The Idaho Twelvers

Tackling the Tallest

Story and Photos by Clint Barg

I’ve been attracted to climbing for as long as I can remember.  The first time I laid eyes on an Idaho peak up close, I was hooked. It was Heart Mountain in the Beaverhead Range, and I instantly knew the high country was where I belonged. Was it the unobstructed view that made me long for the top, or perhaps the personal gratification I’d feel after reaching the summit, or the animals I might see, or the physical and mental challenges the climb would provide?  Actually, I’ve found that the answer is different every time I climb—and the best part is, I’m never wrong.  The high country is where I’m the happiest and, lucky for me, there’s a lot of it here in my home state.

I grew up in the eastern Idaho town of Dubois and in my earlier years, before the advent of Google Earth, YouTube, and online research, I primarily just picked a route that looked good and went for it. The allure of the unknown literally pulled me to the top—although my first attempt at the 10,422-foot Heart Mountain taught me a valuable life lesson: how to fail yet never give up on my passion. The route I chose led me to a spot where I was “cliffed out” (stuck on a cliff and unable to go any farther) about a thousand feet from the top. I was alone, and common sense convinced me to turn around.  I’ve climbed many peaks since then, but have yet to summit this beautiful mountain.

When I tried to summit Heart Mountain in 1986, I was twelve years old and didn’t already know the best route to the top because I was, and still am to some degree, an impulse climber by nature. I love spending time in the mountains and often find myself being lure  d up some ridge to get to the summit. These days, I’m generally much more focused and frequently use the technology I have at my fingertips to survey all sides of a mountain I intend to climb. While this aids me in finding the best route, I must admit it takes some of the romance and mystery out of the ascent.  Even so, as I get older and more responsible, I tend to put preparedness ahead of recklessness.

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