Mount Borah, (Idaho)
By: Mark Adrian
Sometimes, you discover the unexpected, and such is the case for Idaho's state highpoint, 12,662' Mount Borah. Also the highpoint of the Lost River Range, Mount Borah's remote and stunning appeal offer the desert peakbagger a quality dayhike in a breathtaking alpine setting.
Although a two-day drive from San Diego (about 1,000 miles or so), the 5,200' gain, three-and-a-half mile, class three route, more than mitigates the long haul from home. Sue Holloway and I hiked the "standard" route via Chicken Out Ridge, where we encountered the route's crux, some moderate (and exposed) class three rock.
The Lost River Range appears to be a giant upheaval of metamorphic rock, perhaps limestone or sedimentary in origin. Testament to this is a nearby earthquake fault interpretive center, located one mile north of the trailhead's access road. I likened the peak to a "giant" version of "our" Little Eagle out near Death Valley Junction.
Starting from the three-site campground, the excellent use trail ascends steeply towards Chicken Out Ridge. On departure, Sue and I got tangled up with a gaggle of teenaged boyscouts. But, being if good shape, Sue and I quickly bolted ahead to escape their din. The day was beyond perfect and with each step we could see more and more distant ranges, a compelling sight to say the least. After negotiating the exhilarating class three on Chicken Out Ridge, a small (perhaps 30') snowbridge is crossed and the good use trail continues on to the summit. Our ascent time was 2.75 hours. Since it was early in the day and the weather was ideal, we spent an hour on the summit reading the register and scanning the horizon with binoculars.
On descent, we met a small, inquisitive boyscout contingent. More than half of their group had turned around at the bottom of Chicken Out Ridge. It took Sue and I about 2.5 hours to descend (ski poles helpful on the steep use trail). Back at the van, we savored some cold drinks in the shade of some "serenading" aspens. From here, we began the long drive towards Bozeman, MT and the trailhead for Granite Peak, yet another successful adventure.
DRIVE: Many, many miles to Pocatello, ID (via 115). From here, proceed N on 115 to Blackfoot, ID and take highway 26 northwest to Arco, ID (services here). From Arco, ID, proceed northwest on highway 93 passing through Mackay, ID. The signed turnoff for the trailhead is between mileposts 129 and 130. 2WDs should have no problems driving to the campground (toilets, no water, no fees, no permits)
CLIMB: From the east end of the campground's parking area, follow the excellent but steep use trail east. After about 1.2 miles, the trail makes a bend 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 proceeds east before dropping 20' (good class three) on to the top of a 30' horizontal snow bridge. Cross the snow bridge (we didn't use or need ice axes) and follow the good use trail northeast passing over a high saddle. The last 0.25 miles is somewhat loose and the trail frays. However, the summit is obvious. RT Stats : 7 miles, 5200' gain, Class 3, 7 hours.
NOTE: we didn't feel the need for a rope, although I did carry a 50' 7mm and lowered my daypack on descent to the snowbridge. For more information: contact Lost River Ranger District, 716 W. Custer, P.O. Box 507, Mackay, ID 83251 Phone 208-588-2224.
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