Ascent of Boundary Peak on 2020-05-08

Climber: Keith Turner

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Friday, May 8, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Boundary Peak
    Elevation:13140 ft / 4005 m

Ascent Trip Report

2nd attempt at Boundary. Was here 2 May's ago but late-spring snowstorm wouldn't let me climb...Continued drive west after hitting Quandary Peak in CO. About 45 minutes away on Route 6 I could see how much snow was still on the peak. More than I expected after watching NOAA snow depth site. Was worried I drove all this way out and wouldn't be able to summit, again. Plus my biggest fear was just ahead. The horrible road to the trailhead that I had to back down from 2 years ago.

Drove 4.5 miles on the dirt road from Route 6 across from the water tank that had been painted a bit from 2 years ago. JR Annie's maybe??? Parked at the area where there are 3 old buildings. I thought this was Queen Mine. Last time I was here I must have drove past this as I was socked in by clouds. I bottomed out twice in the rental Toyota 4 Rav. Once maybe a mile down at the area where the road becomes tilted on an angle. The 2nd time only a few tenths of a mile from where I parked. This time it was so bad that I was sure I did some major damage to the car. Was scared to look under the car to see something hanging or leaking. Luckily nothing. I wasn't going any further than the buildings.

Slept at '8120. Had a feeling I wasn't at Queen Mine as I read it was at '9200. Left at 6:05am. 41 degrees. 1.6 miles up was Queen Mine ugh. I could have driven maybe another 1/4 of a mile and parked on the right side of the road. After this though there no way unless you have a jeep or some other high clearance vehicle. Much of the road between the buildings and the mine is fine but the few bad spots are VERY bad. Worse than when I was here 2 years ago.

The true trailhead is up the road 1.0 miles from the mine. Switchback your way up the ridge. At this point I started losing the trail in the snow. I decided to go up and over the ridge at about '10,700. You can see the peak now. Could also see a couple cars parked way below at the parking for the Trail Canyon route. At this point I was a bit confused. Summitpost says to head to Trail Canyon Saddle. Well I could see what I thought was the Trail Canyon trail heading up the left side of the peak in front of you that needed to be climbed before heading to Boundary. So do I down climb and then go up that trail as the left side of the peak seemed less steep than the right? I assumed the true Trail Canyon trail was buried under snow so I couldn't see it. I stayed below the ridge to my right and made a bee line for the saddle straight ahead instead of what seemed like a foolish idea to down climb. Soon I merged backed into the Queen Mine trail which was emerging from the snow and quickly made it to the saddle below the scree climb. I guess this is Trail Canyon Saddle? I still didn't see any trail coming up to here from the Trail Canyon parking area. About '10,850 here and 5.1 miles in.

Took a break then headed up the steep scree climb. This kind of reminded me of the switchbacks on Mt. Whitney. Switchbacked my way up safely and to the snow patches. I stayed on dry rock as long as I could but it seemed foolish to head straight up to the high point you see in front of you as it got very steep. Instead I had to do 2 snow traverses high up on the scree slope. Ended up not being much of an issue as I did them without spikes and using my poles. Made my way to the smaller peak to the right. This was clearly the smarter way to go then going up to the high point then having to immediately lose altitude on the way to Boundary. Took a break at the small saddle ('11,875/6.0 miles in). There was a perfect small rock seat here. Saw the snow traversing that was ahead of me. Great view of Boundary here and the route to come.

I again stayed on dry rock as long as possible but I was now up high enough where the snow took over. Made a sketchy snow traverse to the saddle below the peak I just avoided going to the top of, still without putting spikes on. Plenty of exposure so not the smartest idea. Finally got smart here and put on micro spikes and got out the ice axe that I thankfully brought along.

I'm sure the route would have been easy here if no snow. With snow? Very sketchy. Basically there are 3 rock piles on the skinny ridge to the summit that needed to be conquered. The first one I made some class 2 and 3 moves on the rocks to try to avoid the snow traverse as much as possible. When I got to the point I couldn't go any higher I made the step to the right onto the very steep snow and used the ice axe to get my way around the rocks and back to the ridge. Spikes were fine but front pointing crampons would have been better. Once on the ridge I had that "oh shit what have I gotten myself into moment."

No way I was coming this far again and not summitting. Probably a thought that has gotten many people in trouble. Repeat the rock pile traverses 2 more times to get to the final push to the summit. Both had their class 3+ moments. Don't even think about doing this route in the snow unless you have an ice axe, some sort of crampons, and you know how to use them. If I hadn't climbed Mt. Hood last year solo I would never have had the balls to attempt what I was doing. A couple times I was just hanging onto boulders on the edge of a 50 degree plus mountain, on snow that was getting too soft, trying to pull myself back up to the ridge at around 1:00pm.

Finally I made it around the 3 obstacles and only a fairly steep couple hundred foot push was ahead. I was thankful that I knew I'd be summitting now. The fairly steep final push was ok because there was little exposure. I did have to get on all fours to haul myself over the final lip to the summit though. What an amazing feeling to be up on this little summit by myself after such a tough climb! I only saw one other person's footprints. They weren't any help to follow on the way up. As far as I'm concerned I was the 2nd person to make it up here this spring! With a 2:00 summit it was 7:55 up and 7.5 miles. State highpoint #45!

I only stayed for about 10 minutes because I was nervous about how soft the snow was going to be going down. I also wanted to do the drive back down the mountain while there was still light. It was a bit sad as I'm not sure I'll ever be in this beautiful area of the country again.

Going down proved to be easy. I was able to get nice soft yet stable steps in the snow around the first 2 obstacles. The 3rd, and what I figured would be the toughest, rock pile was still ahead. This would prove to be very easy as going down the right side of the pile on the way down proved to be much easier than the left on which I came up. You just weren't able to see a proper route with all of the snow when you were coming up.

Headed down the scree slope, taking my spikes off after the last snow traverse. From here I motored down the rest of the slope and across the flat 2 miles back toward the switchbacks above the true trailhead. I utilized the actual trail more this time than when I came across. It proved to be a great trail though I lost it again around the peak above the trailhead.

Quickly made it down the road and back to my car. Saw a scary looking black and whitish yellow non-rattlesnake just off the road which made me question the amount of time I spent hiking off trail. Back to my car at 6:25 so only 4:15 down. So 15.0 miles overall and 12:20. Very slowly made it down the 4.5 miles back to Route 6. Stopping multiple times to move large rocks out of the way.

Stopped at the Boundary Peak view area off Route 6 to take one last picture and ponder the thought that the last time I was in this spot I had pulled over to throw up from food poisoning.

Amazing trip and one of my most memorable of the state highpoints. Probably only behind Whitney and Hood, but right there with Borah. I'm so happy I did the trip now. The sun was beating on me for 10 straight hours. I can't imagine doing this trip later in the year when it was warmer/hotter out. Make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen and water. Don't take this trip lightly.
Summary Total Data
    Round-Trip Distance:15 mi / 24.1 km
    Route:Queen Mine Route
    Trailhead:Buildings below Queen Mine  -9999 ft / -3047 m
    Grade/Class:Up to Class 3+
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Comfortable but sun beating on you non-stop
Ascent Statistics
    Time:7 Hours 55 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 15 Minutes

This page has been served 270 times since 2005-01-15.

Copyright © 1987-2020 by All Rights Reserved. Questions/Comments/Corrections? See the Contact Page Terms of Service