Boo-Rah! Summit of Borah Peak via SW/Chicken-out Ridge

Boo-Rah! Summit of Borah Peak via SW/Chicken-out Ridge

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 12, 2018
Activities Activities: Hiking, Scrambling
Seasons Season: Summer


Borah Peak – 5,000+ elevation gain over 7+ miles round trip.

The trip to Borah Peak began after leaving Jackson Hole from the 5-day Gannett Peak climb, and parting ways with fellow mountaineer Tony Cobb, who I had climbed King's Peak and Gannett Peak in Utah and Wyoming (respectively) with the week before.  The drive to Borah Peak trailhead from Jackson Hole, WY took about 4 hours, with a couple touristy stops on the way.  Arrived here around 8PM the night before, at about 7,400 feet… talked to some hikers who had just gotten back, who gave some good beta on the climb.  When I arrived, I got a great view of Borah’s summit from trailhead (highest mountain in the background).  I was a bit wary about climbing this solo, but knew there would be other climbers on the route… plus was feeling confident and strong after climbing both King’s and Gannett Peak the week before :-D

Unnamed Image
Borah Peak is the highest mountain in the background

Slept in my car at trailhead, woke up at around 445AM… knew that despite this being only a day climb (different than King’s and Gannett), this was going to be ‘short but intense’, as people have quoted it.  Had a quick breakfast… which was a protein bar and some fruit, some Nuun with caffeine (substitute for coffee), got dressed, put my backpack on, turned my headlamp on, and I was on my way.   

Headlamp on!
Headlamp on!

Hiking those first 2 miles through the darkness was taxing.  Felt like I was climbing stairs the whole way, and was still a bit sore from Gannett and King’s, so it was slow going off the bat.  Along the way, I chatted with a couple fellow hikers, Steve and Rob, both from Idaho, who had decided to climb Borah for the first time as well.  I stopped to eat more breakfast, and they continued on their way.

Finally, at about 10,000 feet, I hit treeline, right as the sun was coming up.  I continued hiking up the beginning parts of the semi-exposed ridge, when I decided to shed some weight by unloading a couple bottles of water and gatorades and random snacks, and cached them in a shrub.  Moving right along, with less weight, I came to the beginning of the much-heralded ‘Chicken-Out Ridge’… the ‘landmark’ of Borah Peak, at 11,300 feet.  This section had acquired a nasty reputation, as it got that name as several hikers will turn back upon seeing the hazards up close.  It’s exposed and steep on both sides, and requires some rock climbing skills (fortunately for me, I felt confident in this regard after joining Rock Spot Climbing, a rock climbing gym in South Boston).  Before starting, I put my trekking poles on the outside of my backpack, and proceeded to climb.  I also saw Steve and Rob again, who were a bit farther ahead on the ridge.  Getting up to where they were involved climbing up a very steep rock chute, with jagged walls on both sides.  Steve provided some tips to get up to that point, and I was on my way up.  Upon reaching the top of the chute, I looked ahead on the ridge, and realized it was all scrambling for a bit.  

I caught up to Steve and Rob, right before another very exposed section on the ridge, and we decided to team up together to help get up and across the ridge.  It was standard rock climbing across… I was a bit worried going into it, but realized it wasn’t all that bad.  Maybe I’m biased because I felt comfortable with the rock climbing gym and all, but I actually would say I really enjoyed it.  Once we reached the end of the ridge, we came across a snow bridge, at 11,600 feet.  This snow bridge was the other section of Borah that has a bad reputation, as it’s very exposed, with drop-offs on both sides.  However, since it was later in the summer (late August), most of the snow had melted, so there was a clear path to trek right across.  However, given the high exposure, I decided to get my poles back out as extra support/balance.

Snow bridge of Borah
Snow bridge... drop-offs on both sides

After crossing the snow bridge, the rest was pretty straightforward… steep, and rocky/scree-like, with minor scrambling.  We trekked along and climbed over some boulders, when we came to the final climb (the ‘crux’).  The crux involved simply climbing up scree, while battling soreness in the quads…

Crux of Borah
Almost there...

But, it was worth it, as after we climbed this point, we reached…


Borah Peak, the apex of Idaho, is registered at 12,662 feet.  At the summit, there was 1 other guy… he had gotten there about 10 minutes before us, and didn’t seem phased by it.  I was a bit tired, not gonna lie, but felt great, as I was ‘all done’ with uphill climbing after a week+ of it!

So, there are 2 things I do at every state highpoint summit I reach… 1. Get a picture at the summit; 2. Get a rock.  There is also a 3rd thing I do (but not at every)… drink a muscle milk (my signature summit drink).  Also, at the summit there was an American flag at the top.  I asked Steve/Rob to take my picture, holding the American flag up, feeling proud that I had summited this steep beast of a mountain, on top of Idaho!  The views at the top were incredible, though very overcast.  I could see the sharkfin like mountains of the Sawtooth range, as well as absolute desolateness. I could even see the parking lot from where I came, and obviously… was very small.  

Summit of Borah
Hooray America! I'm on top of Idaho!


Borah summit - looking down on top of the Sawtooths
...on top of Idaho, looking out!

After about 30 minutes at the top, I headed back down with Steve and Rob.  Upon reaching Chicken-Out Ridge again, we came across a couple guys who were on the way up.  I forget the 1stguy’s name, but the 2ndguy Dale, was having reservations about descending a certain part of the ridge onto the snow bridge, as the exposure was very real, and he wasn’t used to rock climbing.  After about 10 minutes of discussion, telling them both what was ahead, and trying to convince them both to ‘go for it’, Dale decided to turn back, while his buddy made the bid for summit.  I felt bad for Dale, as I know the feeling of attempting to summit, but having turn back when you’re so close (Gannett’s first go). So, now we were a team of 4.  Me, Steve, Rob and Dale descended upon some steep parts of the ridge back down, several of which had me worried, as I wasn’t sure if Dale would be OK.

However, we descended Chicken-Out Ridge safely, when Dale decided he was OK to wait for his buddy on the way back.  Then, me, Steve and Rob proceeded to climb down the last 2 miles of Borah to trailhead. I was feeling great given I just summited Borah/Idaho, but my blisters in my feet from Gannett had started to come back, and were starting to bother me again.  However, we got back to trailhead at about 230PM.  I took my backpack off, and put my poles down and pumped my fists up in glory, as well as congratulated Steve and Rob on a successful summit and return.  Then, we had a couple sandwiches and a beer to celebrate before we parted ways.  I connected with them via FB, and now have a couple friends in Idaho.

Once I got service, made some calls back home to my friends and family, telling them I summited, before heading to Boise to relax for the rest of the trip :-D

We summited Borah!
We summited Borah!


Borah Peak - on trailhead coming back
On hike coming back, almost at trailhead!



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Viewing: 1-3 of 3
Adam Doc Fox

Adam Doc Fox - Oct 2, 2018 5:23 am - Voted 10/10

Great Narration

Loved the story, a step by step (pun intended) account of the climb. Congrats, Will! Especially after doing Kings and Gannett...


Kristalea - Nov 14, 2018 2:51 pm - Voted 10/10


I loved reading the step by step as if I was on the climb as well and the pictures to go with! Impressive that you went on your own. You should be super proud - Cheers!


jdzaharia - Dec 9, 2020 3:02 pm - Hasn't voted

Great Report

Thanks for a great report.

Viewing: 1-3 of 3