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Borah Peak - 12,662 Feet

Idaho's Highest Mountain!

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The view of Mount Borah (aka Borah Peak) from the top of Dickey Peak.

Trip Report (July 30th, 1999):
Borah Peak is the highest point in Idaho, the highest point in Custer County, the highest point in the Lost River Range, and has a prominence of 5,981’ (#1 in Idaho). In addition to being the highest point in Idaho, Borah Peak is a beautiful peak, which represents the state well! The northface of the peak holds snow throughout the year and offers great scenery and a harder challenge for those looking for a technical challenge.

The normal route on the peak, is the more mellow southwest ridge. That is the route I took when summiting the peak.

Todd Evans and I headed to the Borah trailhead around noon. We set up our tent in the late afternoon after the 3.5 hour drive from Boise. We talked with numerous climbers that were coming off the peak and got some great beta. The Borah trailhead has picnic tables, fire pits, and bathrooms. It’s not luxury camping, but there are a few trees and tremendous views!

We got up the next morning at 6am and were hiking by 7am. Todd is in great shape and set a fast pace. Borah would be my most elevation gained in a day and hardest hike yet, so I took it slow and steady.

The initial hike is on a steep, but decent trail. This trail gets you across the alluvial fan, then up onto the southwest ridge. Once out of the trees, you get a bit of a break in the steepness until the base of chicken-out ridge. Chicken out ridge is a steep, 500 foot section of class 3 climbing between about 11,400 feet and 11,898 feet. We ignored advice initially and tried traversing left of the ridge. This put us in some tricky spots. It is best to stay right on the ridge crest. You can see obvious signs of previous climbers on the ridge, with smoothed off rock, rubber marks, etc… Once at the top of the ridge, you need to cross the infamous snow bridge that gets you onto the main Borah ridge. This snow crossing can be treacherous, but on this day it was beaten into the ridge about 3 feet and didn’t require crampons or an ice axe.

After the snow crossing, you get a brief rest as you head to the base of the summit block. The final 800 feet are steep, but there is usually a trail just to the left of the ridge top. Finishing the final 800 feet were a big challenge, but I pushed on! Eventually we topped out. We were expecting a summit register, but could only find shards of burnt paper. Later we would find out that a lightning strike had taken out the summit register.

The views from the top were tremendous! You have views of valleys, lakes (we counted at least 5), and numerous other mountain ranges. After photos and all that, we headed down as the ascent had taken almost 6 hours.

We thought we were the last people on the mountain as we headed down, but we eventually ran into a solo hiker near Point 11,898. He was young and heading up to the top. The way down was uneventful until about 1 mile from the trailhead where the long day started to wear on us.

Todd wanted food and water and to get off his feet, so he rushed off with the finish line in sight.

Eventually I joined Todd to find out the cooler was out of ice and our dinner was soggy. Major bummer after such a touch day. Hours later we would finally get some food in Stanley after drinking numerous Diet Cokes 

Borah Peak is a great hike. It is a big challenge, but if you are in good shape it is worth the effort to sit on its summit!

From the trailhead, follow the trail east into the forest. After about 1.1 miles, the trail makes a turn north towards a low saddle in a sparse forest, then turns steeply southeast and continues for 1.5 miles to the bottom of Chicken Out Ridge where a 0.2 mile stretch of class three climbing works it way east before dropping 30 feet onto the top of a snow bridge. Cross the snow bridge and follow the trail northeast passing over the saddle between Borah and Point 11,898. The last 1/4 mile (800 feet) is on loose rock and very steep.

Getting There:
From Arco drive approximatley 45 miles north on US 93. Turn east on Birch Springs Road at the sign for Borah Peak access and drive to its end. At about 3.5 miles the road turns and runs along the earthquake fault of 1983. It then passes through a patch of quaking aspens and emerges at the parking lot. There are several campsites near the trailhead, a lot of parking, and a bathroom.

Pictures: Click on the pictures below to see the full-size version.
The summit of Mt. Borah from the west ridge.
The famous snow crossing on "Chicken Out Ridge".
The view of the southwest ridge from the top.
The view of the Lost River Range from the top.
Me on top!
View of a lake basin from the top.

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