Idaho is home to nine 12,000-foot peaks (“12ers”) spread out across three mountain ranges. Seven of these steep peaks are scattered throughout the Lost River Range, and the Lemhi and Pioneer ranges each are home to one. For any eager climber, tackling all 12 peaks is a lofty goal, and one that might take a bit of time. But for Ernest Hemingway STEAM School fourth-grader Camden Patrie, all it took was research, commitment, and a summer goal—and supportive parents.
On Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, Patrie, who turns 10 on New Year’s Day, became the fourth person 10 years old or younger to accomplish this mammoth feat. “A few years ago, a few friends of Camden’s told him they had climbed the 12ers, and it got him interested in climbing,” says Patrie’s mother, Amanda Breen. Once the idea took hold, Patrie dove into research, spending his free time mapping the routes and studying the steepness of each climb.
“I spent the winter before, researching,” he says. “I researched on Google Earth. I could see the steepness and terrain and see if it was a nice ridge or not.” After studying the routes and each climb, Patrie set off on his first expedition on Saturday, June 26, alongside his parents, Amanda and David, trekking up Hyndman Peak in the Pioneer Range.
“It became a huge summer,” says Breen. “We didn’t think we’d get them all done this summer, and it was this fun, overriding goal. It was so fun to plan it together, to plan out our routes, and experience some of the highs and lows together. We learned a lot about perseverance and pushing yourself.”
The climbs usually began at 4 a.m., long before the sun had risen, and were each an all-day expedition spent on the move, climbing up steep trails, maneuvering loose scree, and navigating different types of exposure and some technical aspects—a physical and mental feat for any adult, let alone a then-nine-year-old.
The young family was met with solitude on almost every hike.
“Except for Mount Borah and Hyndman Peak, which can both be quite busy, we saw people only occasionally on the other 12ers,” says Breen. “And pretty much everyone on those remote peaks was working on the 12er goal—but not usually in one summer!”
For Patrie, the most memorable climbs were the final two summits: Mount Church and Lost River Mountain. “They were extremely difficult but also really fun,” he says. “They both had nice ridges, and they both had loose rock gullies to climb up.”
The Mount Church summit took the family two attempts after first finding snow along the way in August. They knew the right decision was to turn around and come back another day.
“I really learned that the mountains won’t always give you an easy way up,” Patrie says. “I learned to expect anything, and if you don’t make it the first time, you can always come back and try again.”
Patrie says he loves living and growing up in Idaho, where access to exciting climbs and fun mountains are just outside his backdoor. And while summitting all of Idaho’s 12,000-foot peaks is a bucket-list accomplishment, the young mountaineer is already planning his next great adventure—this time, all of Idaho’s peaks over 11,000 feet (there are 123). “I’ve already climbed 10 of them,” he says.
He’s well on his way.