Boundary Peak 2017

Way back in 2015, back when I figured I should be doing as many badass things as humanly possible to get myself ready to do more badass things, I got together with a small group of people to climb Boundary Peak. It was challenging, and maybe almost broke me. Which is fine. It's what I was looking for.

Since then, I have decided that I should be much more strategic in my planning and only do things that fit a particular goal in climbing--mainly what I mean is that I should suffer only in particular ways and I should also not spend a ton of time doing easy crap that most climbers can knock off in an afternoon. That philosophy has led me to sit around a lot on weekends and basically not get a damn thing done this year in terms of bagging peaks or really actually working myself.

Count me incredibly lucky that my good buddy Chad decided he was going to put in for some passes to Mount Whitney this Summer. I'll be damned if I wasn't going to be a part of that, so I put in myself. Long story short, I didn't get mine, but Chad did and I was a part of his group. Long story short, but longer, and I had to bag out on that weekend, but I am always game to train. When Chad came up with the idea to drive out to Wheeler Peak next weekend, I was all about it. We had talked about doing that hike for a while, and all I needed was the commitment of someone I could trust. That was NEXT weekend. When it came out that I would be at home alone this weekend, Chad suggested we take a quick trip to Boundary Peak to make a run at it and get an additional training weekend in for him. Hell, why not?

The plan was this: drive down after work on Friday, make our way up to the top/saddle of the Queen Mine Road/Trail Canyon Road and camp. From there, we would have a nice day hike situation to the top and back, then we could drive out and make it home at a decent hour on Saturday night. The trick here was that the road is hardly maintained, so we'd be hosed if this above average winter had washed it out at all and we couldn't make it up to the saddle where the two roads converged. It was a genuine worry for me, as I had been there before and our team had to stop the truck about a mile before that point due to snow and add that much onto the hike. That wasn't a pleasant part of the trip, so I was worried that we would be facing a shitty day. I knew that the longer the hike, the less likely we were to make it work, especially after driving down after work on a Friday and facing a nighttime camp setup.

We were lucky and/or stupid.

The car made it up to the saddle. In the dark. Over the rocky and washed out road. It was a remarkable and brave accomplishment. By both the driver and the vehicle. I do not discount this piece of the trip in any way. It was basically key to the whole thing. In fact, on the way up, as we encountered the shitty stuff, there was talk of having to give up and just go drink beer in Bishop, which I don't think many people would object to. It was pretty awesome that we didn't have to do that.

Camp setup was fine at the saddle. The only hitch in the evening was that we both heard something sniffing about five feet away from the tent as we tried to get to sleep. I swore it was just the fly brushing in the wind. Then I looked at the fly in the morning and realized it was six inches from us and not five feet. Whatever. We lived.

We got started at about 7:00 and you're immediately met with seriousness. About one mile and 1,000 feet right off the bat (as a Dodgers fan, I can talk about things leaving the bat and going approximately 1,000 feet--I see you, Cody Bellinger). Once you reach the top of that initial climb, it's a smooth mile and a half of (I swear) slight downhill to the First Saddle. That initial smooth walk is where you need to gather any thoughts you have and get yourself ready for a challenging day. You get your first view of the mountain itself. It honestly feels good after a solidly tough open to the hike. You'll know what I'm talking about as you stare at the steep incline in your future and wonder if it's as bad as it looks. Yeah, it is. It may not be much to some experienced climbers, for sure. But it's not a joke. And you can definitely see that the entire way from the start of the flat to the finish.

The First Saddle is a place I have sort of visualized as my camping spot for future theoretical winter expeditions up this mountain. It's the bottom of The Climb, and it is super cool for a snow situation. It's flat, kinda beautiful, and easy to get to, even if you have to trek up the road for a lot longer than we had to do on this day. Chad swears it'd be miserable due to the wind that you'd encounter, and he's not wrong. But I see it as a "you have to be prepared, man" situation. I think I would be. Maybe. But let's be real. It's probably not happening anytime soon.

