Borah Peak – Mackay, Idaho - Atlas Obscura

Borah Peak

Mackay, Idaho

This highest peak in Idaho can only be reached by traversing a formation known as "Chicken-Out Ridge." 


If climbers can brave “Chicken-Out Ridge,” a dangerous expanse that essentially speaks for itself, they can ascend to the highest point in Idaho at 12,668 feet above sea level, Borah Peak.

For highpointers, the summits of the northwestern states: Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, are the most technically difficult and require a very significant amount of mountain climbing experience. While the highest points of the other 44 states are only a Class 1 (mostly a simple walk) or 2 (scrambling) climb on the Yosemite Decimal Scale to grade the difficulty of trails, these peaks are Class 3 (scrambling with significant exposure) or 4 (vertical grades with an option for rope or a glacier climb).

Borah Peak, named after an Idaho senator, has a standard route that is Class 3. The Southwest Ridge Route is a short 3.5 miles but gains over 5,000 vertical feet. Before the summit is an arête, a thin ridge of rock that climbers will likely have to climb alongside instead of over. This is known as “Chicken-Out Ridge,” since many climbers take one look at the challenging expanse and turn tail. Climbers who manage to overcome this fear may want to use an ice axe and crampons to negotiate the arête to the summit and the long views of the Lost River Range.

Know Before You Go

From US 93 in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, turn east on Birch Springs Road, signed as 279. Park at the Borah Peak Trailhead. Climb 3.5 miles to the summit. Be prepared with an ice axe and crampons.

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July 31, 2014

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