Idaho Twelvers

Idaho Twelvers

There are a total of nine peaks in Idaho that tower above 12,000 in elevation. In recent years, it has become an increasingly popular goal for both experienced and novice climbers to summit all nine "Idaho 12ers". This is a challenging task that requires decent physical conditioning, good navigational skills, and the right mental state to withstand long climbs on loose rock in some of the most rugged terrain you'll find anywhere. Having a couple screws loose also helps.

For most people, climbing the twelvers is a long-term objective accomplished over a several year period. But there are also those who will attempt to reach the nine summits in a much shorter time period. Many folks set a personal goal of knocking them out in a single season, and some of them actually succeed. But there are those who take the challenge to a whole different level, as evidence by the current speed record. Luke Nelson and Jared Campbell completed the twelvers in an astounding time of 28 hours and 18 minutes on August 17, 2014. That beat the prior record of 38 hours and 50 minutes, which had been completed by Rob Landis and Dave Bingham in 2005. Before that, the record had been held by Nic Stover. Here's a brief overview for each of the nine peaks:

Borah Peak from the south, photo taken from the summit of Mount Idaho. Mount Borah
Idaho 12er Rank: #1
Elevation: 12,662'
Range: Lost River
Borah is the tallest peak in Idaho and is located amongst the most rugged mountains in the state, the Lost River Range. It is the state's busiest peak, with folks coming from all over to climb the highest point in Idaho. The standard route comes from the southwest, and crosses the famous "chicken out ridge". The route involves some Class 3 scrambling, but the rock is generally pretty stable in this section. There is quite a bit of exposure though, with steep drops on both sides of the ridge. For an experienced scrambler, it's no big deal, but for those who are afraid of heights, or don't get off the trail much, its a common place to "chicken out" and head back to the car.
The west face of Leatherman Peak, from the trail to Pass Lake.. Leatherman Peak
Idaho 12er Rank: #2
Elevation: 12,228'
Range: Lost River
Leatherman is a towering peak in the Lost Rivers that could be considered one of the easiest, or one of the hardest twelvers to climb, depending on which route is chosen. The easier of the two primary routes utilizes a steep gully on the west side of the north ridge. It is highly scenic and is quickly becoming the standard route in spite of a long and bumpy drive to the West Fork Pahsimeroi trailhead. The alternate route that climbs the crumbling Class 3-4 west ridge of the peak from Leatherman Pass is more challenging, but the starting point at the bottom of Sawmill Gulch is a much shorter and easier drive.
Evening view of the north face of Mount Church above Lake 9682'. Mount Church
Idaho 12er Rank: #3
Elevation: 12,200'
Range: Lost River
Church is a hulk of a mountain and is situated right in the middle of the Lost River crest. The standard route climbs the un-named drainage located between Lone Cedar Creek and Jones Creek. The length of the hike and the challenge of the climb make this arguably the most physically demanding of the twelvers. Relentless scree eventually leads to a fun exposed Class 3 scramble to the summit.
Looking up the East Ridge of Diamond Peak. Diamond Peak
Idaho 12er Rank: #4
Elevation: 12,197'
Range: Lemhi
This giant peak in the Lemhi's is the tallest peak in Idaho outside of the Lost River Range. The standard route follows the East Ridge, which involves extensive Class 3 climbing and is one of the most classic scrambles in Idaho. The occasional exposure will keep your blood pumping, but the rock is stable for the most part and the climbing is very enjoyable. Diamond towers over its surroundings and offers great views in all directions.
The north face of Mount Breitenbach from the Pahsimeroi River approach. Mount Breitenbach
Idaho 12er Rank: #5
Elevation: 12,140'
Range: Lost River
Breitenbach is located on main Lost River crest. But unlike the other Lost River twelvers, the summit isn't visible from the highway, so it may not have the same aesthetic appeal as other big peaks. The peak's most impressive aspect is the North Face, which towers 3000 feet over the headwaters of the East Fork Pahsimeroi River. The standard route is a straightforward Class 2-3 hike up Pete Creek Canyon, with the crux being the creek-bed bushwhack in the lower portion of the hike.
Lost River Peak and the famous Super Gully. Lost River Peak
Idaho 12er Rank: #6
Elevation: 12,078'
Range: Lost River
This least known twelver is the southeastern most of the Lost River giants, and is most famous for the well defined "Super Gully" that carves its way up the south face of the peak. The climb involves the shortest approach of the group, but loose scree in the Super Gully makes it a laborious climb in summer months. As a result, many opt to do this one as an early season snow climb. Once out of the gully, there is a nice ridgewalk leading to the summit. The highlight of the outing is a quick descent, done either by way of scree-skiing in the warmer months or early season snow glissading.
Mount Idaho behind a partially frozen Merriam Lake. Mount Idaho
Idaho 12er Rank: #7
Elevation: 12,065'
Range: Lost River
Idaho is a favorite twelver for many since a climb of this peak offers up a variety of challenges along the way to the summit. The standard route makes its way up the Elkhorn Creek drainage, and then climbs the west ridge of the peak. The ridge provides mostly stable rock with some route-finding tests thrown in. The climb culminates with a fairly steep Class 3 scramble on loose rock to reach the highpoint. The summit provides some great views of Mount Borah, located just to the north.
Donaldson Peak from the Church/Donaldson saddle. Donaldson Peak
Idaho 12er Rank: #8
Elevation: 12,023'
Range: Lost River
Donaldson is the most under appreciated twelver and is rarely the sole objective for climbers since it is located right next to Mount Church. Most climb these two peaks in a single outing, with Donaldson done as a short Class 3 side-trip on the way the Church. Donaldson's most impressive feature is the massive cliff bands that guard the south face of the peak.
Hyndman Peak from the entry to the upper basin. Hyndman Peak
Idaho 12er Rank: #9
Elevation: 12,009'
Range: Pioneer
The highpoint of the Pioneer Range, Hyndman is located not far from the Sun Valley area, and is the second most climbed twelver. The standard route from the Hyndman Creek trailhead is a long but beautiful approach followed by what is arguably the least technically challenging climb of the group. But the Class 2 route is still steep with quite a bit of loose rock, and shouldn't be taken lightly. The summit views are particularly impressive.

Related Links
 Guidebooks
Idaho: A Climbing Guide by Tom Lopez – This is far and away the premier mountaineering text for the state. Contains detailed route information for all of the 12ers and hundreds of other peaks.
Trails of Eastern Idaho by Margaret Fuller and Jerry Painter – Descriptions of hikes from all over Easter Idaho. Includes details for the standard routes for each and every 12er.

Follow IAZ on FB.

IdahoAlpineZone is unofficially sponsored by Skippy Peanut Butter.