Mount Idaho

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One of Idaho's 12ers, Mount Idaho is a long, long scree slog- with an amazing view of Mount Borah.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

I left Boise right at 6pm. I hadn't been able to find a partner, but really wanted, or needed, to get into the mountains. So off I went. I got to Mackay three hours later and found a flattish parking spot on the Upper Cedar Creek road. Unfortunately, this was right off the highway, and a little noisy. I assumed the traffic would die down right away.

I was wrong. At about 11, I finally gave up and drove another 1/2 mile up Cedar Creek. It was well worth it- peace and quiet. I also got to enjoy the incredible array of stars before dropping off to a deep, although short, sleep. I was up again at 4:30 and heading for my destination, Elkhorn Creek.

After fussing around in the dark trying to find the trailhead, and almost getting stuck trying to 4-wheel in my 2-wheel truck, I finally just parked and got ready. I knew I was in the right drainage, and that I could easily navigate on foot. So I left the truck with my headlamp on at 5:30 .

Leaving the truck, I only had to walk about 500 feet to hit the trailhead, and the trail was relatively easy to follow (a surprise for the Lost Rivers). By the time it was light enough to turn off my headlamp, I had gained almost 2000 feet. It was almost another hour before I finally got to see my objective for the day, looking a little gloomy here due to the low light of the western exposure.

Mt. Idaho

Soon enough, I had gained the little prow between the forks of Elkhorn Creek, right about 10,400' The sun was up strong and it was going to be a glorious day, although a bit warm for my taste. My objective here was the saddle at about 10,600. Let the scree slog begin.

saddle on west ridge of Mt. Idaho

Once you gain the saddle, you follow Mt. Idaho's west ridge. It's fairly straight-forward as you thread several gendarmes. I found enough footprints to make it pretty easy to figure out the way. At about 11,200' there is an obvious ramp sloping across the west face of the mountain. The idea is to traverse out across some rocky ribs, then head up a gully.

looking back down west ridge of Mt. Idaho

But before I got there, I had this awesome view of Mt. Borah, the high point in the picture, and Chicken Out Ridge, the serrated area to the left, just below the horizon.

Mt. Borah

Then it was time to head up the gully. As I found out later, I followed the ramp past the normal ascent gully and went up a different one. Here's what it looked like with about 400' to go.

Although this looks loose and crappy (it is), after descending the "normal" route I think this might be a better line of ascent- more bedrock showing, and a lot less loose, sliding junk.

Scramble near top of Mt. Idaho

Since I arrived on the summit ridge at the wrong point, I had to traverse the ridge behind me in this shot- a little airy, and the rock was not too trustworthy. But with some care, I was on top at 9:45. Note the t-shirt, and only a slight breeze to stand my hair up.

In the background you can see the summit cairn with the register. Then further back, moving right to left starting by my ear, you can see White Cap, Mount Church, and Leatherman.

John Platt on summit of Mt. Idaho

This is what the descent gully looked like. It's one of those places where you start a talus slide and then get into the moving debris, like an escalator. Except every now and then there is bedrock in the escalator that catches your feet and tries to toss you down the mountain.

This also gives a nice view of the Elkhorn Creek drainage. There is actually a faint, old trail going most of the way in. I followed it quite well on the way up, not so much on the way down. But I'm getting ahead of the story here...

Looking back down final gully on Mt. Idaho

After descending back to the saddle on the west ridge, you can drop directly down a huge scree field. It's mostly small stuff, and usually soft enough to plunge-step down it. This saves a ton of work, but eventually drops into a dry creek bed, including a short drop that would be a waterfall. And then you're down to the valley floor. From the summit it took me about an hour to get to here.

Bottom of descent gully with waterfall

Then it's just a matter of following the terrain down the valley, hopefully picking up the trail along the way. Finding the trail always makes me happy. In this case, because I kept losing it, I was happy a whole lot of times. So you can imagine how happy I was when I got back to the truck and was headed down the road. Here's what I didn't get to see before I started the climb: summit is in the center.

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