A Tall Challenge: The Idaho Twelvers



The great outdoors is certainly one of the biggest draws for living in Idaho. This state is full of natural and rugged beauty, and it has something for everyone. But just because Idaho is a great place to live for the casual recreationalist doesn’t mean it doesn’t answer of the call of those people looking for something a little more extreme. Idaho has plenty of great locations for BASE jumping and paragliding, and there are more than enough mountains for even the best mountain climbers to have a good challenge. Sometimes, it goes beyond just a simple challenge.

In Idaho, there are nine mountain peaks with an elevation over 12,000 feet. These climbs are already challenging, with all but one of them being class 3 routes and climbs. But there’s a challenge that ups the difficulty level if you’re skilled enough, brave enough, and just maybe crazy enough to try it.

The Twelvers

For the typical mountain climber, the rules of this challenge are simple: climb all nine of Idaho’s mountain peaks that are over 12,000 feet. But the challenge doesn’t stop there, and this is where having that little touch of crazy can help. Speed climbs have started gaining popularity in Idaho, and if you want to take on the challenge, you’ll need to know the rules regarding the twelvers speed challenge.

1. Your time starts at the first trailhead, and ends at the final trailhead. For instance, the time continues for your first climb, descent, drive to the next trail, and doesn’t stop until you climb down the ninth and final peak and touch your car at the end.

2. You aren’t allowed to use any motorized means of travel once you leave the trailhead. No dirt bikes, off road vehicles, or helicopters. While mountain bikes aren’t technically against the rules, it’s kind of a stretch.

3. You can traverse. If you have the ability, you could go from Leatherman to Donaldson along the ridgeline.

4. You have to carry your own equipment, even if someone is climbing with you.

5. You are allowed to have someone drive you between the peaks and cook you dinner. Nothing that would provide an unfair advantage is allowed.

The Nine Peaks

Seven of the nine mountain peaks that make up Idaho’s twelvers are in the Lost River Range. With the exception of one class 2 mountain, the other eight mountains are all class 3, so they require experience climbing and the right equipment. Currently, the speed record for the twelvers is held by Luke Nelson and Jared Campbell on August 17, 2014. They completed the twelvers challenge in an astonishing 28 hours and 18 minutes.

Most people work on completing Idaho’s twelvers in a season, or over the span of a few years. Whether you have the skill to try for a speed record, or if you just want to conquer Idaho’s nine peaks over 12,00 feet, here are the mountain peaks that make up the Idaho twelvers.

· Mount Borah. This is the tallest peak in Idaho at 12,662 feet, and it’s also the most popular. It’s in the Lost River Range, among the most rugged mountains in the state. It features the infamous “chicken out ridge.” On either side of the ridge are 2,000 feet drops, and inexperienced climbers often chicken out here.

· Leatherman Peak. At 12,228 feet, this peak could either be easy to climb, or difficult. It all depends on the chosen route. This peak is in the Lost River Range.

· Mount Church. Also in the Lost River Range, this peak is 12,200 feet. It’s often considered the most physically demanding climb.

· Diamond Peak. Located in the Lemhi Range, it’s the tallest outside of the Lost River Range. It’s 12,197 feet, and involves a lot of class 3 rock scrambling.

· Mount Breitenbach. Back into the Lost River Range for this 12,140-foot peak. It has a 3,000-foot North Face, which is the most impressive feature of this mountain.

· Lost River Peak. In the Lost River Range, this is the least known of the Idaho twelvers. It’s at an elevation of 12,078 feet, and features a “Super Gully” that proves challenging in the summer, when the snow has melted.

· Mount Idaho. At 12,065 feet in the Lost River Range, this is a favorite because Mount Idaho features a wide variety of climbing and trail challenges.

· Donaldson Peak. At 12,023 feet in the Lost River Range, Donaldson Peak is usually outshined by the neighboring Mount Church. It’s often used as a way to get to Mount Church.

· Hyndman Peak. Located outside of Sun Valley in the Pioneer Range, Hyndman Peak is the second most climbed twelver at 12,009 feet. It’s the only class 2 climb of the bunch, but it’s no less challenging.




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