One of nine Idaho 12ers, Donaldson Peak is the eight highest peak in the state. It is an impressive summit with a long approach and a steep, rotten head wall to climb. I recently climbed the peak a second time. The traditional approach was via Jones Creek. [(B)(10)] Jones Creek is a rugged, unstable drainage which seem to change every year as the spring run off and healthy vegetation constantly changed the stream bottom and erode the climbers’ trail. Climbers have established a new approach in the next drainage to the north which is some times called the North Fork Jones Creek. The peak is most often climbed in conjunction with an ascent of Mount Church.
Donaldson Peak from Mount Brietenbach.
North Fork Jones Creek Approach.
This approach is reached via Lone Cedar Creek. [(B)(9)]. See the map below. From the end of the road a good trail leads toward the mouth of the canyon. Once in the canyon, the trail tread is marked and, for the most part, easy to follow. Occasionally, it crosses the intermittent stream and at these spots you might need to look for a cairn to get you back on the tread. Once you get above treeline the choice which way to proceed is up to you. The route to the pond at the base of the headwall is obvious.
This map show the road approach to the North Fork Jones Creek. Follow the Lone Cedar Creek Road to a ranch, turn right and follow the two track to its end.
The lower sections of the North Fork Jones Creek are covered by a thick forest. As you ascend the drainage opens up and and the trees thin out. The tread is good most of the way. Mark Jones and Dan Paulson are simply running up the trail on an early October morning.
Above treeline you will find giant talus slopes to ascend. You can find good footing most of the way on these slopes and any number of lines to climb to the tarn at the base of the headwall.
After climbing over the talus or up a steep and usually dry waterfall you will reach this pond. A good place to take a break. There are two lines that will lead up to the Church-Donaldson Col from this point.
The headwall is a formidable looking collection of cliffs and talus shoots from the pond.
There are two lines that lead up the lower half of the headwall from the pond. The original line is shown in blue. It climbs a steep talus pile and then follows a rubble covered shelf to up and to the right. The line shown in red follows steeper and more exposed ledges. Both routes meet above the first series of cliffs about half way up the face.
The right hand route climbs talus to the snow patch shown in the prior photo and then climbs this ledge.
From the top of the ledge in the prior photo the route turns a hard left and climbs a ledge that ends at the top of this talus chute.
This shot is taken from the point the two routes up the lower headwall meet. the route continues up the base of the line where hard rock and talus meet in this photo from lower right to upper left.
The head wall get progressively steeper as you near the top. Andrew Chiles Photo
Climbing up the upper half of the headwall. You will find several alternative routes. I do not think one is better than the other.
The headwall is steep and loose. Care needs to be taken the entire way.
Dan Paulson showing a good deal of common sense that I lacked by wearing a helmet.
My choice is to avoid the talus when ever possible. I scrambled up this rock rib for the final pull up to the Church Donaldson ridge.
The summit finally comes into view and it is close by once you reach the ridge top. You will find that you are well above the low spot of the Church Donaldson ridgeline.
Donaldson Peak is most often climbed via the Church-Donaldson headwall but can also be climbed via the ridges connecting it with its two neighbors, Mount Church and No Regret Peak.
North East Ridge Route. Class 3.
Donaldson’s NE ridge climbs 400 feet of steep terrain from the ridge connecting the peak to No Regret Peak. I descended and then climbed this ridge with Andrew Chiles and Mark Jones while attempting to climb over to No Regret. The ridge is composed of steep slabs, mostly covered with loose scree and it takes a little time to navigate up the lower sections.
Climbing the NE ridge of Donaldson. Mark Jones Photo.