Member Trip report

Climbing Peak 11,967


Trip Report/Photos from Mountainrabbit

Featured Photo

I've never been behind the practice of naming mountains. They are too huge, too ancient, too indifferent to bother with humans and their labels. The mountain names I like best embody ideas rather than memorialize people. Mt. Obsession. Mt. Corruption. Mt. Desolation. The purest name for a mountain, though, is none at all.


Peak 11,967 is the tallest mountain in Idaho that remains unnamed, and the 13th tallest peak in the state overall. It's curious that nobody has bothered to christen it – like its neighboring peaks of the Lost River Range, it presents an ominous form as it looms over Highway 93 near the little mining town of Mackay.


The Sawtooths are nationally famous for their gracefully carved figures, but I am partial to the Lost Rivers. They are the tallest mountains in the state, and they mean business. Most of them are rated Class III and above. The elegant Sawtooth Range is a Mozart concerto turned to stone; the brooding Lost Rivers are pure Wagner.


My day began with a slow, tortuous drive up Sawmill Gulch, a road that damaged the transmission of my previous truck, so I take it gingerly. Like most of the Lost Rivers, 11,967 has no trails, but the country is wide open and easy no navigate. This is the worst year for bloodsuckers I have seen in Idaho – the blackflies, mosquitoes, and especially ticks are everywhere. I swatted my way to treeline, above which I was free of the parasitic hordes. The peak is rated Class III, but it is comparatively easy, offering little in the way of scary exposure. What is does offer is thousands of feet of very unstable talus, exhausting to climb and treacherous to descend. More than once, I had to leap aside to avoid a boulder I dislodged .


Five hours of hard work got me to the summit, a ruddy pyramid of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks surrounded by its more famous brethren, including Mt. Borah, the tallest mountain in the state. The wind howled savagely. The other major ranges of central Idaho ringed the horizon – the craggy Pioneers, the colorful Boulders, the White Clouds, the Sawtooths, the Salmon Rivers, the Bitterroots, the Lemhis, and the Beaverheads. 11,967's summit is marked by a cairn, but unlike most major peaks, it has no climber's register, no way to record that I was ever there. For a mountain with no name, it seems appropriate that it has no memory, either.


I linger on summits longer than most people. Will I ever see this again? There are so many other mountains to climb. So it is always with reluctance that I take a last gulp of water, goad my sore muscles into motion, and start the long descent to the world of humans.


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