I suppose most people climb Borah Peak in Idaho’s Lost River Range because it is the state high point and one of the most popular climbs. For me, that was only a secondary goal. Those of you who are familiar with this website know of my passion for skiing and my pursuit of back-country ski mountaineering opportunities. Borah is on my hit-list and so I wanted to climb and check it out prior to making a snow ascent/descent.
When 3 of my buddies at work told me of their plans to climb Borah in early September, I was all ears and jumped right in with a “self-invite”. Being the benevolent types that they are, (and seeing the opportunity to have someone else along to split expenses), they agreed to let me tag along. Our climbing team of four comprised 2 who had successfully climbed Borah previously, one who had made a first attempt and was thwarted by Chicken Out Ridge and me.
We made the climb on September 7th in perfect weather conditions. We also were not alone that day. I would estimate 100+ climbers on the mountain that day and one dog. The dog made the summit and probably climbed the mountain at least twice because she kept doubling back to check on different people in her group.
Here are some of my observations of the day, and Borah in general:
1) Chicken Out Ridge, COR, lived up to its name that day and turned back at least a couple of climbers, (plus it terrified a few more). Seriously, I would recommend that a person get comfortable with heights and some scrambling on rock before attempting this. I had a blast, but if I had attempted this as my first real climb, I’m sure it would not have been as fun.
2) I am glad I made the climb, BUT the next time I do it will be with skis on my pack for the descent. Many have said, and I would concur that the descent is physically tougher on you than the climb is.
3) The posted data on the route indicates that it is 3.5 miles each way. My GPS data placed it over 4 miles, (see GPS map below). This climb is physically challenging because of the average grade – it is unrelenting on both the ascent and descent. Not a technical challenge, but certainly challenging due to the elevation and the steep nature of the trail. As a comparison, Garnet Canyon in the Tetons, which is the popular approach route has several switchbacks and a much easier grade before the “real climbing” begins.
Highlights Video – Featuring “In Dreams” – by September Say Goodbye.
The GPS data below shows the route of our ascent and descent. There is a slight deviation on the lower trail that I attribute to a calibration issue. Other deviations are representative of different route selections that we took on COR. (We made a conscious decision to try different alternatives on both the ascent and descent to get a feel for what COR had to offer).
GPS Data: The route is very close to “a mile high” at 5,290+ total vertical and we did it car-to-car in just over 11 1/4 hours, (that included a nice 2+ hour break on the summit for some of us).
[…] Eventually, 3 of us made it to the saddle just below the summit. At this point, we were 3 miles in, and the summit was only about .4 miles away. The problem is that there were two options: 1) continue on the trail and drop 100 vertical feet below a cliff and boulder lined ridge line and then gain the 100 back plus an additional 100 to the summit. The last 200 vertical is a trail, but very steep. 2) take the cliff and boulder lined ridge for some technical scrambling similar to what one finds on Chicken Out Ridge on Mt. Borah. […]