Ascent of Borah Peak on 2017-08-20

Climber: Marcus Lostracco

Date:Sunday, August 20, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Borah Peak
    Elevation:12662 ft / 3859 m

Ascent Trip Report

Solo Solar Eclipse trip to Idaho to bag Borah peak and witness the eclipse in totality.

I had no intention of going to see the eclipse until about 5 days prior to this trip. Out of curiosity I was looking at the totality path and I discovered that it went right over Borah Peak - the high point of Idaho, and the decision was made for me. Peakbagger mode: engaged.

Rented a car in San Diego and hit the road on Friday around noon, overnighting in St George Utah, and then making it all the way up to Idaho Saturday by mid day. I really enjoyed visiting the town of Mackay and feeling the ambiance and the excitement of the folks in the small town gearing up for the big celestial event.

The campsite at the base of the Borah Peak walk-up trail was already filling up quickly. I was happy to arrive when I did. For some reason all this anticipation for the eclipse had me nervous about certain things that looking back were of no significance. I was afraid of getting stuck in traffic. Idaho is huge - you would need a lot of cars to cause a traffic jam. I was afraid of the mountain being overcrowded. Borah peak is a massive mountain with a lot of room to accommodate people.

I decided to reach the peak the day prior, fearing the chicken-out-ridge section would get too backed up on the actual day of the eclipse. I was happy with my decision as I ended up getting about 25 minutes on the summit to myself. Can't beat that. Chicken out ridge is an easy scramble, but also really fun! A lot of different options for a route can be taken. I was amazed by the amount of peaks in this area. It is truly remarkable and most of these peaks are very remote with no trail in particular. These are very jagged peaks as well, with fast-eroding edges, making for some precarious scrambling opportunities.

The following day I would return to 10,000 feet on the trail and view the eclipse with a couple others I had met the prior day. One 60 year-old guy and one 60-year old lady. I only found out after the fact the lady happened to be Charlotte Fox - a member of the 1997 Everest disaster expedition. The man (unfortunately can't quite remember his name) was from Nevada and had quite an impressive peakbagging resume of his own.

The eclipse itself was a mind-blowing experience. The entire progression of it was amazing. At first, we were staring right at the sun and it was quite warm out. But about halfway through these shadows began to form that looked... unnatural. Almost like shadows you would see in the later part of the day, but the sun was still bright and high in the sky. Then the shadows became more and more pronounced and the temperature began to drop drastically. I put on another layer. And then my windbreaker. And then had to put my hands in my pockets! It was really getting cold! The smokiness of the valley added to the dramatic effect. Soon enough, it was getting darker, until we could start to see the mountain range from across the valley come into view! The shadow of the moon blocking the sun allowed us to see through the smoke particles suspended in the air... incredible. Then the colors changed from day time to sunset to all of a sudden - we were in it. Totality. Remove the eclipse glasses and take it all in. The entire horizon around me was like sunset. The sky was pitch black. I have never seen a more black object than the moon blocking the sun. And the whiteness of the corona was so pure. It was not dark around me, however. I could still see everything around - but it was almost like more of a pale, soft, white light, almost like a streetlamp. Stars were also coming into view, and then Mars was visible - super bright. And soon enough it was over. I was left in a state of awe. It felt surreal. Like it didn't actually happen.

I am now officially an eclipse chaser. You will find me on a peak at the next one.
Summary Total Data
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Gorgeous with a smokey valley haze

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