Impending darkness, it’s a funny thing. Jared and I had been on the move for more than 20 hours and we were stuck on the ridge between Breitenbach and Lost River Peak. The sun was getting low on the horizon and for the moment, things looked a little desperate.
Before we found ourselves in the Lost River predicament, Jared and I had been planning an attempt on the Idaho 12ers for over a year. I had been completely shut down on two recon attempts and in passing, I had mentioned the project to Jared. There are 9 12,000+ foot peaks in Idaho; Hyndman in the Pioneer range, The Diamond in the Lemhi Range, and Borah, Idaho, Leatherman, Church, Donaldson, Breitenbach, and Lost River in the Lost River Range. It involves miles of chossy, technical fun; he immediately jumped on board. Having Jared involved is an intimidating prospect. He is one of the strongest endurance runners on the planet, and he also has the ability to climb very hard. Combining these two skill-sets allows Jared to move quickly in terrain that many would be unable. With Jared as a partner it would open up the possibilities of route-finding, as long as I could keep up.
Neither Jared or I had the time to do a lot of in person route finding. Before our attempt I had been up Borah a handful of times, climbed Sacajawea, I had skied Leatherman, and been shutdown between Borah and Idaho. Jared climbed Hyndman the week before our attempt from Wildhorse and descended into the standard trailhead on the Sun Valley side. We had no other first hand knowledge. Jared spent countless hours searching the internet for trip reports, route beta, and scouring Google Earth for potential new routes and weaknesses. We also spent time on the phone with a couple of people who know the range quite well, trying to get feedback on our ideas and route plans.
Friday, August 15, Jared left SLC in the morning, picked up our crew, Gary and Dave, and drove to my house in Pocatello. Gary and Dave had been working on putting a record attempt together during the summer and had a lot of great knowledge of the route. Jared met them at the Millcreek 50k, and when they caught wind of our trip they volunteered to help crew us along the way. We loaded a bunch of gear in the truck, had some great mexican food and drove to Mackay. In Mackay we stopped and ate again, this time burgers, fries and milkshakes, and then we drove to the TH at the end of the Wildhorse road. We arrived just as the sun was getting low in the sky and after fidgeting with gear for a bit we laid down to try to get a few hours sleep before setting out.
11:28 pm my eyes snapped open to see an amazing sky full of stars, 2 minutes later my alarm went off. There was more fidgeting with gear, loading packs, eating a little more food, and at midnight we set off up the trail. It was exciting to finally be embarked on the attempt and everything, from the weather to our fitness, seemed to have fallen perfectly in place. 1 hour and 55 minutes after leaving the trailhead we summited the first peak, Hyndman. We wrote in the log, took a few pictures, sent an OK message from the Spot and then began descending. At just over 3 hours we were back at the trailhead. Dave and Gary had everything packed up, and we quickly piled in the truck for the drive to Borah.
The Borah trailhead was a circus! There were tons of people milling about getting ready to ascend Idaho’s tallest peak. Jared and I wanted to get out ahead of the masses so as quickly as we could we gathered our gear for the longest section of the day and headed up the trail. It was 4:40 AM. Still feeling fresh we made pretty quick work of the ascent of Borah cresting out in about 2 hours. It was amazing to catch the sunrise from the roof of Idaho. We followed the same summit routine as we had on Hyndman and began our descent back towards Chicken Out Ridge. At the snowfield we turned and dropped in to the basin between Chicken Out Ridge and Idaho.
Making fast work of the descent we shifted gears and ground our way up the West Ridge of Mount Idaho. We were now in completely virgin territory. It took about 2 hours and 30 minutes to get from the summit of Borah to the summit of Idaho.
It seemed as though we were both feeling very good and moving well. As we worked our way along the ridge off of Idaho towards our descent it became very clear that Jared had done an amazing job selecting the route.
We were able to move through the and around the technical terrain with relative ease. Once at Pass Lake we refilled our water, but we did not dally. The summit of Leatherman was calling.
When we summited Leatherman we were surprised to encounter a group of climbers from Arco. This group would be the only people, outside of our crew, that we would see all day. It was just after noon.
The group on the summit was very supportive and cheered us on as we descended into more unknown terrain en-route to Mount Church. We were able to sneak through some very technical terrain and drop quickly to the ridge leading to Bad Rock. We had some beta on how to do Bad Rock and originally planned on summiting it, but as we approached it we noticed a goat path that looked to circumnavigate the more technical terrain and we opted to take it. This allowed us to sneak around Bad Rock very quickly.
We knew coming into this adventure that Mount Church would present one of the more significant challenges of the trip. We were unable to find beta on how to climb the North ridge and were pretty unsure of how we would get to the summit. We had tentatively planned to move onto the West Face and try to get up through a chute we had identified with binoculars from the highway. Luckily for Jared and I, our crew had gotten bored and decided to climb Mount Church. They attempted our plan A and found it to be a no go, they then moved to plan B and found a route up a different chute. They radioed some directions from the summit and we were able to follow their lead. 3/4 of the way up the chute we found a water seep that was flowing pretty well, we topped of our packs and then moved to the summit ridge. We high-fived Gary and Dave on the summit of Church at a little past 3:30 in the afternoon.
Again we went through the same summit routine and then quickly made our way to the Summit of Donaldson.
10 minutes after 4, we again high fived Gary and Dave, and Jared and I dropped off the ridge towards No Regret. Not much later we turned from the ridge and descended into the basin that separates Donaldson and Breitenbach. The pace, distance and terrain was starting to catch up with us as we ascended from the basin, yet we pushed forward. The summit of Breitenbach finally came into view and at 6:15 pm we stood on the 7th summit of the day.
