spent an unplanned night on the mountain and met another sheriff Thursday at mid-day as I was driving out.

I stayed at the Wagon Wheel Inn in Mackay, ID. Had good intentions of getting an early start. Got up at 5 am, left at 5:36 am, and started hiking at 6:45 am. The vertical rise is over 5200 feet. My ascent time was 7.5 hours. My descent time was 21 hours, because I made a mistake on the way down, just below Chicken-Out Ridge, and went down and out by the Cedar Creek drainage.

About an hour into the ascent, I heard an elk bugling and coming closer. I clicked my ski poles together and his bugling started getting more distant.

I usually take away nothing, but this time, found a collapsable Zebra pen on the way up, and a fluorescent yellow golf ball on the way down.

Chicken-out Ridge is noteworthy. I was able to cross it on the descent, but not on the ascent. On the way up, I down-climbed on the north-west side and crab-crawled across the loose scree, then scrambled back up to the trail. On the descent, I walked across the ridge and scrambled across the exposed vertical face, up and to the right, jumping a short distance at one point. I could not do this during ascent. A 25 foot rope would have been useful.

There was almost no snow left at the "snow-bridge". I did not have to walk in snow at any time. During the last few hundred feet of rise after the "snow-bridge", it is best to try to stay on or near the trail, which is pretty thin at times.

At the summit, I found a place in the full book to sign, found the benchmark, and took pictures. After a snack and a short rest, I started down at 2:30 pm.

A few hundred feet below Chicken-out Ridge, just before the top of the long high ridge, inspite of trying very hard to follow the trail down, I missed a turn and ended up going down a long scree fan, all the way to Cedar Creek.

As I slid down the scree, often a lot of the scree moved with me. At first I was strong enough to descend standing up, with one foot leading and using my ski poles and ankles to control speed and direction. Had to keep my toes pointed slightly up to stay on top. It was like skiing powder. After I started getting tired, I slid, squatting on one foot with the other out in front to steer. At times I slid on my seat. My hiking pants were shredded in this process. If I started moving too fast, I would roll over on my stomach and do the ice-axe stop with my toes and ski pole tips. At times, I would have to walk left or right, or scramble down rocks to find a safer place to continue down the scree. I frequently saw fresh footprints, so someone else made the same mistake within the previous day or so. The total vertical drop to the creek was over 2000 feet, and took me about 2 hours.

I picked my way down the creek, crossing back and forth many times, until 9 pm, when I lost light. There was lots of brush and undergrowth. At narrow places, there was a vertical wall on one side of the creek, and scree to the water on the other. Even though there was a full moon, there was not enough light to hike down the creek safely, and I was tired. I rested for the night under a tree near the creek, at about 9000 feet altitude. This time, I had a Survival Emergency Blanket for 2 people. The "2 people" description is a total fabrication. I folded it in half and duct-taped the bottom so my feet wouldn't hang out. I was wearing wool socks (not cotton, the fabric of death according to the rangers at Yosemite). I put on rain gear and curled up for the night. I shivered for a while around 4 am. At 6 am I arose, had a snack and started down. Slid into water over my boots once about half way down. Crossed a ridge near the bottom to get back to the trail head. Might have been private property, not sure. I always record a waypoint on my GPS at the trail-head, so I knew exactly where to head. Drove away from the trail-head at 11:45 am.

As I was driving back to the main road, I met the Custer County Sheriff. He was pretty on-top of things. He had seen my vehicle at the trail-head the previous night. Also, the people at my hotel in Mackay knew where I was going and called in when I missed the check-out time. Nevertheless, I volunteered the least information possible, and escaped without a sermon.

I saw ground squirrels, black & white jays, a condor, but no bears.

Suggestions and comment:

Getting to the top has never been a problem for me. I have made my mistakes on the way down, even when trying to stay on the trail. Read Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. Read "Staying Found." There are some classic mistakes that "older" people make, and by "older", I mean older than 7 (seven) years. If you take another trail out, it will almost always take longer and be longer than the main trail. Don't assume another drainage will be passable. I think Cedar Creek might be impassable when the water is higher. I don't think rubber-tipped hiking poles would have been useful on this hike.

The road from the main road to the trail-head is gravel. I used my own vehicle, but you could get to the trail-head in a regular rental car without any problem. Might have to dodge a few cows and cow pies.

Complete Road Trip Itinerary for 2005.

The trail is on the west side of the mountain, so there is no direct sunlight until after 9 am. This is above the tree line, near the start of the long high ridge. First sunlight at 9 am
At the summit: the ammo box with full log book. The black pipe contains a summit banner shown below. Borah Peak summit
A little below the summit is a small shelter cairn, 2 US flags, and a pair of antlers. Borah Peak summit cairn
Antlers. Antlers atop Borah Peak
Summit Benchmark Information from the NGS Data Sheet:
Designation - 12655 VA
PID - PZ0769
State/County - ID/CUSTER
USGS QUAD - BORAH PEAK (1967)
NAD 83(1992)
Lat --- 44 08 14.59234 (N)
Long -- 113 46 51.90540(W) ADJUSTED
Height - 12667 feet ADJUSTED
Borah Peak summit benchmark
The summit banner from the black pipe. Borah Peak summit banner from the black pipe
Self portrait. Taking a rest on the summit banner. Resting at the summit
Looking up at the summit from the "snow-bridge". Note the thin trail. This part is more difficult than it appears. Borah Peak summit from the snow-bridge
Looking back down on the "snow bridge". Note the snow is almost gone in late August. Chicken-out Ridge is beyond and below the peak shown. The trail can be seen on the right side. Borah Peak snow-bridge in late August
Chicken-out Ridge on the descent. The terrain drops over 1000 feet on either side of the ridge. Crossing the ridge is not difficult. The exposed face shown is the hard part. I scrambled up and to the right. Many hikers climb over the top. A 20 foot rope would have been nice for the ascent. (Coming the other way.) Chicken-out Ridge
This view is looking up from Cedar Creek. Just below Chicken-out Ridge, I missed a left turn in the trail and descended 2000 vertical feet on scree, from the upper left in the picture. This was not cool. Looking up from Cedar Creek
My Columbia hiking pants were not up to the task and shredded coming down the scree. Most of the descent I was on my feet, but occasionally went down. If I started moving too fast, I would do the "ice-axe stop" and roll onto my stomach and dig in with my toes and ski poles. Shredded hiking pants
My nest for the night.
Yes, I took it all with me when I left.
Heard no critters all night, and there were very few insects. The moon was full, and the sky was clear, so it got cold.
My nest for the night