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Bluebird
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PostSun May 10, 2020 10:50 am 
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Jake and I have been staying in Idaho for a while and since it's almost time to head back to the PNW, we opted to try Borah even though it's quite early in the year for it. Concerned about possible snow issues and not as familiar with the ID snow situation we pondered two choices: 1) start too early and the snow could be icy and difficult 2) start too late and if it takes longer than expected, snow could be slushy and dangerous on the descent. Option 2 won and we started at 3:30am by headlamp under a nearly full moon.

moonlight
moonlight

We basically took the trail route, starting with the trail until it was lost under snow in the forest around 8800 elevation, then snowshoed uphill until on the proper ridge, where the scree trail was melted out in places. Scrambled up to start what is known as "Chicken Out Ridge". COR was an adventurous (for me!) section. You definitely want an ice axe here. It was mostly steep knife edged firm snow, with knife edge in places, plenty of exposure and occasional melted out rock. There are no "good" places to fall along the ridge. There were some steps from previous parties, but not as many as we had anticipated. One section with a steep firm section required us to go to the north side of the ridge. In the middle of the ridge there is a steep downclimb with a rope. Although the climbing here is not difficult, the rope was helpful for the first couple moves, then I was able to get my feet onto some holds and downclimb. At this point, we could see footprints leading around the north side of the ridge (apparently where the trail route goes), but we took a very steep snow/rock route to the top of the ridge instead.  Other than a few necessary adjustments, we stayed directly on top of the ridge all the way to the summit block.

twilight
twilight
morning alpenglow
morning alpenglow
sunrise
sunrise
the beginning of "Chicken Out Ridge"
the beginning of "Chicken Out Ridge"
ridge traversing
ridge traversing
more of the ridge (the icy traverse would be if you trend left around this high point)
more of the ridge (the icy traverse would be if you trend left around this high point)
look carefully and you can see the rope on the rock step at my 11 o' clock
look carefully and you can see the rope on the rock step at my 11 o' clock

Once done with the more interesting part of the ridge, there is a short ridgeline walk that is more level than the rest. We took a water and snack break here, and I left my snowshoes. Jake was concerned about time and snow conditions and it was already nearly 8am so the break was short. We decided to turn around at 9:15am, hopefully that should be more than enough time for the summit, it was so close!

the traverse (check out those cornices!) and summit block
the traverse (check out those cornices!) and summit block
looking back towards the last high point, you can clearly see the trail on the right/north side
looking back towards the last high point, you can clearly see the trail on the right/north side

Turns out the summit block was our crux. The snow was very firm and we climbed up a lot of steep snow. Once again, this is a "no fall" zone. We hadn't put on crampons and wished we had-- sometimes it was 50 degree snow and we could only get an in or so of our toes into the snow. We made our way slowly up to the summit ridge and then after an easy short walk, we stood on the summit of Mount Borah: elevation 12,662. This summit has a really amazing view! It is one of the more prominent peaks in the US and the tallest mountain in Idaho so I didn't expect less. Here are some summit views!


We looked for a "better" route down and put on crampons for the descent. The supposedly better route we scouted from the summit wasn't, so we spent time front pointing down the snow and traversing. Met one other party of two and told them from a distance to not take our route down- they told us that the traverse around one of the high points on the ridge was "firm" but "not too bad". Finally we finally reached our footprints leading to the melted bit of summit trail to near our previous break spot. Talked to some adventurous skiiers from Utah, who were planning to ski the main couloir from the summit! Having just front pointed down from the summit, we were surprised (but yep, we saw them do it later!)

we did a lot of this
we did a lot of this
and this
and this
and this!
and this!

We took the traverse trail route back, I recommend staying on the ridge top instead. This traverse was steep snow, quite icy and my feet slipped once in a dramatic way. Without a good ice axe placement I would have taken a fall into rocks below. We decided it would be safer to face in and climb-- better slow and safe than the alternative! Another party of skiiers were traversing with just poles, casually walking along the slope. I chatted briefly with them about conditions and they casually walked around us. I suppose everyone has their comfort zone.

cautious side hilling is smart with firm conditions and bad runout
cautious side hilling is smart with firm conditions and bad runout

Following the ridge back was tiring but the snow conditions were good. The melt conditions we had worried about had not materialized. Although the sun was warm, the air was still quite cold. I was happy to reach some solid rock at the end of the ridge and took my crampons off. Some of the snow on the ridge was postholey, and some was still quite firm and slippery.

yas! rock!
yas! rock!

Reached dry trail for a bit, and then significantly postholing through the forest. I forgot my snowshoes at the first break! I don't know that they would have helped... but should you find them, they're MSR lightining 22" womens with a gray binding on one foot, black binding on the other and lots of fraying on the decking  frown.gif

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Bosterson
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PostSun May 10, 2020 1:03 pm 
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Nice TR! Bummer about your snowshoes.  frown.gif

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We must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!
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RichP
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PostSun May 10, 2020 1:24 pm 
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Cool. I'm hoping be head down there a bit later in the season. I've been following your trips on peakbagger and you guys hit some nice spots.
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raising3hikers
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PostSun May 10, 2020 7:51 pm 
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You two have had a productive pkbagging time while in Idaho. Good on you!

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Eric Eames
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neek
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PostSun May 10, 2020 7:57 pm 
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Looks way more serious than when I did it in late August... and less smoky!
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Brushbuffalo
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PostMon May 11, 2020 7:30 am 
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neek wrote:
Looks way more serious than when I did it in late August...

Agreed!  When mostly snow- free, Borah is merely a steep hike with a  bit of non- trivial scrambling. I remember  a lingering snow patch, unavoidable on the standard route, near Chickenout Ridge that requires caution. However, with Borah being a prized tick, there were good tracks for security in the snow even when wearing running shoes.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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cascadetraverser
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PostMon May 11, 2020 7:57 pm 
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Nice to see some Idaho terrain.  That is really beautiful.  Well done!
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Bluebird
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PostWed May 13, 2020 8:44 am 
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Thanks for reading and your comments!

I agree, this is a serious trip in these conditions, not at all like I imagine the trail to be. It's neat to know so many NW hikers have been to Borah!
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