Climbing Borah Peak - Idaho's highest peak

Elevation Range: TH: 7450' / Summit: 12,662'    Elevation Gain:  5262'     Distance: 8.2M RT

Southwest (Chicken-Out) Ridge Route     Class 3/4

July 23, 2020 - At 12,662 ft Borah Peak is the monarch of the Lost River Range, highest mountain in Idaho. Known locally as Mount Borah rather than Borah Peak, this mountain boasts nearly 6000 feet of prominence, making it one of the rare prized ultra-prominence peaks. The standard route, aptly named Chicken-out Ridge, is a semi-exposed third class scramble in late summer, but early in the season it can be an all-out mountaineering adventure including a narrow snowy knife-edge ridge walk. Below the mountain on eastern and western flanks are low rolling grayish green valleys, beyond which rise more snow-covered peaks.

After summiting two peaks in Utah earlier in the week, I met with George Hollerbach and Rob Froelich to engage the climb of Borah on a perfect morning where thunderstorms went south of the mountain. We were joined by a father and son named Henry and George and an acclaimed solo climber named Manoj Vora. Together we made route decisions and comfortably summited in four hours. While the climb was steep, it wasn't too noticeable until the descent. The following day, George and I enjoyed a soak at Goldbug Hot Springs (click for pix), followed by a tasty lunch at the Dusty Mule Restaurant along the Salmon River.

The peak itself consists of bare grey limestone and many of the adjoining peaks carry a similar grey appearance. Borah was first climbed in 1912 by T. M. Bannon, a USGS surveyor. In 1934 it was named for state senator William Borah aka "The Lion of Idaho" who ran in the presidential election of 1936. On October 28, 1983, a massive earthquake caused the summit to rise 7 feet. For this reason the true elevation of the peak may be higher than what is indicated on maps. The current fastest ascent/descent was done by Luke Nelson on October 22, 2010. His round-trip time was 2 hours 21 minutes and 11 seconds. Fastest Known Time

The steep but well maintained trail leaves the trailhead parking/turn-around area and ascends the sagebrush & grass slopes to the ridge. The first 2,500 vertical feet follow a steep trail without switchbacks. At about 10,200 ft, you'll reach treeline. Follow the knife-edge ridge up to the exposed "Chicken-out Ridge." Continue following the ridge to a high point (not yet the summit), then descend a couple hundred feet to the base of the final summit ridge. Scramble up this for about 800 vertical feet to the summit. Bring an ice axe and traction.


the crux: top of Chicken Out Ridge