Getting there: From Mackay, Idaho go North on Highway 93 until you reach Lone Cedar Creek Road. Turn Right (East) on Lone Cedar Creek Road and follow until you come upon a private ranch. Turn right on the road right before the ranch and follow around the south border of the property. Stay left at a couple of forks you come upon. From here it’s straight forward. Follow the road toward the base of the mountain and the trailhead.
Total round trip hike distance: 7.5
Total elevation gain: ~4500 feet
Attempting my fourth and fifth Idaho 12er, Brothers Steve, Mark and friend Mark set out on a Friday afternoon to head toward two of Idaho’s highest points. This time we are in for a treat as climbing Donaldson Peak and Mt. Church are usually done at the same time, since they are both accessible by the same trail and saddle. As usual, we had stellar weather and were fortunate that the winds were blowing wildfire smoke in a different direction.
We set up camp at Mackay Reseveroir as the trailhead offered no protection from the sun. From here, we had an unobstructed view of almost the entire Lost River Range.
Up at dawn, we packed our day bags and headed to the trailhead. The hike up the drainage was probably one of the toughest we have encountered so far. We exited the drainage at the base of the peaks and could feel the tole the last few miles had taken. A few minutes rest and we began our ascent up the face of the mountain. Hike straight up and then over a ridge, we arrived at a small pond. Resting once again, we gazed up at the last stretch of vertical climb to the saddle. Summoning our inner strength, we forged onward and upward. Halfway between the pond and the saddle, brother Steve and I turned around, while the two Marks battled on. As Steve and I rested our weary bodies by the pond, Mark and Mark made it to the saddle. Unfortunately the wind was howling at the saddle and the Marks decided to turn back. Hiking up the ridges to either peak is treacherous enough in itself, without having to worry about 50+ mph winds trying to knock you off the side. After getting the group together again, we made our way down the mountain. Another night’s camping at MacKay Reservoir capped a great weekend, although somewhat disappointing.
We decided that we would attempt this summit again the next year.