After that saddle, it's an uphill kinda day. You immediately start climbing and you don't stop until you reach the top. There are two serious sections. The first is probably longer and greater in elevation. But it's lower on the mountain, so the elevation isn't necessarily as bad. We handled this part with relative ease, upon further reflection. We actually wondered aloud how we did it as well as we did on the way down because it seemed way steeper and more difficult from that angle than the upper part of the mountain. I'll say this. Upon reflection, I don't care. We handled it on the way up and I think that helps in the long run. If we had realized its difficulty on the ascent, we might have had a harder time getting to the top, and I don't think we needed any more of that, so I'll take what we experienced.

At the top of the initial climb, you reach a small saddle between it and the second section. To be clear, this is not the Second Saddle. But you do get a fantastic view of the northeast side of Boundary Peak. It's quite a bit different look than you get otherwise. From there you skirt the north side to get to the second saddle about a half mile away. Stop and eat there. It gives you the opportunity to look at the route to the top, even if it's incorrect, and admire the highest point in the Great State of Nevada. There's nothing wrong with that even if it's all you ever do from that spot.

Once you leave that second saddle, you have choices. One choice is to head right and follow a path you saw from the saddle that looks like it'll take you along the ridge to the top. If you have it in you, don't do that. Stay left at every opportunity. It may look like a tougher trail, but you'll appreciate it. We didn't learn this until the downhill, and that's fine, but it could have been a better day for us. If you read this before going, just try out what I'm telling you. I think you'll appreciate it. The climb from that saddle is about 1,000 foot to the top, give or take, and any help you can get at 12,000 feet is probably welcome.

It'll take about 800 of the 1,000 feet before you get a glimpse of Montgomery Peak. Many people decide that they're going to do both in the same shot, which for just about everyone who needs to do Montgomery is necessary. Montgomery, upon my two viewings, is considerably harder. It isn't far at all. Just .6 miles from peak to peak. But standing on Boundary and looking across, it looks pretty tough. It's jagged and the route between is rocky. If you had any trouble on the Boundary ascent, it'll look more difficult. If you didn't, it might look hard, but it might also be just another challenge. That's fine. Both times I've been to the top of Boundary, Montgomery wasn't much of an option.

One of the reasons Montgomery hasn't been an option for me was that last 1,000 feet. It's tough. Not for any real reason other than the footing and stability isn't ideal. Like I said earlier, we took the right (lower) side. I did that the previous time as well, and it sucked. It's loose, slippery, and you're always lower than you want to be. Being lower, in my mind, always sucks. So I've learned my lesson. Take the high side on Boundary, and probably all the other mountains as well. As a result of my decisions, those last 1,000 feet have worn me out to the point where I'm not interested in trying to tag another peak, even if I can stare at it from a short distance. If you care about doing that, don't make my same mistakes.

The trip down, as I alluded to earlier, was hard. It's steep. We found better routes, which is an easier thing to do from the uphill viewing angle, but it's still a steep trip. We were able to use the downhill to our advantage, and even in the pain that comes with steep downhill hiking, make better time than we did on the uphill. We also were able to book across the "flat" that I swear was slightly uphill for a mile and a half. I will admit--even if it was uphill, which it was, it felt great after 2,000 feet of gnarly downhill that decided my knees were just a cog in the machine and expendable, which I take issue with. By the time we got to the car, we felt as everyone feels. Awesome. It's a hell of a feeling to be done with a significant hike. Especially if that hike is to a high altitude.

We cruised out on the same road we came in on with relative ease. Whether it was the daylight or the experience on that road or both, it didn't matter. It was better than either of us figured it would be. From the road, we went west toward Benton and 120 to 395 and a better looking ride home. That also meant we could hit the Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining, which we did. A burger and a beer after this is a decent thing.

I'm home now, and trying to figure out if I should even unpack before Friday's trip east to Great Basin National Park and Wheeler Peak. I suppose so, but some things are easier not messed with.

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Ryan C. Jerz

Ryan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."