Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Climbing Mount Church and Donaldson Peak, Lost River Range

Mount Church to Donaldson Peak
Climbing Mount Church
Donaldson, Church, Bad Rock,White Cap, Leatherman taken from Brietenbach
This would be my first time on the ridge that connects the two Idaho high points and I was not really sure of the route. I was confident though that I could figure it out as I went. While driving out of town, a friend texted me, concerned that I was going up alone. He offered some advice about different sections of the scramble and urged me to be careful. He concluded by telling me that his father-in-law's friend died while climbing Church. I was a bit freaked out, but I concluded that this was his way of telling me to be extra careful.

When I go into high mountains alone, or on any hike into the back county, I am very aware of the risks involved. I am totally responsible for getting myself out if anything should happen. I don't expect help. Perhaps having this mindset, makes me a bit more conservative in my choices. Nothing wrong with that. If I was seriously injured, I am quite sure I could drag my self to some crossroad even if I had to crawl for a day or two.

Some suggest climbing from the Jones Creek Drainage. After studying the map, I thought a more direct route would be to climb from the drainage to the northwest. Take the Lone Cedar Creek road, a well maintained county road, to the ranch at the foot of the mountains. Turn right at the ranch and follow to road to the trailhead.

I drove up to the trail head and bedded down for the night. I was working on some images in the back of the Subaru, when I saw headlights meandering past the ranch and up my way. The Lost River Range is remote and chance of two parties sharing a trailhead is unlikely; Borah is the exception. It is the "Mount Everest" of Idaho. When Ben and I climbed Borah earlier in the summer, there was a steady stream of hikers from the trail head campground to the summit.

The van, pulling a large trailer behind, slowly pulled into the flat area before the trailhead. I had company! In fact a lot of company. It was a van from BYUI Outdoor Activites full of students eager to make it to the summits of Church and Donaldson. I arose from my bag and introduced myself and asked if what time they planned on starting in the morning. Several of them had attempted a summit on Church when the ridge was loaded with snow and had turned back a few hundred yards from the summit. They were familiar with the basic route and I was eager to join them. I figured I could save myself time and energy by tagging along. Also, I always enjoy company.

We began at 5:00 A.M. hiking up the drainage. With headlamps we could follow a pretty good trail. Evidently this was a well trodden route. At this point the route is straightforward. Walk up.

Looking down the valley

Scott with his dog Moab
Eventually, After a few miles you come to a small pond, or puddle in October. Beyond this point, a steep slope of scree skirts a skirts a tall wall. the ridge line to Church and Donaldson is at the top. It is here that I was glad to relinquish route finding to those who have previously been up the wall. At this point, Scott tied up Moab; he would not make the trip the rest of the hike.

The steep scree slope and wall to the ridge between Church and Donaldson

Climbing Mount Church
Leatherman, Bad Rock, Church, and Donalson from the west
The wall can be seen between Church and Donaldson.

Matt and his friend on ridge from Donaldson to Church
Mount Church on the left
Photographing on the ridge above the wall
The ridge to Church

Looking back to Donaldson on right. No Regret Peak on left and Breitenbach between the two

Climbing the ridge to Church
On top of Church
Taking pictures on top of Church
Eric Newell looking rugged in his new "blue" Patagonia
Eric and Scott on top of Church
The Ridge to Donaldson
Mount Church from Donaldson

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