Borah Peak - Northwest Ridge, August 2010
Borah Peak (left-of-center) with SW Ridge visible on right skyline. Click here for a slightly different perspective as seen from ID-93.

Borah Peak is the 12,662-ft potentate of the Lost River Range and the highest mountain in Idaho. The standard Southwest Ridge route is a third class scramble in late summer, ascending 5,262 vertical feet from the trailhead to the summit in just over 3.5 miles. Alternately referred to as "Chicken-Out Ridge", this is generally considered to be the primary route used to ascend the peak. Although short, the approach involves considerable elevation gain, making for a continuously steep hike in order to reach the start the route's namesake feature.

Rising on either side of the Lost River basin, these peaks have that classic American Wild West look. Adding to the effect, soft sagebrush greys blend with the yellowish sun-baked scrubland of late summer, reminding me of the scenery along I-15 through Montana and Idaho. I conveniently found myself passing through this wild and desolate area while taking the scenic route back to Seattle following my trip to Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Craters of the Moon. What better way to wrap up a climbing and sight-seeing trip to some of the nation's most scenic destinations than with a casual scramble on Borah's Southwest Ridge! (Photos: SV)

Click thumbnails below to enlarge...
A cautionary sign for the masses
A cautionary sign for the multitudes drawn to this peak by its highpoint status. It suggests that the climb takes 12-hours round trip, which seems a bit excessive to me. Of course climbing there in the spring or winter would be more challenging and time consuming.
View back from the trail leading up to NW Ridge
The view back from the trail leading up to the Southwest Ridge. For a similar perspective from a bit higher up, click here.

This route begins at an elevation of about 7200 feet. The steep but well maintained trail leaves the trailhead parking/turn-around area and ascends a forested drainage before switchbacking steeply to reach the scree and talus slopes below the ridge crest.
Start of SW Ridge as seen from the trail
View from the crest trail towards the infamous "Chicken-Out Ridge." I passed a father and son party here and proceeded to close-in a solo climber ahead of me. Despite the route's apparent popularity, these were the only other parties I encountered on the mountain that day...nevermind the threesome gleefully snoring away in their bivies near the trailhead early that morning.
Fun scrambling low on NW Ridge
David Kellogg scrambles low on the Southwest Ridge (photo taken on return). The rock here is relatively solid, and with occasionally moderate exposure if one stays on the crest proper it makes for suprisingly fun scrambling.
A section of trail between bits of scrambling
A brief section of trail interrupts the scrambling. For those looking for an easier alternative, the trail can be followed from this point onwards traversing below the ridge before reaching the saddle below the summit. As the trail veers left away from the ridge however, I found it more interesting to continue directly on the crest for some of the best scrambling the route has to offer. A short but tricky downclimb leads to a small snow saddle followed by some steeper climbing up a broken wall of yellowish rock (seen in upper left of photo).
View of traverse towards summit tower
Looking towards the summit pyramid from the aforementioned snow saddle. Note the trail traversing the slope in foreground. I followed this trail on descent rather than retrace my steps down the ridge. My advice is to stay on the crest as I did, at least for the ascent as the route would probably be a bit of a bore otherwise.
Summit tower as seen from ridge crest
The summit tower as seen from the upper reaches of "Chicken-Out Ridge." The ridge eases back considerably after a short pitch of steeper rock and leads to a broad saddle before the improbably loose slope below the summit proper. Click here for a view from a bit above this spot looking in the opposite direction.
Summit panorama
An amazing panorama from the summit of Borah Peak!

I met David Kellogg on Borah's summit and together we took in the views and discussed various aspects of life, politics, the economy, mountains, skiing and New Zealand of all things. I hope the offer still stands by the way! ;-) Despite being an avid hiker, this was his first time on Borah as well. After a good 30 to 45 minutes up on top, we reluctantly began the descent this time sticking to the ridge crest down from the summit before traversing back right to meet the loose trail leading to the saddle. Staying on the trail for most of the remaining descent, we made it back down to the trailhead in reasonably good time.

It is safe to say that this trip insipred a newfound curiosity and interest in the mountains of Idaho. This part of the state bears little resemblance to the panhandle area up north, and for this peakbagger at least remains full of allure and discovery.
Scenery along ID-93 SE of Challis
Pretty scenery along ID-93 SE of Challis.

I stopped in Pullman, WA on my way back home to reconnect with my old stomping grounds. It's been, what over 10 years since I visited last-where better to pay tribute to my alma mater than by downing a brewski or two at the (almost) on-campus pub: The Coug or whatever they call the place now? Unfortunately, a lack of available parking quickly reminded me how many parking tickets and wheel locks I endured during my tenure there and I decided to grab a burger and a beer at one of my other all-time favorite watering holes-Rico's Tavern, instead. I was however quite pleased to see that some things haven't changed at all in the intervening years. They make a big fuss these days about using hands-free devices or texting while driving etc, but I assure you that a loop through greek row this time of year will give you a new appreciation for distracted driving!

I made a couple quick detours to check out some other aspects of the local scenery before finishing-up the long boring drive back to Seattle. The view from the large pullout on ID-95 overlooking Lewiston and Clarkston gives a great perspective on where the borders of ID, WA and OR meet. Probably the best place to survey the Palouse from however, would be Steptoe Butte near the town of Steptoe. A quick drive up to the overlook on top yields expansive views (one more - here) in all directions. I used to think the Washington Lottery commercial titled Birds was filmed here, but now I'm not so sure anymore. In any case, now that I was finally done with sightseeing on this trip, I made a beeline for the interstate to return to my home in the land of Gray Skies and Strong Coffee.
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