Mount Borah

Mount Borah is Idaho’s highest peak and a rite of passage for Idahoans and High Pointers alike.

Idaho’s highest peak (12,668 feet) resides in the Lost River Range in East Central Idaho. Many of the lofty summits of this fault-block range rise over 5000 vertical feet from the valley floor making these the biggest mountain faces in Idaho. Sawtooth Mountain Guides knows the mountain intimately and has helped thousands of climbers reach their goal of standing on Borah’s summit.

Although a decent trail does snake its way to the top of the Mt. Borah reaching the summit is not a hike. The elevation difference from trailhead to peak is 5200 vertical feet, which is gained over about 4 miles. The trail is relentlessly steep especially on the descent, which is why hiking poles are strongly encouraged.

The Chicken-Out Ridge section of the climb begins around 11,200’ for about 500 vertical feet where the route follows an exposed, 3rd class ridge. (3rd class means that scrambling and some climbing is necessary in steep, exposed terrain). Although many climbers move through Chicken Out without a rope our guides will use one to provide additional security. There are several locations where falling is not an option!

Following Chicken Out ridge the trail makes a long traverse for the final push up the upper west face. This section consists of loose limestone scree and talus and those not familiar with moving in this type of mountainous terrain can find this section exhausting.

Of course once on the summit climbers are rewarded with views of no less than six major Idaho mountain ranges and a much-needed break before beginning the descent, which often takes as long or longer than the climb!

Read about Ed Viesturs joining Erik Leidecker for a climb of Mount Borah

 Difficulty: Good fitness required – do not underestimate a Borah ascent! Here are some tips for preparing for Borah:

  • Arrive with a high level of aerobic fitness! Be prepared to travel at 1000 feet/hour pace on a steep trail.
  • Gain as much experience possible traveling off-trail in rugged, mountainous terrain.
  • If coming from at or near sea level plan an extra day or two to acclimatize prior to the climb. Sleep at six thousand feet and try to get some light exercise.
  • Carry a small pack—see our equipment list—with just the necessary gear. Ice and ax and crampons are usually only necessary for June ascents.

 Meeting Time: TBD, generally 4-5am ready to depart after 10-15 minute orientation and gear check.

 Meeting Location: Mount Borah Trailhead

 Typical Timeline: 8 to 12 hours. A fit party with experience moving in similar terrain will be on the shorter end of the duration spectrum.

5:00am – Meet at trailhead (7,500′) ready to depart after 10-15 minute orientation and gear check.
9:00am – Arrive at base of Chicken Out Ridge (11,300′). In many cases guides will strongly consider turning around if groups haven’t arrived here within 4 hours of departing the trailhead.
10:30-11:00am – Arrive at summit (12,668′)
3-6 hours to descend depending on the group.

Mt. Borah is a big mountain with many big mountain hazards including loose rock, steep terrain where the consequences of a slip or fall might be severe, afternoon thundershowers, and exposure to sun, wind, heat, and cold. Limiting our overall time on the mountain is a key risk management strategy. Groups that are moving at an unreasonably slow place might be required to turn around at Chicken Out Ridge.

 What We Provide:

  • All technical climbing equipment (harness, helmet, rope)

 What You Need:

  • Review the equipment list
  • Crampon-compatible mountain boots if doing an early-season climb (typically early to mid June) where steep/firm snow may be a possibility.

Ratio: 2:1 – depends on route, time of season, and group

 Rates: 2 people – $450/person; 1 person – $700/person