On September 23rd Bob Boyles
, me, and Kevin Hansen
made the bumpy ride to the end of the West Fork road and set up camp with the intention of putting up a Direct Route
from the lake to the summit on the following day. The weather that weekend was perfect for a serious shot at the face. Bob kept the monotony in camp to a minimum with his tales of Lost River Range epics.
Bob and I stayed up till well after midnight swapping stories and swilling beverages. In the morning we sorted gear and then re-sorted as soon as we tried to stuff it all in our packs.
Bob and Kevin sorting gear at camp.
Lake 10,204+ One more reason to see this cirque
Bob had previously decided to stay at lake 10,204 and soak up the views. He was able to watch and photograph our progress throughout the day.
From the far side of the lake, we ascended the first snow patch and cliffs to the base of the second and much more steep-snow field. We laced on crampons and quickly made our way up to the bergschrund.
Standing on the snow below the bergshcrud
It was a short hop to the base of the 2,000-foot wall. A jump from snow to rock in crampons is always a tricky affair but we both managed it without ending the trip at the bottom of the crevasse.
Kevin about to hop the gap
Kevin brought an 80-meter rope that was both a blessing and a burden. After climbing 80 meters the rope drag can add a lot of gravity. I led the first two pitches and much of the climbing was done with a running belay. By the time we reached the dirty traverse ledge I was happy to give up the sharp end for a bit. In this photo Kevin is topping out onto the pitch 2 belay ledge.
Kevin pulling onto the P2 Ledge. With running belays we were able to belay from wide ledges on all but one pitch
Kevin started up a steep bolder section at the beginning of pitch 3 and managed to plug a number 4 Friend (the only big piece we had) into the back of a large detached flake. The rest of the gear was small wired nuts and very small cams. Although gear options were pretty plentiful we placed very few pieces on the entire face. The holds were more than adequate and for Borah, the rock quality was superb. When Kevin ran out of rope he set up a hanging belay as the sun was beginning to set behind the face. I looked at my watch and realized it was already 2:20pm. As Kevin was making ready to belay me up I heard a large (toaster sized) rock slam into the face about 500' above us. It bounced off the face and hit again about 100 feet lower and then started a long 400' spinning free fall. The dark sound of a falling chunk of limestone is hard to describe but it reminded me of an old Road Runner cartoon. I tried like hell to get a fix on it but the sun was in the worst possible spot. In the last moment I attempted to shurg my shoulders up under my helmet and squeezed into the wall. I heard it hit the ledge 20 feet to my left and then watched it bounce off into space. Smaller pieces of shrapnel continued to rattle down behind it so I didn't get to see if it went all the way to the lake.
On Pitch 4 I spotted a green backpack full of wet clothing wedged into a tight chimney left of our route. I set up a belay under a small roof and as Kevin followed he climbed over and retrieved it. He brought it up to the ledge and we used a wired nut to attach it to the face.
The green pack at the start of Pitch 5. The route was littered with all kinds of hiker trash.
Kevin looked at the beginning moves on pitch 5 and said, "This one is all mine" He'd been waiting for something to really challenge his rock skills and this section gave him what he came for. He quickly made his way up over the roof and onto a dirty ramp with nothing but friction holds. Several rocks spilled down in his wake and I was thankful to be under the roof. Near the top I heard him talking to himself and knew he was battling the fear of falling. In photo below I'm past the roof on easier ground with crux still above.
This was easily the toughest pitch on the face and while following it I was greatful I hadn't been the one to lead it. Kevin was able to place two good pieces up to the half way point and another not so good piece below a crumbling 20 foot bulge near the top. A fall would have sent him on a 40' tumble and much further if his third piece would have pulled.
At the Pitch 5 ledge we made a decision to save time by making an un-roped dash to the summit. We cruised up an easy class 5 ledge and then fought our way up deep, sliding scree to the top of the upper traverse ledge. From there a class 3 scramble put us directly on the summit.
Looking down on the N.E Ridge of Borah