Sunday, August 9, 2020
Ketchum Boys Become the Youngest to Climb Idaho’s Twelvers
Cody and Thijs Lloyd found caches with mountain peak banners, journals to sign and various items left by climbers, including candy, at the top of the mountains they climbed.
Tuesday, January 28, 2020


It started off as a simple question from an inquisitive 6-year-old Ketchum boy. And two months later 8-year-old Thijs Lloyd and 6-year-old Cody Lloyd had become the youngest to climb all of Idaho’s Twelvers—that is, peaks exceeding 12,000 feet.

While Cody is now officially the youngest, Thijs was able to claim the record for 10 minutes as he reached the top of the last peak ahead of his brother. Before, the records had been claimed by a 9-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl.

“We celebrated at the top with Oreo cookies and rootbeer!” said Thijs. “And, of course, spicy chips--Kettle Jalapeno Chips.”

The Lloyds, seen here on Diamond Peak with Grandpa John Lloyd, had a rule of getting to the top and turning around by noon to avoid afternoon thunderstorms.

The adventure had its genesis in mid-summer backpack trip that David Lloyd and Rachel Wolfe and their sons took with friends near the North Fork of Prairie Creek 17 miles north of Ketchum. They had just climbed an unnamed peak that topped out around 10,000 feet when Cody asked, “Is this the highest mountain?”

When his father informed him that there were nine 12,000-plus foot mountains in Idaho that were taller, Cody responded, “I want to climb them all.”

“I thought we might do one and the boys would be done with it,” said David. “But the first one we tackled was 12,228-foot Leatherman Peak. And it was so easy Cody said, ‘Let’s go on to the next.’ ”

It was not like the boys were new to bagging peaks or even climbing.

Donaldson proved so easy that Cody dubbed it Donald Duck.

Lloyd and Wolfe took Thijs to City of the Rocks for his first birthday, giving the toddler a chance to play on a tiny slab of wall. And they’ve returned there for his birthday on June 8 ever since, friends and family in tow.

Cody’s birthday always involves a ski trip into a yurt since his birthday is on Dec. 17.  But he has joined his older brother trekking up Sun Valley Resort’s Bald Mountain to the Roundhouse Restaurant since they could walk. The two also hang with the Wood River YMCA’s climbing team, while watching rock climbers Tommy Caldwell and Jimmy Chin on YouTube.

David Lloyd grew up in Ketchum, often hiking with his father John Lloyd to mountain tops surrounding Sun Valley. And Rachel Wolfe has pictures of her father climbing Mt. Rainier while her aunt--former Wood River Valley resident Debbie Wolfe--was a climbing guide on Alaska’s Denali.

Heck, David even built the boys climbing walls on the outside and in the basement of their home in the heart of Ketchum.

The boys wake up ready to climb 12,009-foot Hyndman Peak out the East Fork Canyon.

The Lloyds decided to tackle the challenge Cody had presented over eight weeks beginning the first week of August 2019. Every time they bagged a peak, they reevaluated whether they wanted to keep going.

They left Ketchum following the boys’ soccer games on Saturday morning and made sure they were back in time for school and other activities. Often, the boys had plenty of time to knock off a little skateboarding when they arrived back home.

Rachel taught them to identify wildflowers, natural herbs, trees and animal footprints, while Dad pinpointed the constellations and read them tales of survival in the mountain after they’d finished playing card games at night.

“We learned that those six and under have a better chance at survival than adults,” said Thijs. “One 5-year-old girl survived a plane crash because she remembered her parents had told her: If you go down a mountain, you’ll find town.”

The Lloyd family—David Lloyd, Thijs, Rachel Wolfe and Cody.

The Lloyd family started with 12,228-foot Leatherman Peak—Idaho’s second tallest mountain--in the rugged Lost River Range near Mount Borah. They climbed up through a steep gully and over the dark, folded and twisted layers of rock until they found a tree post stuck in a mound of rocks at the top of the mountain telling them they’d arrived.

Near the top they were treated to a scene of bighorn sheep nursing their young.

They encountered a hair-raising experience on their second climb--12,202-foot Diamond Peak in the Lemhi Range--thanks to a freak electrical storm that lasted for about 10 minutes.

The weather had called for a 20 percent chance of precipitation and the skies were perfectly clear as they neared the top at about 10:30 in the morning. But the clouds barreled in about that time and, as they started to descend, they felt a crackle.

