Borah East Face Direct.

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Sep 24, 2011

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.
Sorting gearBob and Kevin sorting gear at camp.

Borah lake reflection.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.
End of the snowStanding 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 crossing the BergschrundKevin 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.
Pitch two belayKevin 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 routefollowing P3

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.
Starting pitch 5The 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.
On route

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 CruxP5 Crux

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.
East Face Direct and Dirty TraverseEast face Direct (blue) and The Dirty Traverse route (red)

N.E Ridge from below the summit Looking down on the N.E Ridge of Borah


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Viewing: 1-20 of 20
Fred Spicker

Fred Spicker - Jan 29, 2012 8:22 am - Hasn't voted

Names Reversed?

The caption for the photo with the routes depicted says that the red is the Direct and the blue is the Traverse -

skunk ape

skunk ape - Jan 31, 2012 11:20 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Names Reversed?

Oops, Good catch guys, thanks!

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - Jan 29, 2012 9:33 pm - Voted 10/10

Great Information!

what was in the backpack? Looks like one hell of an adventure!

skunk ape

skunk ape - Jan 31, 2012 11:34 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Great Information!

Cotton clothes, big heavy stuff like sweat pants and hoodies. stuff from the standard route. I did however find a great down jacket in a bag lower on the face.


kevinhansen - Feb 4, 2012 4:34 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Great Information!

I remember stacks of 10's and 20's that kept falling over as we were counting them. Also a broken flash light, sox, swimming suit, and a "West Jefferson High School" hoody.


ExcitableBoy - Jan 30, 2012 9:39 pm - Hasn't voted


kind of rock is that? Limestone? Hard to tell from where I'm sitting.

skunk ape

skunk ape - Jan 31, 2012 3:16 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: What

Limestone for the most part. On the Dirty Traverse route page, I mentioned it was good rock for the Lost River Range but I'm afraid it doesn't hold a candle to your Cascade stuff.


ExcitableBoy - Jan 31, 2012 3:51 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: What

That's what I thought. Some friends did the NF last winter.
They mentioned it was 'spicy'. We have some really excellent rock and some pretty rotten rock as well. One technically strong Colorado climber came out to do a Ptarmigan Ridge on Rainier, took one look and turned around, complaining Rainier was a slag pile.


Deltaoperator17 - Jan 30, 2012 11:07 pm - Hasn't voted

Way to go

Great trip Wes, Kev an Bob!


alpine345 - Jan 31, 2012 1:28 am - Hasn't voted

good climb

Looks like a fun climb. A couple of questions: How was the descent? and What was the time car-to-car? Good thing you're not wearing that toaster for a hat...

skunk ape

skunk ape - Jan 31, 2012 3:00 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: good climb

The decent was pretty un-fun and much of it was over steep talus balanced on rock bands. there was a lot of snow but not a lot of safe runout for glissades but it wasn't technical. I think it took about 12 hours truck to truck. Thanks for looking!


alpine345 - Jan 31, 2012 6:46 pm - Hasn't voted


Did you use many of the pins? And did you pull them or fix them? Just for belays or running also? Just in case for raps? More info please...

skunk ape

skunk ape - Feb 1, 2012 3:05 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Pin-up?

I'd been on the face earlier that month and knew that pro would consist of mostly small stuff. As it turned out, we only used one pin on pitch #1. This was my first climb with Kevin and I only placed it because I didn't know if he would appreciate my running it out. as it turned out, he has the same "thin" style, only he looks better while doing it. We left the pin in place for the same reason a dog will piss on your flowers. It was a thin lost arrow. (arrows were the only pins we took, angles wouldn't work well.) We only had one "hanging" belay and it was easily protected with a couple cams. We used the running belay so often because the face is lined with several wide ledges, most of them were wide enough to collect quite a bit of scree. Rapping off the face would be a tedious trick, although protection was plentiful there were many spots that would require several pieces for a good anchor and the face was pretty well decorated with rope snagging possibilities.
If not for the falling rock potential and the limited escape routes if the weather turned or someone got injured, this would be a truly great mountaineers route for nearly anyone's ability, the climbing was easy and enjoyable. The belays were super secure and the scenery is spectacular.


kevinhansen - Feb 4, 2012 4:30 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Pin-up?

I agree. Skill wise, the route is very beginner friendly if you have the knowledge in building anchors and multi-pitch work. The hanging belay could have been avoided, but the clock was ticking. I can't speak for Wes but my "thin" style came from a lack of fall risk. I kept thinking "This is so fun, just 5.6 move after 5.6 move!" When things got serious, placements disapeared. I sang to keep it together. I did run it out quite a bit, but it wasn't by choice on the serious stuff.


Scott - Feb 1, 2012 2:19 pm - Voted 10/10


Great TR. What is the difficulty rating of the climb?

skunk ape

skunk ape - Feb 1, 2012 2:32 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Awesome

Thanks! Every pitch had sections of up to 5.7-ish and the (short) crux probably went at 5.9 The crux wasn't overly steep, it was just rotten and run-out.


mountainsandsound - Feb 1, 2012 7:14 pm - Hasn't voted

good stuff

Cool trip report. Looks like a real adventure. I've always wondered what the alpine routes in Idaho are like. I guess they're a bit more chossy than the hit-or-miss N. Cascades. You're closer to the Tetons than me though.


ExcitableBoy - Feb 1, 2012 9:13 pm - Hasn't voted

Way to...

under sell the first ascent! I didn't realize this was a new route until I read it on Proud work!


kevinhansen - Feb 4, 2012 4:41 am - Voted 10/10

More to come

Wes and I have some other goodies in our crosshairs. Next time I wont spend the previous week at sea level. Wes is a great partner. I'm glad he let me tag along. It was super cool to climb with two local legends.

skunk ape

skunk ape - Feb 9, 2012 6:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: More to come

I have a few "things" on our list too. We're gonna go big! I'll send you a new LRR ridge traverse photo I just got. Looks pretty Woolly!

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