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Borah East. Trip report/Route

September 20 2011 at 12:40 PM
Score 5.0 (1 person)
Wes  (no login)

Here are some photos from a trip to the East side of Mt. Borah a month ago. Bob got me all fired up to get a look at the eastern cirque and what he described as, Idahos Eiger. I certainly wasnt disappointed. Susan and I planned the trip as a leisurely backpack into Lake 10,204 to take in the views but I tossed an axe and some light crampons in the truck just in case.

The 2.5 mile hike from the end of the road at West Fork starts in the brush and Junipers but isnt anything close to a bushwhack and at times I thought we were following an old trail. After the climb out of the valley, the hiking leads through a long section of rolling country, meadows and a lake at 9,800.

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From the lake, the final shale obstacle rises 300 to the lip of the basin and from that angle, the lip looks more like a ledge at the bottom of the face and not the opening to a good size cirque.

There are two lakes in the cirque, this photo looks back at the first lake (more tarn than lake) Susan is just coming over the lip. The view out over the valley is impressive but the cirque its self is an alpine Shangri la that demands all the attention. (peak 11,280'center)

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The East Ridge forms a seemingly impenetrable corral and to get to the North East Ridge, one would have to climb part of the East Face or try their hand at the impossible looking super buttress. This shot was taken in about the same spot as the following one but with a super wide-angle lens.

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I spent a lot of time looking at the face before I even thought about a spot for the tent. Stupidly, Id left my axe and spikes in the truck but at this point I knew I was going to make a serious try for the summit. It didnt take long to pick out a couple possibilities but the most probable would involve a long traverse across a talus-covered ledge on the lower face. I started thinking of the route as the Dirty Traverse before I even put my boots on it.

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We found a spot out of the wind (that never did blow) on a narrow tract of limestone that separates the two lakes, happily, those before us left absolutely no trace of being there. I wasnt surprised though, its the kind of place only an idiot would sully. This is a three shot, nighttime panorama stitched together in Photoshop, The weather was beautiful and a full moon was out, it wasnt easy to give up on the night when the view was constantly changing. I stayed out till about 11pm memorizing the place with my camera.

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Morning was an easy laid back affair, we sipped coffee and we watched the sun line slowly make its way down the mountain. I had to wait till nearly 10:00 before the snow softened to the step kicking point. The lower snowfield was pretty firm but the second was much softer. Id found a nice tooth shaped chunk of limestone that probably wouldnt have done much more than keep my feet down hill if I took a fall. I was on my own but it was still embarrassing to have the damn thing in my hand and I had to keep fighting the urge to hide it in my pocket. At the top of the snow, the bergschrund was several meters deep and the first tentative moves on rock over the blackness below felt pretty exposed, the rock however, was surprising solid and clean.

[linked image]

The scramble to the traverse ledge was fairly sustained class 4 but the rock was good enough to make me forget about the exposure and enjoy the ride. The traverse ledge was quite tedious though and I wasnt sure it would go all the way to the Ridge until I got there. Susan shot this from camp when I was about a 1/3 of the way across.

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This shot shows the traverse ledge all the way to the East Ridge.


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Once on the ridge I made my way up an easy class-5 70 foot buttress but it could have been easily bypassed by scrambling around its west side. Most of the ridge above the traverse is class 3 or easier. This photo shows the traverse ledge from the top of the buttress. The steep snow on the far side, leads to the North East Ridge from the col between the super buttress and the summit. I was sorely tempted to climb to that familiar ground but Ive always wondered if the East Ridge would be climbable to the summit.

[linked image]

This shot looks up at the headwall at the end of the East ridge, the summit is out of the frame to the right.
Ive climbed to the summit along the top of this headwall but was unable to see if there was a weakness from above or if the ridge opened up to allow access back onto the East Face. As I continued up the ridge, my doubts got bigger, The entire north side of East Ridge is very tall and overhung in several places, more and more, I suspected it would dead-end into the headwall but at the last possible minute a tiny col opened up onto the uppermost ledge that crosses the East Face. It wasnt till that moment that I knew the ridge would go all the way. Splattski summed it up nicely in his trip report of JT peak as the almost magical opening of doors as you climb was one of the most fun parts of this outing. I couldnt agree more.

[linked image]

The upper ledge was steep but much wider than the lower traverse I crossed two small snowfields pony style and shot this photo from the second snow patch showing the ledge as it continues a short way to the North East Ridge. A short class 4 section above the snowfield led to easier climbing all the way to the summit.

