- Date Hiked: July 4, 2003
- Miles Hiked: 7.0
- Elevation Gain: 5,000'
- Hiking Partner(s): Dan
Robbins & Zack Vickery
- There are 9 peaks in Idaho over 12,000', and Mount Church and Donaldson
Peak are number three and
eight on the
12er list at 12,200' and 12,023'. Depending on what rules you
apply to your climbing style, this was either just a repeat of my climb
last fall (09/14/2002) or it is officially number seven on the 12er list. In
other words, some people claim a peak if they have stood on top of it
regardless of how they get there (flying/driving/climbing/etc.).
Others will require 3,000' of vertical gain if possible with
subsequent traverses to other peaks also allowed. And finally,
the most diehard of peakbaggers will need to gain 3,000' on each
individual peak for it to be "official".
- Anyway, I was in contact with Dan & Zack regarding this hike
and thought it would be fun to tag along if they allowed. However,
since they had plans for July 5th too, I had to drive over
separately because I had to be back in Boise on Saturday. We met at
the rest stop east of Boise around 5:00 pm and hit the road for
Mackay. Dan gave me one of his two way radios, so at least I was
able to partake in a portion of he and Zack's intellectual
- We made it to the trailhead shortly after 9:00 when Zack and Dan found
a camp site (I slept in the back of my vehicle.). We used slightly
different approach than Bruce and I used last year. Instead of
going up Jones Creek, as recommended by a couple of guide books, we
drove up Lone Cedar Road to Lone Cedar Ranch. Just before entering
the actual ranch, turn right and follow a jeep road to its terminus near
the mouth of an unnamed creek north of Jones Creek. This is the
creek we used to access Donaldson and Church. There appeared to be
a defined turnaround spot that was surrounded by ditches on all
sides. In order to get out of the wind and allow Dan and Zack
to set their tent up with some cover, we crossed one of the ditches and gained a
couple of hundred extra feet by four wheeling to some trees closer to
the beginning of the canyon.
- Dan and Zack got set up as we all had a beer (or two) and
prepared for the climb the next day. I requested an early start to
allow me to get back to Boise on a reasonable time the following evening
and Dan & Zack agreed. We conversed until midnight and
decided it was time to get some sleep if we were going to get an alpine
start the next morning.
- Surprisingly, Dan and Zack agreed to a 2:30 wake up call and a trail
time of 3:00. Unfortunately, getting up was entirely up to me
since neither one of them brought a time piece. Although none of
us got to sleep before 12:30, I didn't seem to have a problem getting up
at 2:30. I honked the horn on my vehicle a couple of times as I
got ready in hopes that this would wake the sleeping beauties. By
2:50, I was ready to go and had all of my other gear put up, so I
decided it was time to try again and yell at the them to get up.
Although they didn't swear at me, they did tell me to go away and leave
them alone. Anyway, they eventually awoke and we were up the creek
at approximately 3:10.
- The first section of the hike was rather uneventful as we simply made
our way up the creek in the dark. Other than a few wise cracks
from Zack about how beautiful the area probably was (if we could only
see it), the early start wasn't too bad. By the time we made it to
a small meadow with our first full views of Donaldson and Church, the
sun was starting to come up. At this point, the scree section of
the hike began and we started our slog up to the unnamed pond at
- We climbed a set of "stairs" to make it up to the pond which
was actually full of water and had a descent amount of snow surrounding
it. We took another break and put on essentially all of the
clothes that we had packed along. As I was well aware of, this is
where the fun begins. I was in the lead as we started up from the
pond to the ridge because I was familiar with the route. We
stayed on the ledges and solid rock on the way to the ridge and didn't
have many problems.
- From the ridge, we decided to go to the top of Church first and leave
Donaldson for the return. We rested for a short while near a rock
shelter after we gained the ridge. We started up to Church and
only after a few minutes, I had to stop again because of an extremely
low blood sugar level. I told Dan and Zack to continue as I
regained my strength. I had a sandwich and some PowerGel and after
10 minutes I felt good to go. I caught up to them just as they
were negotiating a tricky section of the ridge. We worked our way
through it and shortly after that, we ran into the first of several
small snow bridges.
- Initially, there was a bit of concern, but after going slow and
kicking steps, we realized it wasn't going to be too difficult to get
over the snow. We finally made it to the top of Church where the
ritual photo taking began and we signed the summit register. The
old axe handle remained and summit was snow covered. We made our
way back down to the ridge and up to Donaldson which proved to be much
shorter and faster. After approximately 20 minutes of summit time,
we packed up one last time to return to the trailhead.
- Getting back down is much easier on the lungs, but you still had to
concentrate and remain focused. We decided to ride the scree down
where possible and simply hang on to the solid rock that we had climbed
on the way up. At one point, I remember asking Dan if he was going
to leave any of the mountain up high after he started a scree slide that
went on for quite some time. We basically took turns coming down
the different sections of the route in order for one person to get through it and then find cover as the next person descended. This
proved to work very well and seemed the safest way to come back down.
- Once we were above the final scree slope that ends at the unnamed
pond, I left the party in hopes of picking up some time and keeping in
good standings with the spouse. I caught a couple of good
glissades and the way down which was a lot of fun. Other than this
and running into Vince Lowe and a friend of his who got a late start on
the peaks, the descent was uneventful. I made relatively good time
coming down, but I bonked about a half a mile from the vehicles. I
stopped for a short break, slammed some more PowerGel, and was having
another beer before I knew it. It took us 6 hours and 20 minutes
to reach the summit of Mount Church. After deducting the 20
minutes of summit time on Donaldson, it took me about 3 hours and 40
minutes to get from Church to Donaldson and back to the trailhead.
- 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.