We are a year into the Covid pandemic, and if you are anything like me you are tired of seeing the inside of your own house. You are bored of walking the same neighborhood loop with your dog and you’ve memorized every detail within a three mile radius of your home. Maybe you’ve even named all of the local cats and you think the squirrels in your yard are out to get you, or is that just me? But wait! What’s that?? The sound of melting snow! The feel of sun on your face! You can begin to hope again because, thank goodness, it’s almost summer! You start watching adventure videos on YouTube of amazing mountain climbers and white water rafters as you begin to daydream about the amazing adventures you will go on this summer. Maybe this year you will finally climb that mountain on your bucket list, go backpacking for the first (or hundredth) time, or just try to get out every weekend for a hike. Before you plan your summer of adventures however, make sure to give some thought to spring training. I know, if you could just always stay in peak-bagging shape, the world would be a better place, but spring training doesn’t have to be a drag! Instead, turn your spring training into a challenge. Here at Advanced Primate, which is based in Boise, Idaho, our favorite spring training regime includes conquering the Grand Slam Challenge.
When looking for hiking recommendations near Boise, Idaho, the best place to start is with Tom Lopez. Tom is a well known Idaho climber and author of Idaho: a Climbing Guide. Tom is also the creator of the Grand Slam challenge, which he has been using as his spring training regime since the 90s. The Grand Slam consists of four summits with trailheads all within an hour drive of Boise: Cervidae, Kepros, Shaw, and Heinen. Below is a short blurb about each of the four hikes in order that Tom recommends hiking. For further information on these hikes, as well as directions to each trailhead, visit Tom’s website. If you don’t live in Boise however, don’t fret! Check out the basics of these four summits and look for similar hiking opportunities near you. Find your own grand slam to keep things exciting this spring. So grab a hiking pack and a water bottle, and get excited my friends, it’s time to get outside again.
View from Top of Cervidae in the winter, photo by Noah Stewart-Maddox-
While the lowest of the Grand Slam Peaks, Cervidae is by no means easy. The meager two miles to the summit take you up an impressive 2000 feet of elevation. The rollercoaster trail follows a series of steep steps with brief periods of flat to give your burning legs a break. Cervidae is one of the first trails to melt out in the spring, which makes it a good place to begin the challenge but can also be done with snowshoes early in the season. With little shade and no water, this hike can be rough in the summer so spring is really the best time to tackle. This hike takes around 2.5 hours and will leave even your most energetic pooch worn out. For non-Boiseans, look for a short but steep hike to start building up those leg muscles. Want a little extra something something? Fill your pack with some extra weight, like multiple water bottles, or your child!
View from top of Kepros, Photo by Noah Stewart-Maddox-
Kepros offers a much more typical training hike with an elevation gain of 1,500 feet over about 10 miles. The long ridge walk is enjoyable in the spring but can turn hot and dusty in the summer. Bonus fact: Kepros mountain was named after George Kepros, a homesteader and sheep runner. An alternative here would be a long and steady trail to work on your endurance.
View of Boise from Shaw Mountain Trail, Photo by John Platt-
Shaw Mountain (Lucky Peak)
The easiest of the Grand Slam peaks to access, the trail to Shaw Mountain climbs up the Boise foothills overlooking southeast Boise with its trailhead right in town. This summit can be accessed from multiple trailheads and depending on where you start, is around 10 miles with an elevation gain of up to 2,900 feet. The trail offers beautiful views of the Treasure Valley and (depending on the route) will take you past an archery range and Boise State University’s Bird Observation Facility. As the trail runs right into southeast Boise neighborhoods, it can be quite busy with hikers and mountain bikers. For your next hiking challenge, you’ll want to find something long but with more elevation gain than the last hike. This will keep strengthening those legs as well as continue building up endurance.
View from top of Mount Heinen, Photo by Noah Stewart-Maddox-
Mount HeinenThe strenuous hike to the summit of Mount Heinen will provide you with a good idea if you are ready for summer peak bagging. Depending on the route, this hike can be between 10 and 14 miles, and will take most of the day. Definitely bring a pack with water and snacks and expect a tough but rewarding climb. Heinen can be attempted on one of many routes, none of which have very well-defined trails so expect some bushwhacking and make sure to do your research before attempting. Don’t live near Boise, or maybe you don’t want to attempt trailfinding? Find a summit close to home that will take you a full day to climb. Choose something similar in length to what you have been doing but with some extra elevation gain or a few extra miles. This final hike should be a good indication of your fitness level based on the type of activities you want to take on this summer.
So if you are chomping at the bit for a summer of adventures, think about taking on the Grand Slam challenge to get your mind and body into adventure ready shape. If you've started to wear holes in your yoga mat and the thought of doing even one more squat makes you groan, get yourself into shape this spring by spending your weekends pushing yourself up these four butt-kicking hikes. Instead of making aggressive eye contact with your neighborhood squirrels, go to the foothills and refresh your brain with beautiful views and get excited for your next big adventure.