Thursday, September 13, 2012

Boise woman conquers all 9 of Idaho's 12,000-foot peaks in 1 year; who's going to do it next?

She's summited all nine 12ers in Idaho! Irene Vogel on the summit of 12,228-foot Leatherman Peak
Hi all,

I like to climb mountains, and I know a lot of you do, too. But I'm not a technical rock-climber. I had a really close call on the side of Mount Washington in Montana while I was in college that almost got me killed, so I'm much more comfortable bagging peaks that are doable as a walk-up or a hands-and-feet scramble.

I noticed on Facebook this summer that Irene Vogel of Boise was on a quest to climb all nine of Idaho's 12,000-foot peaks -- the highest peaks in the state -- in one year. That's something that I've never done, but it's definitely something I'd like to do, so I thought I'd share her story in case it's something you'd like to do as well.

Vogel made it a goal to climb all of Idaho's 12ers in one year last January. She thought it would be a neat and challenging thing to do the year she turns 40. She had climbed the state's highest peak, 12,662-foot Mt. Borah and 12,228-foot Leatherman Peak the year before, and she had gotten hooked.
Irene on the trail ... Check out her gear 
Both of those climbs were challenging, she says. "It took me 16 hours to climb Leatherman from the Pahsimeroi side," she says. "I loved it but I was totally exhausted. It was really hard."

Two weeks ago, Vogel achieved her goal by summiting Leatherman again, this time in only 3 hours (the climbing part). Eleven of her friends went with her. Each of them brought back a rock for a cairn they built at Vogel's home, with their name on it. "It's been a really cool journey," she says. "I have so much support from friends who went with me on the climbs, and support from friends and family who live here in town. It's been a great experience."
View from the top of Hyndman Peak in the Pioneer Mountains
Getting ready - training. Vogel says she didn't do any specific training for the big climbs, but she did a lot of biking and hiking on Boise foothills trails, road biking, and snowshoeing in the winter. She also worked on three winter ascents in early 2012 -- Cobb Peak and Hyndman Peak in the Pioneers, and Cone Peak in the Boulders. "That got me in shape," she says.

Planning resources: and Idaho - A Climbing Guide by Tom Lopez. Lopez's book has great information on getting to the trailheads, and details on different scramble routes, and summitpost has helpful notes from other people who have climbed the peaks and posted photos of their journeys.

She didn't quite make it to the top of Hyndman because of winter weather, so that would have to wait.
In May, she climbed 12,197-foot Diamond Peak in the Lemhi Mountains. There was still snow on the mountain (it's recommended as a better winter ascent than summer), and she did the steep ascent with crampons.

Sequence of her 12er ascents: 1. Diamond Peak; 2. Lost River Mountain; 3. Hyndman Peak; 4-5. Donaldson Peak and Mount Church (both can be done in one day); 6. Mount Idaho; 7. Mt. Borah; 8. Mount Breitenbach; 9. Leatherman Peak.

A mountain goat lording over the high country
Vogel had a friend, Jake, who also was working on bagging all of Idaho's 12ers, so she followed his priorities as their weekends allowed. She fit in the other peaks with friends. She and Jake did five of them together, including Leatherman at the end.

She didn't let the smoke from the summer's fires slow her down. She had to deal with some smoky air from time to time, but it didn't bother her lungs. "It might have caused problems for other people, but it didn't bother me," she says. "We had lightning, thunder, sleet, rain, snow, high winds -- weather was a bigger deal."

Storms can come up quickly with little warning at 12,000 feet. The toughest ascent was 12,078-foot Lost River Mountain, Vogel says. The main route to the summit is a "super" gully, described as being "nasty" over a mobile rock scree field. "The snow in the gully was rotten, and we had to climb up the rock scree chute with 45-50 mph winds blowing the whole time," she says. "It was tough on a knife-edge ridge ... I didn't want to get blown off the mountain."
Irene's route up Lost River Mountain amid 45-50 mph winds 
Easiest climb: Mt. Borah "because there's a trail all the way to the top" and Leatherman (this year).

