North Face Direct
First AscentAvalanche on Borah
*Reference, Idaho - A Climbing Guide (Tom Lopez)
The first winter ascent of Mt Borah was made by Frank Florence and party in 1973 by way of the southwest (Chicken-Out) ridge. They carried winter gear and spent the night above Chicken-Out-Ridge on the upper saddle in brutally cold conditions. From there they summited and descended the next day.
Mahogany Creek (East) ApproachThis is a shorter hiking approach to the North Face. Drive over Doublespring Pass to the headwaters of Mahogany Creek on the east side of Mt Borah. From there you can hike over the saddle and drop in to the Rock Creek drainage from the east. Although this a much shorter walking approach, the road into Mahogany Creek from Doublespring Pass requires a high clearance, 4x vehicle (preferred) and a descent of the north face.
Rock Creek (West) Approach
If you use Chicken Out Ridge for your descent, you can start at two places, Rock Creek or Birch Springs (the Mt Borah trailhead). If you start at Rock Creek and finish at Birch Springs you can take a shortcut back into Rock Creek from the last saddle that sits around 8700' on the regular Mt Borah trail instead of walking to the campground.
Here's my suggestion for the easiest hike in to the face when Rock Creek is low enough to cross without difficulty. The road to Rock Creek is well described so I'll start at the upper parking spot above the small diversion dam. Park where the road makes a sharp bend and starts climbing a very steep hill (this is a hill that you do not want to drive). You will be on the left side of Rock Creek at this point. From here, folks tend to drop down to the dam and muck around in the Aspen looking for the creek crossing and trail. Instead, follow the contour (game trail) a short distance along the bare south-facing side of the canyon until you meet Rock Creek. Cross Rock Creek and then stay on the right side of the creek following a light boot trail up the canyon. A short ways up you will cross the debris from the west face drainage. The boot trail dissappears from time-to-time in the scree and on the benches but if you keep your eyes open it is fairly easy to follow. The old (and much rumored) single track road that used to run up the canyon has either eroded away or is now covered with mature trees so don't bother looking for it. When the right side of the canyon starts to steepen, cross Rock Creek and stay on the left side of the canyon until it's obvious that you can go back to the right side of the canyon. The trail traverses the fairly steep (right) side of the canyon and soon climbs to more open ground where you will get a spectacular view of the mountain. Keep your ear on Rock Creek because around the three-mile mark it disappears underground and you may not see water again until you get to the cliff band at 9800'. Be aware that during the dry season or when the face is frozen up this may be the last place to find running water.
If this sounds confusing, I'll break it down. Here's where you want to be: (mileage is approximate, total mileage to bottom of NF = +-5 miles)
Left side of canyon - .25 mi
Right side of canyon - 1.75 mi
Left side of canyon - .25 mi
Right side of canyon - .75 mi
cliff band can be climbed by way of the secret passage - the narrow Class 2 gully on the left or on the 3rd class+ steps just to the right of the gully. Directly above the cliff band there is a great biv site (when dry). It includes a big rectangular rock with a number of good boulder problems. Drinking water may not be available at this site during certain times of the year. When it's wet, it's best to avoid the drainages altogether, they are delicate and can flood very rapidly on this side of the mountain.
If this approach sounds too confusing then just stay on the right side of Rock Creek for the entire approach by climbing the ascending benches up the canyon. It is a steeper climb, holds snow later and leads to cliffs if you stray too high or low.