“Our skin was buzzing and tingling and my Grandpa told us later that’s St. Elmo’s Fire,” said Thijs. “My Dad told us to drop all metal objects and run.”

As David threw down his own pack, full of climbing ropes, hail started to fall. Five minutes later, the clouds vanished as quickly as they’d come.

“I didn’t expect that St. Elmo’s Fire. But it wasn’t scary—just different,” said Cody. “We had to be there at the right time in the right weather. One day we woke up at 4!”

The Lloyds rode bicycles up the flatter part of the trail to 12,009-foot Hyndman, a pyramid-shaped peak near Sun Valley. They stashed their bikes in bushes while they continued on to a little pond beneath the saddle between Hyndman and Old Hyndman.

The next day they scrambled up between giant boulders, reveling in the view from the top.

Next, they made their way up 12,065-foot Mount Idaho, a couple miles south of Borah, walking eight miles through a forested area until they came out in the open. They followed a narrow brown path of worn rock in between darker grey rocks to the top where found they found a rocket box marking the spot and great views of the beautiful Pahsimeroi Valley.

They zoomed down an open scree field on the descent, said Thijs.

Donaldson Peak, at 12,023 feet in the Lost River Range, was the easiest. So easy that Cody dubbed it Donald Duck. But traversing the ridge to 12,220-Mount Church from Donaldson was time consuming. The entire trek and climb took 13 hours.

They crossed a wide rock field to reach the top of 12,140-foot Mt. Breitenbach near Mackay and a glimpse of all eight of the other 12ers. 

“By then the boys had gotten good at route finding,” David said. “We taught them to read a mountain like they read a book.”

“First you need a map so you know where to go,” explained Thijs. “And, when you go up, you need to keep looking town to see what going to happen if you continue on your route. When we were in one amphitheater, we looked back and saw bullies with 2,000-foot drops. We realized sometimes you want to take shortcuts but sometimes shortcuts are not good.”

The next weekend they navigated the well-worn dusty trail that takes hundreds of climbers up 12,667-foot Mount Borah—Idaho’s tallest peak. They saw mule deer enroute to the top and they also saw more people on that mountain than the rest combined.

“There were others we didn’t see anyone,” David said.

They made it up and over the infamous Chicken Out Ridge with its 20-foot drop-off. And, finally they reached the top, despite windy conditions that buffeted the boys.

They finished with 12,078-foot Lost River, which proved their most difficult, in part because of snow that had fallen just before their climb on Sept. 22. By then, the boys had worn holes in their hiking boots, having to tape over the holes with duct tape. A foot and half of snow had fallen on the ridge just before they undertook the climb, and Cody ended up in snow up to his thighs. And rocks rolled as sun warmed the snow.

They trudged up Super Gully on the southwest face of the mountain. Then they walked a narrow ridgeline past a false summit to the high point.

”We went up Super Gully and it seemed like we’d take one step and slide back,” said Thijs. “And there was a quarter mile of ridgeline where we had to be careful because of the snow. We saw footsteps where someone had made it nearly to the top only to turn around.”

“They say it’s better to do in spring when snow is covering the mountain because of all the loose screen,” added David.

Thijs went to the top first, post-holing through the snow, using his ski poles and finally crawling up the snow.

He held the record as the youngest climber to do all of Idaho’s nine Twelvers for 10 minutes. Cody followed, sometimes walking in his brother’s footprints and sometimes in footprints his father had made for him. Upon reaching the top, they chowed down in celebration.

“Mom always packed us the best food—muffins, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, macaroni, Inka corn…” said Cody.

David says the experience contributed to the boys’ love of place.

“They learned how exploring even within an hour of Ketchum is pretty special—there’s no way to get bored around here. A lot of people have to search for the kinds of experiences we enjoy.”

Rachel said she appreciated how the boys realized that they can accomplish something if they put their mind to it.

“They loved having big goals and realizing, ‘We can do things that are hard.’ ”

 “We also learned that teamwork makes dreams come true,” piped up Cody. “A dream with a bad team is a nightmare.”

Cody and the others were, in his words “exceedingly sad” when the goal had been reached.

“I wanted to keep going on,” he added.

But the family turned right around and did the Baldy Hill Climb up 3,400-foot Bald Mountain the following weekend.

“Now, we’re looking for a BHAG—a big hairy adventurous goal!” said Cody.


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