We woke up at 4:00am, at the base of the Mt. Borah trailhead. At 4:30, under a milky banner of stars, we began our march up the path to the summit of Borah — 4.1 miles of steep up-and-up, all the way to its 12,662 foot peak. Ahead and above, a steady stream of bobbing headlamps make their way up the mountain in the darkness, illuminating the path we would soon follow. This is an eclipse pilgrimage, with well over 1000 people attempting to climb to the highest point in Idaho, to be as close to the miraculous eclipse as humanly possible.
Around sunrise we ascend above the tree line and see the beautiful colors of the morning, wildfire smoke lingering in the air, and mountain peaks jutting over the haze in the distance.
Standing atop the hogback, you could see the bedding planes that we were standing above, from the sub peak wrapping down to below the cliff bands underneath our feet. The trail switchbacks its way up toward the ridge, then across an exciting snow filled gully, before continuing across to the aptly named Chicken-out-ridge. Sunrise shines dramatically on the mountains in the background. The photo doesn’t show the details of the hundreds of colorfully-clothed people all along the ridge, heading up towards the summit.
After Chicken-Out-Ridge, we came to a sweeping vista full of mountains and lakes. The wildfire haze made for quite a beautiful scene, with shadows weaving between the peaks and valleys. Chicken Out Ridge slowed down a lot of people, since there was a lot of scrambling. Several people had hired guides, and were being led up with rope and harness, declaring “I would not EVER be doing this on my own!” I was most proud of those individuals, because they were so clearly out of their comfort zones.
Instead of taking the steep congested trail, we decided to climb along the knifes edge ridge. Peering over the edge was exhilarating, but the altitude was definitely affecting the air. We were above the wildfire haze at this point, but breathing breaks became more and more frequent as we climbed along, now above 12,000 feet. About 6 other people were on the knifes edge with us, and looking back we could see people all along the trail continuing the climb up to the peak.
At long last, we topped out. People were everywhere and the excitement was palpable. The energy was amazing up there with all those people. The air was swollen with anticipation and happiness and humanity and love. We all sat atop Mt. Borah in the sun, awaiting the start of the eclipse. People were all around, a congregation of beautiful individuals coming up to this high place, & I’d never felt more surrounded by humanity. Sunbathing, Slathering on sunscreen, the intensity of the sun up at any higher elevation can be shocking. A man declared that the eclipse had begun, so we excitedly began to watch.
As the sun became more and more covered by the moon, a slight breeze started to blow. Everyone started to put their clothes back on as the temperature dropped more and more. The light started to get strange, odd, and we no longer needed sunglasses to look around at one another. The air looked almost grayish, muted, and the blue sky gained strange purplish hues. It looked almost dusky, though the sun was overhead and the shadows were all wrong. Within 10 minutes, everyone had put their coats back on. By 11:20, the light had gotten even stranger — purple, gray and dim. Standing up, we could see the shadow approaching in the distance. Darkness was coming, a vast expanse of nothing, then suddenly it was upon us. At 11:29, the stars came out. A great cheer erupted from the mountaintop. I looked up and the sun was totally eclipsed.
All around us, we could see the horizon, and due to the smoky haze, we were surrounded by an incredible red sunset, on every side, in every direction. There was so much to look at. So much to see. You could see Venus and Mars, you could see the bright white ring around the sun, the corona stretched out on both sides. To describe this event from an internal viewpoint is incredibly difficult, as the magic of it is unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Seeing a total eclipse had always been on my bucket list. I looked up just in time to see the diamond ring effect, which was also beyond magical, and then just like that, the light returned. The swollen excitement seemed to break and people immediately began to trek down the mountain. But you know I stayed up there for the entire thing 🙂