Peak(s):  Borah Peak - 12662
Date Posted:  09/13/2016
Modified:  08/27/2017
Date Climbed:   08/16/2016
Author:  globreal
 Idaho State Highpoint   

Borah Peak"12,662'

View at Hwy 93 at the Birch Spings TH turnoff

15 August, 2016--Drive to Idaho and camp at trail head.
16 August, climb day
Crew: Logs Rule, Mark Ericson, Britt Jones
Roundtrip Mileage: 8.6 miles
Vertical Gain: 5,300 feet

After a glorious and successful backpacking trip and climb of Kings Peak in Utah, Logs, Mark, and we drove north to our second (of four) adventure in the STATE HIGHPOINT AUGUST EXTRAVGANZA! (This was my title on my posting on the calendar.
state line selfie

If you want to read the Utah Highpoint trip report, you can find it here:


Much of my research on Borah Peak, the Idaho state highpoint was found here on SummitPost.

During our drive to Borah Peak, it became the running joke as I stopped to take a picture of Borah Peak. To my disappointment soon afterwards, I found out, that mountain was NOT Borah. I must have taken 6 pictures of the WRONG mountain along the way to the trailhead!

The last town before the real Borah Peak is Mackay, Idaho. The locals pronounce it "mack-key" not "ma-kay". We stopped in this quaint little town for dinner.
Mackay, Idaho

It was here that we found out that each of us had the wrong climbing clothes. I always thought of the clothing rule cotton. But, who knew you are suppose to climb mountains in suspenders?
to heck with no cotton

North of town we found our turn which is well marked.
turn here!

Now I can finally get a picture of the real Borah Peak!
Borah Peak-12,662'

We found evidence of the 1983 earthquake. That was pretty impressive to see!

We made it to the campground and were lucky to find a campsite still open. There aren't to many at the trailhead. And two that were left didn't have flat tent sites. Logs and Mark ended up placing their tents in the short road and I car camped in the Laredo Lodge on that little road.

The next morning we had a pre-dawn alpine start. So the first hour was hiked in the dark by headlamp. However, finding the trailhead and staying on the trail is quite easy. No route finding or bush whacking needed.

The trail starts off steep and remains that way the majority of this climb. It is 5,300 vertical feet in 4.3 miles.

After getting above treeline and up to the ridge, we could see up to Chickenout Ridge where we noticed a climber on it. (Make note of the "big mound" to the left of the small saddle at Chickenout Ridge. I'll refer to it later.)
Chickenout Ridge saddle

I thought at first that the big mound to the left of Chickenout Ridge might have been the summit. But don't be deceived, it's that big boy off to the left.
Borah off to the left

The views along this ridge are impressive both looking down into the drainage between the ridge and Borah, as well as back into the valley below. After some hiking along the ridge on a less-steep, and milder trail, you come to some full-on scrambling.

There is some impressive elevation gains to be made on this climb. You can see the trail back on the ridge below. You hike along that entire thing.

The views up here are impressive in all directions if you climb on a clear day.
Mark enjoying the views

This is looking back south at some of those non-Borah mountains I photographed on the drive up!
false Borahs!

As you approach the gully below Chickenout Ridge, you have two options. You can continue on straight which will take you directly into the snow gully that drops down from the saddle at Chickenout Ridge. (I have a picture of this gully later in the trip report during our descent. ) This option is available to you if a) the snow is melted out, or b) you have crampons and ice axe. You don't want to step on that hard packed snow/ice without the right gear. However, we chose to turn right/up and take the direct steep rock gully to the top.

I think this is why it's called Chickenout Ridge. If you climb up the rock gully instead of the snow gully, you end up having to do this vertical downclimb. It's probably 4th class and not terribly difficult as the rock is stable with ample hand and foot holds. However, it is steep and exposed which is where I'm sure this place gets it's name. I can see why some people would chicken out and go home.
Logs on the down climb

photo courtesy of Mark Ericson

The saddle is not hard to least this time of year. However, when this foot trench is not in place, and if that snow is hard, not having crampons and ice axe would be very un-wise.
Chickenout Ridge saddle

After you cross the saddle at Chickenout Ridge, you don't start climbing up the other side to the top of the "big mound." The route is to traverse around that "big mound" towards Borah Peak. During our August trip, the snow was all melted out and the trail easy to follow.

After getting around the "big mound", you come to the very large saddle between the big mound and Borah. Here you can easily see the trail that stays low and to the left of the ridge proper.

