Mount Church (12,220+) and Donaldson Peak (12,023)
Mount Church from the summit of Donaldson Peak.
Trip Report (7/4/2003):
On July 4th, I scrambled up Mount Church and Donaldson Peak with Jim and Zach. Instead of the common Jones Creek approach, we decided to approach from the next canyon to the north (north fork of Jones Creek?). We were able to drive nearly to the mouth of the canyon and setup camp on Thursday evening (July 3rd). Jim was in a hurry to get back to Boise on the 4th, so we woke at 3:00 AM in the morning. According to my GPS, we left camp at 3:25 AM.
Using headlamps, we followed the deep canyon in the darkness. It was fairly easy going, but was a bit tiring at that hour. As daylight approached, we had fought our way to a awesome green meadow that surrounded the creek. From here, we could see Church and Donaldson hovering over us like a couple of giants. We would then come out of the drainage and turn more westerly to make our way up grassy, then scree covered slopes. Our immediate goal was a pond of sorts at 10,500 feet. We utilized a dry, black creek bed to attain the aforementioned pond. It was steep, but good rock. Once at the puddle, we continued on loosening scree to the a more formidable pond at 11,000 feet. From here on up, the climb was on. We headed around the pond and up a scree ramp and began meandering around towers to the Church/Donaldson ridge at 11,800 feet. This section involves class 3 climbing on rock of questionable quality, loose scree, and route finding skills. The climb up this section reminded me of Diamond Peak's east ridge.
Once at the ridge, we set our sights on Mount Church. The ridge walk over to Church is full of challenges, but enjoyable. I could see a lot of people calling it quits on this ridge after the climb to the saddle and because of the narrow and rocky aspects of the ridge. After 30 minutes or so, we were on top of Mount Church enjoying incredible views of Leatherman Peak, White Cap Peak, and Mount Borah. Also cool were the views of the Big Lost and Pahsimerio valleys below us.
After 45 minutes a top Church, we descended to "the Perch" (an exceptionally well built rock shelter) between the two peaks. Here we caught our breath and began the death march up to Donaldson. After 20 or so minutes on Donaldson, we headed down. I was beat! I'm not sure if it was the lack of sleep (a paltry 6 hours in 2 nights) or the lack of food (my sandwich tasted like man-ass and went uneaten), but I was not spent. About 1/2 way down to the lake, Jim tore off, leaving the slower Zach and Dan team on their own. Just above the lake, a few seated glissades of 200 feet or so saved my weary legs. Heading down past the lake, I ran into a friend from work, Vince, and a friend of his. They started at 11:30 to bag the same peaks. After reaching the meadow, it was an hour and a half of foot misery as we re-navigated the creek bed to get to our vehicle. I believe we finished at 2:35 according to the GPS, making it just over an 11 hour fiasco.
Speaking of times on Church/Donaldson, Zach and I managed 11 hours. Jim did it in 10 hours. Vince (my friend I saw on the way up) did it in 6 hours. I heard reports last year of 6.5 hours, a couple of 12 hours... all the way to 14 hours. One hiking book suggests 10-12 hours. Amazing the differences on this trip!
When done, I was tired, hungry, dirty, and un-motivated to do another peak the next day. A dip in Mackay reservoir brought me back a little, bbq'd steaks in Mackay a lot more, and then after 8 hours of sleep that night, it was off to the Pioneers for another two peaks!
Time: 11 hours
Length: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 5100 feet
Class (difficulty): 3 (and a lot of it)
Pictures: Click on the pictures below to see the full-size version.