22 August 2009: Reached the top of Idaho! Mount Borah's summit!
Trip Stats: 12,662 feet above sea level
7 miles round trip
5,200 feet elevation gain
4 hours, 20 minutes to summit
3 hours, 40 minutes to descend
My friends and I hit the trailhead at 6:17 AM, after about 6 hours of sleep and some burnt pancakes. First hour was ROUGH, due to lack of sleep, and just not used to being up so early! We were hiking with minimal light, (enough to see the ground and rocks, etc., but we were in the trees so we couldn't really see our progress). Trail was good at this point; well-defined, not too rocky, (although still very steep), and you could usually go side by side, as opposed to later when it was definitely single-track. Seeing a few remaining stars as we started the ascent was some greatly appreciated motivation.
After 1 hour and 20 minutes, we reached the tree line, and were feeling much better. Talked to some interesting people up at the treeline. "Altimeter guy" gave us some quick stats about elevation. "Bum knee guy" was a great guy who genuinely loved hiking, despite his "bum knee" (evidenced by a knee brace and discussion). He had no intention to summit; he was just there to enjoy the mountain. We carried on, going up what was probably the least-steep section of the climb. Don't get me wrong- it was still very steep! The trail got a little less defined, but still easy to see. No trees left, just some sagebrush. The sun rose from behind the mountain, so the shadow down below in the valley was absolutely beautiful- one of the prettiest sights on the trip.
hicken Out Ridge finally showed itself. At first, we weren't sure we were on it. I can understand why so many people chicken out. In order to cross, you SHOULD have a healthy respect and fear of the ridge, because any mistake you make could very well be your last mistake. I had an appropriate level of fear and respect for the ridge, (which was supposedly about a quarter of a mile long), but I never once felt my life was in danger, or that I shouldn't be there. Adrenaline and endorphins, paired with careful hand and foot placement, carried me through until the end of the ridge, where we crossed a few inches of snow. We hopped across easily. Now, I always heard from people who are "in the know" that you should stay high on the ridge even if you are tempted not to, so we stayed high. I'm glad we did, because those who didn't struggled a lot more than we did, and we beat them across. I kept telling the girls and myself to make sure they have at LEAST 2 good hand/foot holds at ALL TIMES, and to go slow and steady, always making sure to be completely comfortable before moving. And we made it! I decided later that aside from the summit, Chicken Out Ridge was my favorite part of the journey.
We rested for a little bit before the last uphill stretch. The last push to the summit was about 1,100 feet and took us... maybe an hour? It was harder than it looked. It was very steep and the rock was poor quality. It slipped from under our feet regularly. This section was definitely a feet AND hands section. The lack of oxygen was apparent, but not as bad as I anticipated. I was feeling amazing, honestly. I thought I would've felt a lot more tired at this point, especially given the elevation.
About 10 feet from the top, we joined hands and walked to the summit together. We made it! We sat up there for about half an hour, enjoying the views of various mountain ranges around us. We signed the notebook- Borah's own visitor's registry. I was incredibly proud to be among those people who summitted. It was a little hazy up there, but you could still see the Sawtooths and all the way into Montana.
We recorded a video, ate, hydrated, and enjoyed. It was pretty windy at the top, so we were ready to descend after half an hour. The descent... ah, the descent. Trekking poles were so helpful, but still, the descent lived up to its reputation of being the worst part! It was so tedious and it seemed to never end. My knees wanted to be done with all of that agony! The rocks weren't sturdy. I wished so badly that I could just jog down, but that would be very dangerous. So, it took us 3 hours and 40 minutes to get down. That means a total of 8 hours hiking in one day- not too shabby. :)
The next day, I was sore, achy, and in denial! Reaching the summit of Idaho's tallest has been a goal of mine for over a year, and to finally have achieved it is possibly indescribable, but I will try. I have spent hours and hours planning, organizing, dreaming, fearing, wondering, researching, and discussing this feat. Now it is all over and done with. I am almost let down, because there is nothing higher in Idaho! But that won't stop me from enjoying every other adventure I have, because any time in nature is good time. Besides, there are other, taller mountains in other states that I have yet to conquer. It amazes me how much climbing Borah has changed my perspective on life. I have a love/hate relationship with climbing Borah, and other mountains in general. There were times I questioned why I was even attemping this, when I felt sick and fatigued. But outweighing those times were the extreme highs I felt. Beginning the ascent when a few stars had yet to disappear from the night sky, being halfway up the mountain as the sun casted Borah's shadow thousands of feet below us in the valley, and finally summitting while holding back tears of joy and holding the hands of two of my best friends... all of it was addicting. I am hooked, and already dreaming and contemplating my next ascent... but when, and where? So many options. Life has so much to offer... and I'm soaking it up as best I can!