Ascent of Boundary Peak on 2014-06-28

Climber: Alan Barber

Others in Party:Maynard Belson
Date:Saturday, June 28, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Boundary Peak
    Elevation:13140 ft / 4005 m

Ascent Trip Report

My friend Maynard and I flew from Dallas to Reno on Thursday evening, and after spending the night in Carson City drove to Bishop California for another night of altitude acclimation in preparation for a Saturday morning hike to the top of Boundary Peak. The highest peak in Nevada is also the 9th highest state highpoint. Our climb day was also the local “Cops on Top” hike to commemorate police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty during the prior year. We caught up with a group doing this commemorative hike and joined them on the summit.

We got up at 5am and by 5:30 were checked out of the Holiday Inn Express and rolling up US 6 with our McDonalds ice tea and egg McMuffins. About 40 miles out of Bishop we crossed the Nevada border we drove another 2.3 miles and found the old water tank with “JR” painted on

its end in front of the remains of an abandoned brothel (Janie’s Ranch) and on the right side of the highway the entrance to Queen Canyon road. The elevation here was about 6300 feet. There was some initial confusion at about 4.5 miles (at 8100 feet) into the Queen Canyon road drive when we saw some abandoned buildings on both sides of the road. These however were not the mine entrance which was obvious when we finally reached the correct point along the road. Our rented Jeep Cherokee had no trouble with the gradually worsening Queen Canyon road and the high clearance allowed us to drive the entire 6.2 miles to the Queen Mine entrance. The Queen Mine entrance is at about 9000 feet.

Our decision to rent a 4 wheel drive made it possible to drive the final mile (a total of 7.2 miles) reaching 9760 feet in elevation and the saddle below the trailhead. This is also known as Kennedy Point. While the road was narrow with a hair pin turn and a slant to the roadbed, the Jeep had no trouble and we felt comfortable driving up the hill. At the Queen mine we saw a van and tents where the other hikers had spent the night. We reached the broad parking area at the Kennedy Point saddle and saw the other high clearance vehicle they drove up in.

We geared up, hydrated some more, put on sun screen and took a few photos before moving up the slope to the trail register. This was a very nice writing surface on a post placed there by the Highpointers Club. However, there was only a pen and no trail register present. We found the trail just beyond the register and started up at 6:55 am.

The trail was clearly visible and climbed steadily to the ridge crest and then along the far side reaching 10,700 feet in the first mile. We passed a nice stand of bristlecone pines and soon reached a vantage point with a great view of Boundary Peak at 7:45 am.

The trail continued with some rise and fall but the footing was good and other than several piles left by the wild Mustangs, there was nothing we needed to step over.
We reached the Trail Canyon saddle where the real climbing began at 8:40 am. This was supposed to be the merger of the Queen Mine and Trail Canyon routes but we could not identify the Trail Canyon trail. There was a rest spot/wind break built from large rocks and tree trunks in the middle of the saddle.

The saddle where we were standing was at about 10,800. We studied the trail ahead of us trying to understand our route but had difficulty seeing where it led. Our previous view of Boundary Peak was blocked by the intermediate hill. The trail was supposed to angle to the right around this secondary hill avoiding a climb up to its summit. After a water-photo break we pushed on up the slope.

The trail was not well defined once we left the meadow and the real work began. There was a lot of loose gravel and scree and the incline was fairly steep.

We worked our way steadily up the slope to the top of the ridge and regained a view of Boundary Peak. While ascending this ridge we heard climbers ahead of us and eventually saw them resting at the top of that ridge. They moved out and we reached their prior resting place about 15 minutes later at 9:45 am. This ridge is at about 12,000 feet. We stopped there to rest, hydrate, have a snack and enjoy the regained view of Boundary Peak. Only 1,100 more feet to go but those were hard feet!

We started out moving around the lower peak and climbing toward the ridge leading to the summit. While the first part of the trail was clearly visible, as we reached the ridge area we found it covered with piles of large rocks making trail identification difficult. Multiple trails twisted among the talus and boulders. At points the trail seemed to totally disappear in a bolder field. It is very difficult to navigate or even find the actual trail. As we climbed we gained on the other climbers.

You can see two climbers in the rocks in the photo above. Eventually we could talk to them and at one particularly difficult point where there was nothing but boulders broken off a large piece of granite, one of the climbers directed us to get as close to the rock face as possible to make the climb easier.

This was excellent advice. Later we learned that this high pointer (Rick Hartman) had climbed Boundary Peak almost a dozen times. He has successfully summitted 49 of the 50 state highpoints as well as 2 failed attempts on Denali in Alaska. That is an impressive resume. He was a wealth of information about this climb and the Highpointers organization and we enjoyed talking to him. His group was participating in the “Cops on Top” climb that weekend to honor a fallen officer.

The remainder of the ascent was a grind (20 steps then 20 breaths) not so much because we were approaching 13,140 feet but because the terrain was steep and very rocky. As we reached the summit at 11:45 am (about 2 hours after leaving the previous rest stop and almost 5 hours on the trail) and meet another climber who had used the Saddle Trail route. He was much younger and when he passed us going back down he was literally dancing from rock to rock. He was already at the bottom of the major Saddle Trail slope before we left the ridge! Ah, youth!

At the summit we took our photographs including one of the USGS marker (there was a subordinate marker with an arrow pointing to the high point as well), signed the summit register, and ate some food.

The sky was blue without any clouds and we had excellent views of the snow capped mountains in the distance. While it had warmed up from the high 50s to the 70s during our climb, we kept our long sleeves down for protection from the intense sun. The UV rating was about max. The GPS showed our trip up was 4.27 miles long and the elevation gain from Kennedy Point was 3340 feet. We could easily see the nearby Montgomery Peak which is 200 feet higher than Boundary Peak and just across the state line in California (the state border divides these twin peaks). However, no one was interested in hiking over there to reach it.

At noon and after a 15 minute break on top we started back down. The descent along the ridge was faster than the ascent, but the footing was still treacherous and the trail a challenge to find at times. We were thankful it was not raining! We did fairly well down to the prior ridge rest stop reaching it and taking a break at 1:20 pm. After another short break we started the somewhat gentler descent to Kennedy Point. Unfortunately, the loose gravel and rocks proved more difficult than the larger boulders and we both fell at least twice.

We returned to the Queen Mine / Trail Canyon trail merge wind break at 2:10 pm and noticed a small herd of wild Mustangs grazing in the meadow. This herd is evidently smaller than in prior years. Rick mentioned it was showing sign of inbreeding with differences in their muzzles.

After a short break at the rest stop we continued down the trail. What pleasant change from the unstable footing and steep slopes.

We reached the bristlecone pines and then the slope to the trail register and finally the parking spot at Kennedy Point at 3:30 pm. The round trip of 8.5 miles took almost 9 hours (4 hours 45 minutes up and 3 hours 30 minutes down). We were very grateful to have parked at the Kennedy Point saddle and not forced to hike another mile to the Queen mine. The drive down to the highway seemed easy compared to driving up the mountain to the trail head. Finally we reached the highway and headed back to Reno.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3380 ft / 1030 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3380 ft / 1030 m
    Round-Trip Distance:8.5 mi / 13.7 km
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3380 ft / 1030 m
    Distance:4.3 mi / 6.9 km
    Route:QUeen mine route
    Start Trailhead:Kennedy Point saddle   9760 ft / 2974 m
    Time:4 Hours 45 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3380 ft / 1030 m
    Distance:4.3 mi / 6.9 km
    Route:Queen mine route
    End Trailhead:Kennedy Point saddle   9760 ft / 2974 m
    Time:3 Hours 30 Minutes

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