Borah Peak - Southwest Ridge, August 2010
Borah Peak is the 12,662-ft monarch 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 of 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!
There's a cautionary sign at the trailhead 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. 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. I passed a father and son party hiking up the trail 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. (more...)
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