Borah Peak, ID

Summit elevation: 12,662 ft (3,859 m)
Distance: 7 miles (11.3 km) round trip
Elevation gain: 5,550 ft (1,692 m)
Class: 3
Date: August 8, 2011
Borah Peak (just right of center) from the access road

Borah Peak in the Lost River Mountains is the highest point in Idaho and the 11th highest state high point in the United States.  The route to the summit is only 3.5 miles one way but gains 5,550 feet making for a very steep ascent.  Along the route, Chicken Out Ridge, at over 11,000 feet, is a very difficult class 3 section that will test the nerves of anyone who attempts it.  The peak, as well as the rest of the Lost River Mountains are on Salmon-Challis National Forest.
The summit of Borah is barely visible from the campground at sunset
Sunset from the campground the day before.

The trailhead is accessed via a dirt road heading east from US route 93 north of Mackay and south of Challis.  It is strongly recommended that you begin hiking between 5:00 and 6:00 am depending on your pace in order to avoid afternoon thunderstorms and lightning, which may occur regardless of precipitation.  There is a campground at the trailhead, but no water is available at the campground or anywhere along the trail unless there has been recent heavy rain or significant snowmelt, in which case the stream through the campground may be flowing.  There is a water diversion about 1/2 mile back down the road from the campground if you have the means to purify water.

Lost River Mountains from Chicken Out Ridge

Once you leave the campground, the trail is steep and follows the valley for a short distance before ascending the ridge to the north.  At this point the trail immediately begins going up the ridge and is very steep, gaining 1,600 feet in a half mile.  After the rapid ascent, you are above treeline on the ridge to the southwest of Borah Peak.  The trail along this ridge is moderate, gaining 800 feet in 3/4 mile.

Borah Peak before the final ascent
Looking west after Chicken Out Ridge.  The route follows the ridge on the left.

Here, you are at Chicken Out Ridge, which is steep, exposed, and a precarious class 3 scramble that requires careful footing and route planning.  At the end of Chicken Out Ridge is a 20 foot vertical drop that is easiest in mid-summer when a snowfield still persists, minimizing the drop.  For the next 1/3 mile the trail is fairly flat and at 11,800 feet before turning upward for the last 0.4 mile that gains 850 feet.  Due to the steepness and elevation of this last section, the going is very slow.

Looking southwest; the trail followed the closest ridge going across the center of the photo

From the summit you can see the Lemhi Mountains in the east, White Cloud and Pioneer Mountains in the west, as well as fantastic views of the Lost River Mountains. The descent from the summit can be the most difficult part of the hike, especially on the two steepest sections.

Looking north from Borah Peak

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