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This looks down the East Ridge from the tiny col at the end of the ridge.

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The descent follows the standard route down the mountain to the big saddle at 11,800 from there, I dropped into the cirque that takes in Mt. Sacajawea and the south side of Borah. There are several sections of class 3 scrambling over short but loose cliff bands and several linkable snowfields, but the glissade run-out potential is pretty dangerous on most of them. The angle eases up at the 10,400 contour and from there, I hiked down and around the bottom of the East Ridge and then back up to camp.

[linked image]

This shot looks out over the lip at the first lake. Peak 11,909 in the background.
Although this isnt the prettiest route on the mountain, in my opinion its hands down the prettiest side to start from.

[linked image]











 
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splattski
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Re: Borah East. Trip report/Route

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September 20 2011, 12:58 PM 

I'm in awe.

 
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Lost River Loner
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Nice Outing!

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September 20 2011, 2:36 PM 

Wes:
What a great trip report! Some of your photos are nothing short of spectacular. That pano is nice work indeed!
Paul

 
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Dan
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Awesome!

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September 20 2011, 7:52 PM 


 
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Geo
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No fair

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September 20 2011, 8:03 PM 

My work blocks Photobucket. Don't be posting like that again in the middle of a workday. sad.gif

Keep'em coming!
-George

 
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Wes
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Re: No fair

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September 20 2011, 8:45 PM 

No fair no kidding! How long have you worked for the Gulag? ;)Think of what we could accomplish without Phobucket at work.

 
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Dave
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Wow!

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September 20 2011, 10:01 PM 

Just fantastic Wes.

 
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Steve C
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Re: Borah East. Trip report/Route

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September 20 2011, 10:04 PM 

Nice work, Wes! Thanks for the photos

 
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Bob
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Inspirational

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September 20 2011, 10:44 PM 

Wes,

I've been waiting for almost 30 years to read something like this. Solo, on-site, first ascent of a never climbed honkin' big face with no technical gear. I'd give it a 10 on a scale of 10.

Does this mean I'm not going to get to see the cirque behing Sac with you this season?

High five man!

 
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Matt
(Login mtybumpo)

Re: Borah East. Trip report/Route

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September 20 2011, 11:17 PM 

So Awesome! Congrats on the ascent!

 
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Bob
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North East Ridge/Upper Ledge

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September 21 2011, 6:32 AM 

Wes,

If the lower ledge that leads to the northeast ridge (aka East Ridge) can be done then the ridge itself to the summit is not very difficult (Class 4 - 5.2) as long as you can get by the cornices that always seem to hang in the notch beside the super buttress. I've looked off the gap beside the buttress many times and most of the time there was a 10-20 foot hanging cornice in there. From your photo it looks like you could just squeek by them. The top of the super buttress also blocks the ridge from the north but you can easily traverse below it on the northern (Rock Creek) side of the mountain.

The upper ledge that leads to northeast ridge is the one that Mike and I traversed to get back to the north face for our descent. I couldn't remember exactly how we got over there until I saw your photo. The traverse is pretty easy but the exposure is out of this world.

FYI - We were planning on going up the water streak just to the left of where you started and continue with a "directissma" straight up the upper two bands. And like you describe, the steep "grey" rock on Borah is for the most part pretty solid and fun to climb.

Again, awesome job man.


Bob

 
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Wes
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Re: North East Ridge/Upper Ledge

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September 21 2011, 10:56 AM 

Thanks all.
Bob, I just sent you an email. I've looked down at that cornice from the top of the Super Buttress and thought it looked way too dangerous to squeeze around. That was in May a few years ago. From the traverse ledge on this trip however, it looked much more doable. There isn't any way to get around the steep snow, but right now there isn't more than 80' of it to climb (if you stuck to the high side). There is definitely a non technical but bold route to the summit that way.


 
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Luddite
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Re: Borah East. Trip report/Route

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September 21 2011, 3:06 PM 

Another level, Wes. The one word that comes to mind is, Pure.

"The simpler you make things, the richer the experience becomes." - Steve House

 
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DAS
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Incredible

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September 21 2011, 11:09 PM 

Wes -
This is just flat out fantastic. I'm and dumbfounded. Looking at these photos it is just incredible that you were able to do this. Do you have split hooves? The exposure freaks me out just sitting here in my desk chair. You sir, are my new climbing hero!

 
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