One of the challenges for Vogel is that she's found that she is susceptible to altitude sickness, so she has to force herself to eat snacks on the way up the mountain and hydrate. Her favorite trail foods are trail mix, peanuts, peanut butter pretzels, fruit bars, things like that.

Equipment: She carries a windproof and waterproof jacket for ridgetops and summits. She wears zip-off hiking pants, Asolo hiking boots and gators. Layers of clothing on top that can be peeled. She likes to use hiking poles especially for the way down. For some peaks, she needed crampons or an ice ax. She also wears rubber-coated gardening gloves for ascents. "Rubber is good. It helps with gripping  onto the rocks when you're climbing hand-and-feet on steep slopes."  
Most of the routes up the 12ers are "pretty much straight up" 
For water, she carried a big 4-quart water bladder and an extra water bottle.

All of the climbs are different, she says, but one commonality is "a lot of the climbs are pretty much straight up and all of them have rocks and scree."

Looking at the list of 12ers, you see elevation gains of 4,500 feet, 4,100 feet, 4,200 feet, 5,500 feet, etc. For some, she camped at a trailhead and started out early to head for the summit, returning by late afternoon. For others, she packed into a base camp one day, and climbed the peak the next day.
Why go to the top? "For me, it's the pristine beauty of it. It's so pretty being able to see all of the different mountain ranges in Idaho from the top." And being at over 12,000 feet, you are on top of the world in Idaho, standing above the many 10,000-foot peaks in Central Idaho. "A lot of people think the Lost River Range is ugly, but I love the stark beauty of it."

Cool tradition: She took a cotton American flag to the summit of each mountain, unrolling it for a photo each time. The flag comes from her grandmother. In each picture at the summit, Vogel held her flag and Vogel would show which peak she had summited in the progression, such as No. 5, No. 8 or whatever, with her fingers.
Irene carries her grandmother's cotton American flag to the top of all the 12ers
Advice for others: Try climbing Mt. Borah, see how you do, and go from there.
  • Bring at least one buddy on all of the trips. 
  • Get in good shape before you begin doing the summit climbs.
  • Listen to your body and know when to turn back if you're not feeling well. 
  • Know when to pull the plug if bad weather sets in. Don't play chicken with lightning. 
  • If you get into a steep rocky area that has no foreseeable scramble route (it's getting too technically challenging and scary), you should turn around and find a better route. 
  • Stay hydrated. Drink lots of fluid and snack food on the way up. Some people may cramp up from dehydration. 
On the rooftop of Idaho. Nice going you guys!  
Vogel has met hiking mates through the Meet Up Boise Trail Heads and the Idaho Hiking Club Facebook groups, and the Idaho Outdoors Yahoo Group. I'm a member of those groups, and there are people making open invites for a wide variety of trips all the time. Leo Hennessy is leading a mountain bike ride in Silver City this weekend through Idaho Outdoors. Check out the web sites and join these groups if you're looking to join group hikes, bike rides, paddling trips, backpack trips, etc.   

I hope you fine Vogel's story inspiring. I know I did. I'm not sure I'll be able to knock off all of the 12ers in one season, but in my opinion, it's a laudable goal to try to notch them all in a lifetime. It's a cool bucket list item for the outdoorsy Idaho soul -- the Idaho equivalent of notching all the 14ers in Colorado (there are over 50 of them).  There are actual speed records for bagging all of Idaho's 12ers -- Dave Bingham and Rob Landis of Hailey did them all in 1 day, 14 hours and 50 minutes. My god! Nick Stover, a former adventure racer in Boise, did them all in 3 days, 11 hours and 16 minutes. Wow! 

You decide what kind of pace you want to set. 

Have fun! 
-- SS 

1 comment:

Michael Carpenter said...

Congratulations, Irene. You are an inspiration.