On this large saddle we could see that there are some permanent cornices that linger year round.

Looking back from the large saddle, you can see the trail traversing underneath the "big mound" that starts at Chickenout Ridge.
Mark with "big mound" behind him

After this large saddle, the trail steepness ramps back up.

If you stay on the rocks instead of the scree, it's not to bad...just steep.

Looking back, you can see the long ridge down below from whence we came.

The trail takes you under the and past the summit a short ways to the west side. We are now getting that summit fever feeling!

Success! Someone had left an American flag on the summit. I am usually a big fan of LEAVE NO TRACE however, this seemed like a noble thing to do, so we left it up there.

We made it to the summit just before 10am. Since we left camp around 5:30, with our leisurely pace, we made it up in a bit under 4 � hours. That felt pretty good since it was 5,300 vertical feet of gain.

The summit register was in an ammo box. You never know what you'll find in these things. I've never seen that on a dollar bill!
CONGRATS on a dollar bill

From the summit, you can see the Birch Springs trailhead...over a mile below.

This was quite the sporty climb, and one that rivals many of our Colorado mountains. So don't think this is a wimpy mountain since it's only a 12er!

On our way be down, we decided to take the snow gully route down instead of crossing over the small saddle and up climbing that crux move and then down climbing that rock gully. We could see that if we could drop down low and cross this gully where the snow had melted out and could safely cross. This is not snow you want to step on without crampons and an ice axe. One slip without the proper gear and it wouldn't end pretty.


So, it just depends on what time of year you climb Borah and what gear you have will determine which route you can safely go....and of course your tolerance level for exposure, etc.

We took our time on the summit, and on the way down arriving back at the trailhead at 2:08pm. The temperature on the car thermometer showed 96 degrees! Needless to say, we were very hot and sweaty. So we knew where we were heading....something we saw as we drove the dirt road up to the trailhead...
time to cool down and wash up!

Talk about invigorating! That was a really nice, cool mountain stream on a hot day!

We were now 2 for 2 on our STATE HIGHPOINT AUGUST EXTRAVGANZA. We were successful in Utah on Kings Peak. And now here in Idaho, we were successful on Borah Peak.
Good bye Borah

During our afternoon drive, we heard the song by Queen...Another One Bites the Dust. That became our theme song for the rest of the trip.

Next, we were heading to Montana to climb Granite Peak. However, mother nature threw us a curve ball with a cold front coming in. The forecast showed a low of 21 degrees and multiple inches of snow! Seriously? In August just after having a 96 degree day! So, instead of driving to Grand Teton National Park to spend the night. We changed plans and started for North Dakota. After 3 nights of camping, we considered getting a motel but they wanted $125 so we looked for other options. We ended up spending the night north of Idaho Falls in a city park on the banks of the Snake River.

Don't say it. DON'T you say it!

This little city park wasn't in the city of Rexburg, Idaho, but actually out in the country. Logs and Mark set up their tents and I stayed in my Laredo Lodge. This was a delightful place to camp.

We had water to bath in, vault toilets just like at the trailheads, and even a picnic table to enjoy. And all this for 5 bucks!

Such a peaceful setting under a full moon.
Snake River

Next stop....White Butte, ND. (Trip report to be added soon, hopefully.)
Our final climb...Montana State Highpoint. TR here:

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
emcee smith

Keep em coming!
09/14/2016 07:51
Great work Brit, and great read.


Good Times
09/14/2016 10:31
What a fun looking route! That downclimb does look a little pucker-y, but y'all didn't seem phased one bit! Thanks for sharing.


Nice trip report!
09/14/2016 22:43
I love how the Lost River Range rises straight up out of the lowlands. I had a chance to spend a week there a few years ago bagging peaks and loved it. BTW the "false Borahs" in your picture are Sacajawea, Idaho Mountain and White Cap I believe (in case you were wondering).


Love Idaho
09/15/2016 11:06
Thanks for posting, I'm from Idaho so I love seeing good reports from there. The rock you down climb on the ridge is usually called "The Nose". The Lost River Range is host to some great geology, nice pictures!


New York High point connection
09/16/2016 17:07

You and I talked on the phone in 2011 after I made an attempt on Capitol with Steve G. Wanted to offer you a place to stay and a ride to marcy and or greylock when you come out here highpointing. could also pick you up from syracuse or albany airport(i live in utica, ny). not looking for quid pro quo, just good karma . hope you will email me if interested. congrats on your highpointing so far!


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