Monday, August 31, 2009

Boundary Peak

I had a fun and reflective weekend. My brother, Chris, and I climbed Boundary Peak, at 13,143 feet, the highest mountain in Nevada. However, before discussing this weekend, I would like to share a little of a similar trip almost 11 years ago.

My daughter, Rachael, and I were scheduled to go to Nevada to climb Boundary Peak. It was Thursday, October 1, 1998. Thursday afternoon as we were getting ready to go, we got a telephone call and were informed that my brother, Layne, had just died after a long-term battle with esophageal cancer. We thought momentarily about canceling our trip, but then decided to go ahead, there was nothing we were needed for. I actually remember very little about the details of the trip. I believe we tried to go the back way through Dyer, Nevada and had a difficult time finding the trailhead. Then on Friday we drove around, ate breakfast at the Soper's Montgomery Pass Casino, now closed, and went up the Queen Canyon Mine route. We got all the way to Trail Canyon Saddle, and about 100 yards up Peak 12,110, before turning around. There was snow and it was just too slick to go on without the proper equipment.

What I do remember about that trip was the time I spent with Rachael. We laughed and we cried as we talked about Layne and what he was likely doing. He was an outdoorsman and an adventurer and we figured that he approved of the way we chose to spend our next few days after learning of his death. It was one of those precious times in my life when I was one-on-one with my girl. That is what remains with me from that trip 11 years ago. The picture below, I believe, is of Boundary Peak, covered in snow, looking from the Montgomery Pass area.

Rachael at the entrance of the Queen Canyon Mine.

Further up the dirt road, Rachael next to our Jeep, below a nice mountain and very near the trailhead to Boundary Peak.

Rachael and the Jeep at the trailhead.

Rachael and Boundary Peak in the distance. Peak 12,110 is the triangular mountain toward the right side of the massif. Boundary Peak summit is the highest point in the middle of the picture.

Rachael at the beginning of the snowy scree on Peak 12,110. We quit after going a short way up the mountain. It was just too dangerous without the proper gear.

Dial forward almost 11 years. I met my brother, Chris, in Bishop at Bar-B-Q-Bill's for dinner, then we hopped in his truck for the drive up Hwy 6 to Benton and then about 9 miles beyond, just past the California/Nevada border. It was dark and we were looking for a fuel tank with "JR" on it, opposite of which was the unmarked dirt road up Queen Canyon. We saw a large tank to our left, it was dark and could not see if it had "JR" on it, but assumed it did. Then we found a dirt road a short ways beyond and spent a considerable amount of time driving up a very rocky road into a canyon. We were stopped by a small earthen dam in a steep canyon. We were in the wrong place. I re-read the route descriptions and they kept saying the dirt road was opposite the "JR" fuel tank. But there was not a dirt road opposite the tank we'd seen. I suggested we go back out to the road and look some more. When we got out, we turned right and went a short distance further north into Nevada and then found the "JR" tank!

The picture above was taken the next day on the way out (the east side). When Rachael and I were here in 1998, Janie's Ranch was a legal, operating house of prostitution. It is now defunct. Boundary Peak below, as seen from the dirt road (taken the next day). Boundary Peak is just right of center and to its right is Montgomery Peak, a taller mountain, but in California. To the left of Boundary Peak is a view of the ridge line you hike to reach the summit. The much smaller peak to the left of Boundary is Peak 12,110. The perspective from this angle is much different from the perspective from the north side.

A closer view of Boundary Peak.

The dirt road is about 6.2 miles to the Queen Canyon Mine, then another 1.25 miles up to the trailhead which is doable with a four-wheel drive, which Chris's truck has. On our way in we had a young bobcat stop in the middle of the road in the truck headlights, then scamper off to the side. Chris eventually parked his truck in the same place where Rachael and I had parked, right next to the trailhead. Chris set up his truck tent and had a very nice air mattress that fit the bed of the truck. We did not get to sleep until about 1:00 a.m. Morning came quickly. We got up about 5:40 a.m.

As we prepared to get hiking, we spotted a group of 8 wild horses grazing several hills away from us.
I had read there were wild horses in the area from another hiker's blog and hoped we might see some. Nothing like seeing them first thing!

We got off the trail at the very beginning. Chris doubled back and got on it. I recalled that the trail went up a hill and ultimately came back down to the Trail Canyon Saddle. So I kept going to my left, south, around the west side of the hill, hoping to meet the trail in a short distance. However, the terrain kept me contouring in hopes I would find a better way up the steep slope. The route I took did put me in more scenic terrain and I saw some wildlife I would not otherwise have seen. Below, two mule deer.