From Breitenbach we new we had some technical ridges to cross, but the beta we received made it sound pretty straight forward. We cruised over two sub-peaks on the ridge and got to a section of slabby ridge traversing. This is the type of terrain I like the very least. Unfortunately when I reached the end of the ridge traverse Jared informed me that the buttress we were standing on cliffed out and we would have to back track. We tried our best to spot our line moving forward but the terrain seemed impossibly steep and impassable. After working our way back across the slabby ridge we dropped on the the west side of the ridge and below the first cliff band. It once again appeared to cliff out. The sun was getting low in the sky and now it started to feel a little desperate. After deliberating a few minutes we decided to press on along our current trajectory hoping we could find some sneak through the cliff bands.
We were very fortunate to spot a very faint path, probably from goats, that we were able to follow until almost the saddle. There we were presented with about a 20 foot vertical drop. This would be a fully committing move; we could down climb the vertical face, but it may lead us to a terrain trap that would force us a significant amount of technical backtracking. Jared climbed down first, made it look very easy and then turned to spot me. About half way down I broke off a hold and nearly peeled off the small face. Once safely on the ground we started working our way up the north ridge of the small peak that ties into the Lost River Peak ridge line. It looked like the route would shut down and force us back, but once again we got so very lucky and were able to sneak, on a ledge, between two cliffs, and on to the summit ridge.
Extremely relieved to not have been forced back we hustled towards the summit of Lost River. We went through our summit routine at 8:49 pm. We left the summit headed towards the Super Gully with headlamps on our heads, but didn’t have to turn them on until we were about 500-600′ down the Gully. The loose rock made it possible to descend rapidly towards our awaiting crew at the trailhead. Dave and Gary had cooked some food for us and also had a wide variety of cookies and chips. It seemed like a full-on ultra aid station. We changed clothes, and crawled in the truck. We left the trailhead in the truck just after 10 pm. Jared and I stuffed food into our bellies and tried to sleep while Dave and Gary navigated us towards the Diamond.
Right about 1:00 am we pulled into the trailhead at the base of the Diamond. 15 minutes later all four of us were ascending the Diamond. I was very surprised at how good Jared and I both felt, and it was fantastic to have Dave and Gary climbing the peak with us. At 3:00 am we went through our summit routine one final time and before we got too chilled from the summit wind we got to work descending.
The attitude was very jovial on the descent which I think, in turn, made our legs feel light. It was 4:18 am when we got back to the trailhead. We snapped some pictures, stopped the watch, and gave lots of hugs and high fives. Our total time for the Idaho 12ers was 28 hours, 18 minutes and 10 seconds. The previous record was 38 hours and 50 minutes.
Not longer after finishing, all of us were in crawling into sleeping bags spread out in the dirt around the truck right at the trailhead. Sleep came very quickly but was fleeting as the sun rose only a few hours later. About 8:00 am we were all awake and roasting in the hot desert sun. The journey had gone well. We certainly could not have done this without the help of Dave and Gary. They were fantastic crew. Not only did they nearly flawlessly execute all of the driving, but they whipped up some great food and helped with some of the most important beta. Jared was an amazing partner for this trip. His abilities to move in the mountains, flawless route planning, and impressive endurance made him the perfect partner for this adventure. Thanks guys!
There has already been some discussion and questions about equipment, food and water. Here is a detailed list of what I used. I will try to add Jared’s list, or a link to his report post.
Section 1 Hyndman:
Pack: Ultraspire Alpha with 32 oz of water.
Headlamp: Black Diamond Polar Icon
Clothes: Patagonia short sleeved Forerunner shirt, all weather hoody, Houdini jacket, Strider Pro shorts, Velocity running tights, merino lightweight crew socks, Wind Shield gloves (prototype)
Shoes: New Balance Minimus 00 V2.
Food: 2 sweet potato, egg, and turkey sausage burritos, 4 oz First Endurance EFS Liquid shot.
Section 2: Borah to Lost River
Pack: Ultraspire Zygos (prototype) with 70 oz reservoir (this started full, was refilled at Pass Lake, and at the seep on Church). I also carried two- 16 oz Ultraspire soft bottles to fill later if needed (I filled one at Pass Lake).
Clothes: Patagonia Merino 1 logo t-shirt, Capilene 1 long sleeve, Houdini, Strider Pro shorts, lightweight merino quarter length socks.
Shoes: New Balance Minimus 00 V2.
Additional: Smith Approach Max sunglasses, Black Diamond Polar Icon headlamp, Black Diamond carbon z-poles, 1 pair leather work gloves, 1 pair Inov8 Debris Gaiters.
Food: 5 sweet potato burritos, 10 oz EFS Liquid Shot, 4 rootbeer Gu’s, 2 Vi Fuel Peach Cobbler gels, 1 baggie of gummy worms, 2 Snickers bars, 1 Red Bull. (about 3500 calories).
Section 3: Diamond
Pack: Ultraspire Zygos with 32 0z of water.
Clothes: Patagonia Fore Runner Shirt, Capilene 1 long sleeve, Houdini jacket, Strider Pro shorts, Velocity tights, merino lightweight ankle socks.
Shoes: New Balance Minimus 00 V2.
Additional: Black Diamond Polar Icon headlamp, Black Diamond Z-poles.
Food: 1 sweet potato burrito, 3 oz EFS Liquid shot, and a few remaining gummy worms.