- Date Hiked: September 14, 2002
- Miles Hiked: 8.6
- Elevation Gain: 5,100'
- Hiking Partner(s): Bruce
- There are 9 peaks in Idaho over 12,000', and Mount Churh and Donaldson
Peak are number three and
eight on thf at 12,200' and 12,023'. Five down, four to go.
I climbed these mountains again on 07/04/2003.
- Because I have been unable to get out as often as I would like, I have
been very selective in my hiking selection. This trip allowed me
to get to the top of two 12ers in one hike. The eighth tallest
mountain in Idaho is Donaldson Peak at 12,023' and Mount Church, the
third highest, reaches 12,200'. Although this was by no means the
most physically challenging climb that I have been on, it was definitely
the longest. Bruce and I spent 14 hours on the trail with limited
summit time. Hiking in the dark, no trail, going through a creek
bed, steep scree slopes, loose and falling rocks, difficult route
finding, and considerable elevation gain all contributed for a long hard
day. Did I forget to mention loose rotten talus?
- Anyway, we drove to the trailhead northeast of the Mackey Reservoir on
Friday night. We camped at the mouth of Jones Creek and started up
the creek at 5:00 with our headlamps glowing. After getting our
boots wet a couple of times and hiking in the dark for a while, we
finally saw the sun start to appear and made our first course change at
a small cascading creek. From here, there was a long steep scree
slope to hike which got us to a saddle at 10,000'. The scree and
talus here was considerably stable and solid footing was not a
problem. Once at the saddle, we saw 4 elk and a party of seven in
a meadow several hundred feet below us to the northwest.
- From the saddle, we zeroed in on a notch to the northeast that we had
to traverse over to. The notch is actually an outlet for a small
pond that sits in a cirque below Donaldson and Church. I would
have to say that this section of the hike continued in terms of
steepness, but the footing was a bit less stable and more difficult to
- It was at the dried up pond were we first visited with the other party
that we had seen at the saddle. They too thought that they were
hiking up Jones Creek. After reviewing the maps, we determined
that Bruce and I were definitely in the correct drainage, however that
did not ease our minds. It seems as though they actually started
hiking approximately one and a half to two hours after us and reached
the base to the two mountains at the same time as us. It was a bit
disgusting to learn this especially after following our guidebook's
directions to a T. Needless to say, from the timing difference and
description that the other hikes gave us, I would certainly recommend
their route. Basically, they bushwhacked up the drainage to the
west of Jones Creek below point 10,705'.
- The nine of us stopped for a break in the pond and shared maps with
each other in order to determine the route we were to take to the ridge
between the two peaks. Relying on a photo from the Lopez climbing
guide we came to a conclusion and started up what became the most
difficult section of the climb. From the pond to the ridge was an
extremely difficult and dangerous climb. In addition to the
steepness, the rock was very unstable and loose so we tried to spread
out in order not to kick rocks on one another. The going was very
slow as we picked our way up the mountain trying to choose the path of
- Two hikers from the other party made a tactical error in deciding to
go too far to the right ending up on a very steep and exposed scree
slope. The rest of us stayed farther to the left and made it to
the ridge and eventually to Donaldson at approximately the same time as
they did, although the other two hikes had a considerable head start
over the rest of us. Bruce and I spent less than 15 minutes on top
of Donaldson taking a few photos before heading back down the ridge.
- The ridge between Donaldson and Church is less that .5 miles apart,
but it takes a long time to negotiate. I have to say that the rock
is solid and it wasn't extremely difficult hiking, but it was very
narrow in sections and the exposure on both sides was high. It
took over an hour to get to the top of Church where we signed the summit
register, took photos with the old axe handle that remains on top, and
celebrated our climb. At this point, we learned that three
individuals from the other party turned back and decided that they were
hikers and not climbers or scramblers.
- Although happy with our accomplishment, the work was not over.
We still had to get back down, and at this point, we were beginning to
get tired. The ridge back towards Donaldson proved not to be that
difficult, we simply took it slow and made sure we had solid
holds. However, getting from the ridge back down the pond was
another story. The four of us descending spread out again which
ended up being a very wise decision. About half way down, I nearly
took out another climber with a basketball sized rock and only minutes
later it was my turn to play "dodge rock". Missing me by
less than a yard, another rock almost hit me.
- Needless to say, by the time we reached the dried up pond we were very
happy to be down so we stopped to rest one last time before the final
hike out. The scree on the way out wasn't as difficult as on the
approach, but since we were fatigued, it still required plenty of
attention. We got back to the saddle and eventually Jones
Creek. Surprisingly, the creek hike seemed almost as difficult
coming out as it did going up in the dark. But eventually, we made
it back to the truck and hit the road for Boise.
- My main recommendations for this hike would be to go slow and leave
enough gas in the tank to get back down, take plenty of water, and most
importantly, do not climb these two mountains alone. The fact that
there we saw a total of 9 other people on the route was reassuring and
- Click here to view a 2D map of
the area where this hike is located.
- Click here to view a
second 2D map of
the area where this hike is located.
- This was our first look at Mount
Church and Donaldson Peak. It was taken from the saddle
at 10,000'. You can barely see the notch that we traversed to
because of the shadow.
- This was the incredible knife
edge ridge that you scrambled from Donaldson to Church. The
rock was solid on this section, but it definitely was very narrow.
- This is to the south at the dry
pond sitting in the base of the cirque below the two peaks.
The rock casting the shadow in the middle of the pond is about the size
of a Volkswagen Beetle.
- Bruce is
picking his way up to the ridge near the summit of Church. You
can faintly see two additional hikers coming up behind him.
Peak from the top of Mount Church. You can also see another
12er, Mount Breitenbach in the background.
- Here is the beginning
of the approach route that we hiked to access the peaks. You
can see the Jones Creek drainage and the saddle at 10,000'.
truly bagging his fifth 12er.