The Grand Slam

Spring Training in the Mountains

Story and Photos by Tom Lopez

The author, a noted Idaho mountaineer, coined the term “the Grand Slam” for four peaks in the Boise area that are prized by climbers. Here, he describes his long experience with these mountains, while a companion piece in this issue details one climber’s first assault on each of them.

I’m going for the Grand Slam,” exclaimed the muscular young hiker as he passed me, nearly running up the steep trail that leads to the top of Cervidae Peak.

“Good luck,” I shouted.

As he hurriedly pulled away from me his last words were, “Know anything about the Slam?”

He was already too far away for me to yell back, but I thought, “Yes, I do.”

The Grand Slam Peaks are Cervidae, Kepros Mountain, Shaw Mountain/Lucky Peak, and Mount Heinen. All four peaks are short drives from my home in Boise. Since the late-1980s, I have used these peaks to get in shape for the summer climbing season. They’re far from Idaho’s most impressive mountains, yet each peak is challenging. Their different physical make-ups give each a distinctive personality.

At first, these peaks attracted me only as easily accessible training locations. Idaho has nearly five thousand peaks scattered across its 88,633 square miles. I know I will never visit them all but I hope to visit as many as possible. So, why re-climb a peak when there are many more for me to discover? After all, a climber’s journey often embraces sustained suffering to reach the final reward. That’s why many climbers are repelled if someone suggests they climb a peak a second time, let alone many times. But for me, climbing is a personal journey of exploration, of both the mountains and myself. I believe if I’m attentive, I can learn something new about the world and myself with each repetition. These four peaks might originally have represented a training exercise of toil and suffering but over time the experience changed into a joyful reunification with old friends.

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Tom Lopez

About Tom Lopez

Tom Lopez is the author of Idaho: A Climbing Guide and the website In the last fifty years he has climbed more than a thousand Idaho peaks and completed a total of 3,500 ascents across the United States, including several first ascents. His writing has appeared in the Idaho Statesman, Summit, Rock and Ice, and Climbing magazines, among others. He strongly believes that the secret to successful aging is to keep moving ahead, “Otherwise, you’ll fall behind.”

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