And even better, a solo wild horse, just disappearing over a ridge. I found it after I heard it whinnying.

The side of the mountain was covered in horse manure and horse tracks. Below, a view of Boundary Peak and Peak 12,110. Trail Canyon Saddle is at the saddle to the right of the picture. From there you go steeply up Peak 12,110 to the saddle a short way down the right side. From there, the trail goes across the back (south) side of Peak 12,110 to the ridge beyond Peak 12,110. From there you follow the ridge all the way up to Boundary Peak.

I got back on the trail about a half mile before Trail Canyon Saddle and reunited with Chris. Chris below, at the saddle, with the face of Peak 12,110 in the background. The trail up through the scree is visible.

Below, Chris a good way up the face of Peak 12,110. Trail Canyon Saddle is below and the mountain we traversed, north to south, to get to the saddle stretches out the length of the picture behind him.

Chris at the saddle below Peak 12,110. The trail, not very visible, runs across the relatively steep face to the sadde on the other side.

I stand at the saddle with Boundary Peak behind me.

From the saddle on the other side, looking back at the saddle and the trail.

From the ridge on the east side of Peak 12,110, looking at the ridge we followed up to Boundary Peak.

Further up the ridge.

Further up the ridge, with the Boundary Peak summit and two rock formations that reminded us of angels.

A closer view of the summit and the angels.

Below, the summit of Montgomery Peak is just visible to the left. The large rock above is the last little knob before the summit.

Looking down a canyon on the northeast side of Boundary Peak.

Near the summit, looking back down the ridgeline we'd just traversed.

Chris at the summit of Boundary Peak. A small red flag honoring the war dead was just above the ammo box summit register. To the left is the ridge line over to Montgomery Peak. The Nevada/California state line bisects the saddle.

From the summit, looking down at the rock angels.

Me, standing at the summit.

Chris had never climbed a mountain like Boundary Peak before and was hit with vertigo. In his words, he had to focus on where he was hiking. If he looked at the steep cliffs or heights, he got dizzy. I think he summed up how he felt about the trip quite nicely to another hiker (who cut his climb short because of his fear of heights) when he said, "I just had a million dollar experience, but I wouldn't give a dime to do it again."

Boundary Peak is relatively short, about an 8 mile roundtrip from the trailhead. But there is over 4,000 feet of elevation gain, most of it from Trail Canyon Saddle up. The west side of Peak 12,110 is very loose scree which can be unnerving and there are some times from the ridges when there are very steep drops into the canyons below. It is primarily a class 2 hike with possibly one or two very short class 3 portions. I appreciated Chris gutting it out and making it to the summit.

It took me about 1 hour and 40 minutes to go about 1 1/2 miles from the trailhead to Trail Canyon Saddle. It would have been much faster if I had stayed on the trail. It took us about an hour from Trail Canyon Saddle to the saddle on Peak 12,110 and from there, about 1 hour 40 minutes to the summit. On the way back down, it took us 45 minutes to get back to the saddle on Peak 12,110, just under half the time. I did not keep track of time the rest of the way out, but it was similarly much faster.

On our way back out on the dirt road, we ran across another group of wild horses, just off the road.

They had several colts.

Then, a short distance away from them, I spotted a wild donkey. It looked like it was trying to stay close, but not too close. A little like an outcast.

It was a beautiful day for a hike. It was also a nice time to reminisce about my experience 11 years earlier with Rachael and to think about my brother Layne. It was appropriate that I could be with my brother Chris.

I sometimes think that life is like a long hike. Much of it is drudgery and hard work. However, it is not so bad when we can do it with family and friends. There are the occasional excitements. In hiking, the beautiful scenery, or seeing a bobcat or wild horses. Then there are the thrills of a nice wind on a hot day with a stunning view from a high peak. The drudgery and hard work are forgotten for a short time and it all seems worthwhile. For me, Boundary Peak is now of bundle of memories that include Rachael, Layne, Chris, a bobcat and some beautiful wild horses. It is also secondarily a state high point and a challenging hike.


  1. It was wonderful to see all the photos of the Queen and Boundary Peak. My folks lived for many years in the cabin you no doubt came across on your way up. Brought back many memories. Thank you for sharing. Your photograpy is magnificent.

  2. Hi Sandy,
    As a rural Nevadans (Lyon), who has gazed up at that mountain, since I was a little kid, and who just finally climbed it, it would be wonderful to hear about your folk' s experiences and recollections of actually living on the mountain, at Queen Cabin, back in the glory days of " Monkey Pass"!