Ascent of Boundary Peak on 1989-06-10
|Other People:||Solo Ascent|
Only Party on Mountain
|Date:||Saturday, June 10, 1989|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Motorized Transport to Trailhead:||Car|
| Elevation:||13140 ft / 4005 m|
Ascent Trip ReportFriday, June 9, 1989:
It got dark as I drove along CA 120, and when it ended at US 6 I turned left and soon left California and entered Nevada at a floodlit agricultural inspection station that was visible for miles around in the empty desert. I didn’t have to stop, since I was leaving California. A little ways over the border I started looking for the road up to the abandoned Queen Mine, where I planned to spend the night. I ticked off the miles from the border on my odometer, and shortly after I expected it my highbeams illuminated a gravel road heading off to the right. I turned in, and started another harrowing drive on a rutted gravel track into the western mountains.
This one was pretty bad, too. It was very steep in parts, and the pitch blackness didn’t make things easier. There were large lumps like oversized speed bumps all along the road that I had to wrangle my car over, plus, as I was driving through a scrubby forest on the lower slopes of the mountains, there were millions of bats flying around, dancing in my headlights, spooking me a little bit. I saw abandoned mine buildings in the dark shadows on either side of the road, and, after some very steep first gear stretches and a few more ugly lumps, the road came to a big flat area.
I circled it, determined that it was a large shelf at the entrance to the Queen Mine (I had good maps of the area, and was checking them constantly), then tried to get further up to no avail, since the road was too rough and steep to continue. So I parked near the edge of the shelf and went out to explore my home for the night, 9200 feet up on the east side of the White Mountains of Nevada. My flashlight showed me that there was an abandoned railroad coming out of the abandoned mine tunnel nearby, and there was quite a drop off from the circular shelf my car was on.
After going to the bathroom, admiring the thousands of stars in the high altitude desert sky, and setting my alarm for 5:30 A.M., I went to sleep in the back of the car. I tried, anyway. I couldn’t help thinking about the drop off, and how close I was to it, and what would happen to me if my very poor parking brake suddenly lost it. Therefore, I finally decided to move the car, putting the clock/fuel pump fuse back in, driving it as close to the slope where the mine tunnel was as I could in the dark, and removing the fuse and going back to sleep, utterly alone and undisturbed in my remote sleeping place.
Saturday, June 10:
My alarm woke me at first light, as planned, and I hurriedly got dressed in warm clothes, ate breakfast, and got my daypack together by stuffing it to the gills with junk I would need on my hike today up Boundary Peak, Nevada’s highest point at 13,143 feet. I set off up the road from the mine entrance area at 6 A.M. as it made a big switchback and climbed, over terrain that would have tested any jeep, let alone a station wagon, to a broad grassy pass at the crest of the White Mountains, south of Mustang Mountain.
From here I had to go south—I was near the northern end of the range, and Boundary Peak was the furthest north major summit, just this side of the California line. (The directions in Zummwalt’s book advised a route from the east that from what I could tell entailed more vertical gain and a longer drive on a worse road, so my route was entirely my idea.)
I made a laborious, sweaty climb in the rapidly warming day up an ugly tussocked slope with poor footing on the tough grass to the crest of a flat ridge, where I found a trail that offered a pleasant flat hike for about a mile along the open grasses interspersed with bristlecone pine, the world’s oldest trees, which are the White Mountains’ claim to fame. Soon I saw Boundary Peak rising to the south: a massive forepeak (which I had first thought was the summit) and a rugged, snowy ridge behind it leading to the summit spire, all in back of grassy Trail Canyon Saddle. My trail, contouring on the east side of the ridge, dropped me gently to the center of the saddle, where I rested on some old logs that had been arranged there.
Now I had a huge 1500 foot virtual wall of crumbling rock to ascend, so I just went for it and attacked it straight on. I purposely took short, slow steps and kept plugging away, instead of the short quick spurts and many rests of my usual method of going uphill, and I found that this really helped. Without a single rest I stoically plugged away uphill on the incredibly steep rockpile, avoiding the scattered snowbanks when I could, and reached the top of the forepeak, where I skirted its top and made the short hike down to a 12,000 foot snowy, narrow saddle.
After a rest here I followed the jagged and almost entirely snow-covered ridge south, avoiding what snow I could but still having to cross some pretty deep stuff, getting my hiking boots wet in the process. It was starting to cloud up as I climbed around some pinnacles, staying on the gentle west side of the ridge as I climbed higher and higher. By 10:15 A.M. I had arrived at the narrow dome of snow at the summit, my first major peak since climbing Kings Peak three weeks ago.
I was alarmed about the weather, which was becoming increasingly cloudy, and there weren’t any rocks to sit down on, so I didn’t stay long. The view of the rocky spires of higher, rugged Mt. Montgomery to the south made me glad that the state line was where it was and I didn’t have to climb that menacing peak to get to the apex of Nevada. I took pictures, ate a little food, and started back down the way I had come, following my footsteps in the snow that I had made on the way up.
I got back to the first saddle, and as I hiked over the rocky knoll before my steep descent I heard voices from the ravine below, the route from the east Zummwalt used. I didn’t see anyone, though, meaning that my hike was again totally solo, since I didn’t actually encounter a soul on my entire Boundary Peak trip.
The downhill on the steep rocky slope was utter hell—the footing was bad, I was now fatigued, and each step took extra concentration as I caused the many little rocks to avalanche constantly. I was greatly relieved to arrive back at Trail Canyon Saddle, where I rested for a long time. Before getting going again, I went over to a nearby Bristlecone Pine and took my picture standing next to the 4,000 year old tree.
The rest of the way back to the car, mainly along a flat ridge, was uneventful. I could look back and see the top of Boundary Peak shrouded in clouds, glad for my early start, and my battered old hiking boots dried out completely from the snow they had been in on the summit ridge. After stumbling down some tussocky grass hillsides, seeing a mine prospect crater, cutting off some switchbacks, and taking a picture of my improbably parked car from high above, I arrived back at the car. I was tired but successful, and it was still only 2:00 P.M.
The drive down to U.S. 6 on the Queen Canyon jeep track was a three mile bone-jarring first gear descent, and somehow my poor car survived yet another terrible road. I could see the abandoned mine buildings and scrubby pines much better now in the light. At U.S. 6 I turned left and very shortly crossed into California, stopping at the agricultural inspection station to tell the guy I had just been over the border into Nevada for a day for a hike.
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