Ascent of Borah Peak on 2004-07-24

Climber: David Obert

Others in Party:Dr. Paul Obert
Date:Saturday, July 24, 2004
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Borah Peak
    Elevation:12662 ft / 3859 m

Ascent Trip Report

Weather was great until we passed Chicken Out Ridge on the way back down, and then a strong t-storm hit, bringing hail, cold temperatures, etc. and oh yeah, lightning. One of the most physically demanding peaks I've done.

Getting there:

-Flew into Jackson Hole, WY. The drive to Mackay, ID was one of the most scenic I've ever been on.
-Mackay, ID looks like some oil boom town from the 1920s. They have a grocery store if you need some supplies. The store still used ticker-tape cash registers and had to enter each item by hand.
-Trail head is just a few minutes from Mackay. You turn off the highway onto a well-maintained dirt road, then slowly climb a couple of miles to the trailhead.
-In 1983, there was a huge earthquake right near the trailhead. You can see where the earth actually shifted up several feet. As a result, Borah Peak is now higher than it was.
-You can camp right at the trail head. Very flat, but with limited shade. We were the only ones there. Bears, rodents, and other varmits were nowhere to be seen. Take mosquito repellent just in case, but we didn't have any.

Most Important Info:

-Well maintained trail, becomes less so above treeline (not a problem though).

-Trail: Typical progression of climate zones. Started in thick evergreens, lots of shade. Switchbacks continue for first mile or more, then give way to more straight-line path. Treeline around 10,800 if I remember correctly. Trail became typical alpine, loose scree.

-Chicken Out Ridge: Named because many people "chicken out" at the sight of it. Don't be one of those people. I admit that at first sight, I was a little taken back by the drop-offs on each side of it. About 1/2 mile or more of exposed granite, "saddle"-shaped, width ranged from 5 to 20 feet. Only significant part was about a 7-foot face, but it had many hand/footholds. I am 6'2", 230 pounds and it was not a problem.

-In the middle of Chicken Out Ridge was a 10-foot long "snow bridge". The snow is packed powder, and held pretty well. It is very narrow, only about 4-5 feet or so. If you feel uncomfortable, get down on all fours to traverse it. Don't fall here, as there is about a 2,000+ drop on either side.

-No sections required rope/axe/crampons. There is some significant exposure above 11,000 feet on Chicken Out Ridge. Just take your time on this section, and you'll be fine. Have a good pair of boots.

-Summit: Approach begins with the end of Chicken Out Ridge. An all-fours scramble to the top. Non-technical, medium-sized boulders. Actually not bad at all. Just keep moving. The view from the summit is unique from other high points. It is a very small summit, and combined with the spectacular drop offs in all directions, it is worth the hard work. Visibility is well over 50 miles. Be sure to sign the log.

-The way back down got kind of annoying, because you have to go a little slower than you want. (We were in a special situation though, as we were trying to not get struck by lighting). The trail was so steep that I slipped a few times and busted my ass on the dirt.

-There is a 5,000 foot elevation gain in about 3-4 miles. That's not a typo. At some points you're wondering what kind of idiot made this trail almost straight up the side of the mountain. You should be in good shape for this one. Train your lower body with weights and cardio. You're going to be out of breath.

-Unless you like lightning striking 50 yards from you, hail storms, torrentail downpours, slightly-above-freezing temperatures, and 50 mph winds, you MUST start no later than 7 AM. Summer thunderstorms literally appear out of nowhere, starting about 2 PM. We were put in a very dangerous situation because we spent too much time at the summit.

-Got back to the trail head exhausted, soaking wet, and freezing. The beer tasted great after that one.

-This climb is good to combine with King's Peak in Utah, as they are pretty close together.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5162 ft / 1573 m
    Total Elevation Loss:5162 ft / 1573 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6 mi / 9.7 km
    Grade/Class:YDS Grade III, YDS C
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:0 nights away from roads
    Weather:Cool, Windy, Clear
Ascent: Sunny/cool. Descent: Severe T-storm w/ hail
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:5162 ft / 1573 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    Start Trailhead:Trailhead  7500 ft / 2286 m
    Time:0 Days 4 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:5162 ft / 1573 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    End Trailhead:Trailhead  7500 ft / 2286 m
    Time:2 Hours 

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