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Borah Peak - Idaho Highpoint 12,662ft. - Idaho, United States

by timlove  
with a Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx
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Note: This trip has updated and more accurate GPS data. I posted a similar trip but the mapping data was drawn within EveryTrail. Use this trip GPS data for better location info.

After talking for over five years about climbing to the highest point in Idaho, we were still just talking about it. Other people also wanted to climb to the summit, but when it came down to the nitty gritty, we were still just talking.

We finally marked the date on the calendar and planned the trip.
July 26 would be the day we attempt to summit the highest point in Idaho.

The team had initially started out with about 28 people.
After a few preparatory hikes and review of the Borah Peak terrain and elevation profiles, the team quickly slimmed down to 5.

We piled all our gear (way too much gear) in the back of a Dodge truck and headed toward Mackay Idaho.

Along the way we  passed Craters of the Moon and headed toward Arco, Idaho. Arco's claim to fame is that it was the first nuclear powered town in the US.

Stopping at a gas station in Mackay, everyone scrambled for the restroom, then to get a few snacks.

Finally we reached our campsite near the Borah trail head.  One of our team members had brought his dutch oven and had prepared an awesome meal for all of us.

Next to our campsite  a couple guys showed up that had just spent three weeks hiking through the Sawtooth mountains. We invited them over to eat with us.  We all enjoyed the food and conversation.

We decided to be on the trail by 4:00AM using headlamps to avoid any mosquitoes and to hopefully see a great sunrise.

Everyone headed to their tents.

Sleeping did not come easy. There was snoring from various tents and some other hikers showed up late and were talking until after midnight.

The 3:30AM alarm sounded and we all started to break down camp.

I took out my JetBoil and made some hot coffee and oatmeal. My breakfast was cooked and ready to eat in under 10 minutes.  I was ready to go.
Unfortunately others got up late and breakfast was a slower process.

We finally got on the trail at about 5:45. It was later than we wanted, but everyone was in good spirits and ready to attempt the summit.

Out came the trekking poles and up the trail we went.
The trail started out on a gradual incline and we made it into the trees.
We did not need our flashlights or headlamps so we stowed the gear and continued up the trail.

It didn't take long until the mosquitoes were known to us all.
"Hey....do you have any more repellent?" became a common phrase.
This lasted until we broke past the tree line and out onto the rocks.

As the sun began to rise over the mountains, the shadows of the peaks being cast on the valley floor were an incredible sight.

Once the sun had crested the ridges, the air began to warm up and we started to set a good pace.

We passed an area out on in the open where a rock wind shelter and fire had been setup. I thought to myself that that would be a great place to start from in the morning so that you could possibly be on the summit and watch the sunrise.  Oh, well....maybe next time.

The steepness leveled out and this gave our legs a rest. It was short lived though.

Chicken Out Ridge was in front of us.

We had hear so many stories of people turning back at this point that we were not sure what to expect. It was named Chicken Out Ridge because for a number of hikers, the exposure on both sides of the ridge is enough to convince them to "chicken out" and return to camp.
Google maps, trail and summit logs.....everyone had a different story about the COR. Granted, you are exposed on both sides, but it did not seem that intimidating. This was actually a high-point of the climb for me.

The trekking poles were put away and we started up Chicken Out Ridge.
I told the team to stay on top of the ridge line and not to try and work their way around the edges. Everyone stayed on the ridge and made it across the exposed area with no problems.

We stopped and took a short break just below the ridge and discussed the snow crossing.

The downclimb from Chicken Out Ridge onto the snow seemed harder than crossing the ridge itself.

Once we had downclimbed onto the snow we were all ready to cross the saddle.

There was already a path across the saddle in the snow, so the ice axe was not needed.

We all crossed the saddle and felt a sense of accomplishment.

The trail leveled off again and as we rounded a corner, we looked up and saw the field of stone above us that we had to ascend. Our legs started to hurt just looking at it.

The air was thinner now and we began to notice it a little. We drank water from our Camelbaks and ate some energy bars and then steadied ourselves for the ascent.

At a few places you could not find the trail in the loose rocks at all.
Just look ahead and up, find something that resembles a trail and head for it.

A few steps up...slide back.....a few more steps.....keep going.
Watch your step....don't twist your ankle...easy on the knees....
None of us wanted to have an injury this close to the summit.

Finally the summit was in sight.
You could see what looked like a small flag on top of the mountain.

Another short, steep ascent and finally we were there!
On top of Idaho! 12,662 feet high.
A little over 5000 feet of elevation gain in about 4 miles.

We found the summit log and signed our names.
Other teams had already summited and we asked them to take our picture with the summit flag.

I just couldn't resist it....I had brought my GPS with the location of a geocache near the summit
The cache was located, the logbook signed, and then I sat down to take in the view.

Beautiful unnamed alpine lakes and various peaks over 10,000 feet were in view from our vantage point along with a nice breeze.

The valley was not as clear as we had hoped (maybe due to the smoke from a bad fire season) but the view was still awesome.

After eating some lunch, it was time to head back down the mountain.

The scramble down the rocks proved to be hard on our knees (this was anticipated) and the first aid kits had been stocked with Advil just in case.

One of the team members injured his knees and the weight of his pack was causing pain. I took as much of his gear as possible to lighten the load. He was able to keep moving under his own power.

We slowly made it back to the trailhead and looked back at the mountain.

The weather had held and everyone on the team made it to the summit and back.

We put our packs in the back of the truck, headed into Mackay for a hamburger and fries.

We were all tired, but we had accomplished what we set out to do.

It had been a good day to summit.

Now it was just a long 5 hour drive home. But after 5 years in the making, who's counting.......
Stay on top of Chicken Out Ridge. The ridgeline is the safest way over COR. You can get into trouble if you attempt to climb on the sides.

Even into August there can be snow on the saddle after Chicken out Ridge. You may want to bring an ice axe. I brought my ice axe, but it was not needed.

Our ascent/descent time was very long due to a team member injury, and also due to us just going slow and enjoying the company as well as the climb.
Peak, Highpoint, summit, high, Idaho, point, Mt. Borah, Borah, Borah Peak
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Comments (6)
by bouchardpie on Jul 29, 2012
I used your trip as a guide and it was quite useful. This was my first highpoint, but I am officially hooked. Oh yea, and Borah was brutal. nobody ever mentions that in trip reports.
by RobertDangerByrd on Aug 28, 2010
I am hoping to attempt this in the Fall. Thanks for all this great information. Obviously "ruger" has never done Borah.
by tjdmobile on Jul 14, 2010
awesome trip & photos
by joost on Apr 22, 2010
The trip was done in one day, with about one mile of elevation gain over about three to four miles. The trip stats and graph support this. No fishing stories here.
by timlove on Apr 14, 2010
You made it sound hard. An eight mile hike 2 days and 5000 foot ascent. You mentioned 5500 elevation gain in three miles. Your GPS track contradicts this claim. You would have had to hike the whole 8 miles in 3 hours. Look at the contour lines. Sounds like a fishing story to me.
by ruger on Apr 07, 2010
Trip Info
by timlove
July 26, 2008
Trip Location: Mackay, Idaho, United States
Length: 8.1 miles
Duration: 13 hours
Activity: Hiking
Trip viewed 5,547 times
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