Standing at 12,078 feet and number 6 in the ranking of Idaho’s tallest mountains is Lost River Peak (LRP). This peak lives up to the reputation of Lost River Range climbs: steep on all aspects and tough to summit. The steepness of this mountain includes the camps at its base; I found it incredibility difficult to find a flat spot to pitch my tent. My short night of sleep was constantly interrupted as I tried to prevent myself from sliding toward the downhill facing side of my tent. As you can imagine the 2 a.m alpine start we decided to have on this climb was not unwelcome as I wasn’t really sleeping anyway.
Our visit to LRP was intended to be a training climb for snowfield travel as we were scheduled to be climbing Mt. Rainier only weeks after. With that as our motivator we chose to hit the trailhead early in search of ice for cramponing up the snowfield.
The LRP trail gets steep immediately and ascending in the dark can be a little tricky when working to follow a trail. Soft dirt and steepness caused us to be on our hands and knees at times as the soft dirt gave way under our feet, threatening our balance. Tallus and scree are encountered very early on in the climb and I will admit that walking out in the giant chute of tallus and scree can be a little unnerving. My thoughts kept wandering to the 1983 Borah Peak earthquake that I had recently learned about. This quake had dropped the valley floor and average of 10 feet overall and the scars on the landscape are evident and obvious as you approach the mountain. My imagination ran wild as we made our way through the tallus and scree as I knew this would be a terrible place to be in the event of another powerful quake.
We reached the base of the LRP chute as the sun began to rise. While the sunshine was only reaching the high peaks across the valley from where we stood the dramatic landscape was finally illuminated. One of my favorite things about being in the mountains is experiencing sunrise far above the valley floor. The early sunrise causes dramatic shadows, and orange and pink glows, and the snow above us was literally sparkling. We continued our climb.
The route to the false summit is obvious and continues straight up one of LRP’s famous features, the Super Gully. Known for being a great spring line for boarders and skiers the Super Gully gets steeper as you get nearer to the summit. With each step of the approach I wished I had my board for a speedy descent however with the ultra warm temperatures early in the season, the snowpack this year was limited only to the very upper sections of the mountain.
As we reached the first snowfield we roped up for some glacier travel practice, our group moved quickly upward. Spontaneous rock fall is a true concern when climbing LRP especially as you enter the Cathedral of the Gods. This area is incredible to look at and the view gets even better the further your rise about it. Several rocks came zinging past us as we rapidly climbed out from between these breathtaking and dramatic rock formations, it was then that I realized what a truly rugged but beautiful mountain range this was.
As we neared the final approach to the false summit we had unroped and everyone chose their own path to the top. I chose to climb up what was left of a big cornice and near the top, literally vertical with my butt hanging over air – my heart was racing. Upon reaching the false summit we had a short walk to the true summit that included a knife ridge crossing with big drops on both sides. The hand and footholds are bomber but with crosswinds and exposure, it was still a little sketchy. The final steps to a summit are always rewarding and exciting and the accompanying adrenaline adds to the excitement.
Reaching the summit is always a fun and exciting experience and LRP was no different.. The amazing views, the feeling of accomplishment and the time spent challenging ourselves and training with friends is always special.
To date LRP is my favorite of the Idaho 12ers.