I had wanted to climb Boundary peak for some time and when I scheduled a trip to climb Mount Whitney with my friend Curt, we decided to bag Boundary on the way. We thought this was a great idea, because it would help us acclimate for Whitney and at the same time climb the highest peak in Nevada. We had a four person permit for Whitney, so we invited my friend Brandon and Curt’s brother Greg to join us on our adventure.
We met at my house at 8:00 AM. I would be driving with Brandon and Curt and Greg decided to take their own car, because they had other plans after Whitney. I loaded my gear into Brandon’s car and we were off on I-80 West headed for Nevada. We made great time and stopped in Wendover for gas. This would be my first trip to Wendover without hitting the blackjack table and I entertained the idea of rushing into the casino to play a few hands, but we had more important business to take care of. We headed to Ely where we stopped for lunch and then from there it was on to Tonopah. I have to say that this was probably one of the most boring drives I have ever taken. Traveling through this remote section of Nevada can become quite monotonous very quickly. There are no towns or services for miles, which on the surface doesn’t sound horrible, but when you have to use the restroom, your options are quite limited. Unfortunately for Brandon, his breakfast was not agreeing with him and we had to make an emergency stop between Ely and Tonopah, so that he could find some relief and I’ll just say there is not a lot of privacy on this lonely stretch of highway.
We arrived in Tonopah around 4:30 and we quickly discovered the main source of revenue for the town, as we passed 3 police cars with radar guns aimed and in use. Luckily we took it slow and we made it through unscathed. We stopped at a local grocery establishment to pick up a few supplies and Brandon spent several minutes trying to procure a bread bowl for his soup that he planned for dinner. He finally settled on an uncut loaf of bread after we reminded him this was not a bakery, but a small town store in the middle of nowhere.
About a half an hour outside of Tonopah, we finally got our first look at Boundary and it looked like a small storm was moving in over the summit and we saw a few lightning strikes hit the surrounding ridges. When we finally arrived at the dirt road that would take us to the trailhead, I started to worry about whether we could make it in our Honda Civic, because I had heard horror stories about the dirt road, but surprisingly the road was in great shape. We did have to cross two small streams, but they were nothing to worry about at all and after about a half of an hour we had reached the pond, where we saw an older gentleman fishing. We decided to stop here, because I had read that from this point to the trailhead required a 4X4 and I did not want to test the limits of the Civic this far away from civilization. We found an excellent place to set up our camp and after we set things up, I wandered over to the lake and could not believe how many fish were jumping. I was also shocked when the older gentleman reeled in a fish and promptly placed it on his chain, that had probably close to 30 fish already on it and I was wondering if there were fishing limits in place in Nevada.
We retired to our camp where we cooked dinner and lazily lounged around until it got dark and then we all retired for the night, because we wanted to get an early start on Boundary. Curt’s alarm went off at 5:00 sharp, much to the chagrin of the entire group and nobody seemed all that eager to bounce out of the sack. After about fifteen minutes, I heard someone get out of Curt’s tent and they weren’t shy about their bodily functions, which seemed to lighten the mood a little and within a few minutes we were all out of bed. This did not seem to hurry anyone along, as we all seemed to be taking our time making breakfast. After about 45 minutes I verbally lit a fire under the crew and told them we needed to get moving or we might run into an afternoon thunderstorm and everyone agreed. It still seemed like it was taking us way too long and by time we had the car packed with our gear it was almost 7:00.
We were just about to leave the cars and we passed the same guy that had been fishing the night before. He was up early and getting his rod ready for some more action on the pond and I was wondering just how much abuse that chain could take. He told us that we could easily make it to the trailhead in our cars and said we just needed to take it slow in some spots, but that we would be fine. I am so glad he told us this, because he was right. We drove both of the small sedans all the way to the trailhead without much trouble at all. Just like the old guy said, we just needed to take it a little slow in a few places, but it was no big deal.
By time we finally started our hike it was almost 8:00 and I was really worried about the late start, but the skies were blue and the weather looked promising, so I felt pretty good about our chances. The first part of the trail is fairly good, but it quickly turns into a faint trail that is a little difficult to follow, although we could see our destination, the Trail Canyon saddle and we knew where we needed to be. Wearing pants is also recommended here, because there is a lot of brush to hike through and we were all grateful we had them.
Brandon and I stayed together, while Curt and Greg preferred to almost run up the trail and during this hike we fittingly started referring to them as the “goats”, because of their relentless need to hike at an electric pace. After about a mile of bushwhacking, we saw the goats turn to the left and we wondered what they were doing, because the Trail Canyon saddle was straight ahead. They waited for us to catch up with them and they informed us that they wanted to go straight up the face, contouring around peak 12,201 and avoiding the saddle all together. The face looked steep and loose and I was not all that sure, but it did look like a faster approach, so I figured we would give it a try. The goats bounded ahead and Brandon and I settled in on a more moderate pace.
The goats unbelievably did not stop to take another break, as far as we could tell and they just turned on the afterburners and headed straight up the face. Brandon and I followed and we soon discovered that this climb was not going to be all that easy, because it seemed like we would take two steps up and then we would slide back a step and a half on the steep loose scree. It was very tedious and time consuming and this kind of hiking also lends itself to much tribulation and cursing.
About half way up the slope Brandon wanted to turn back, saying that this was more than he bargained for. I quickly squelched any plans he may have already made, by convincing him that we could do it and that he did not want to quit now. I pointed to a larger rock up the slope and told him to just focus on getting to that rock and then after we reached it, I told him to find another rock to focus on. I didn’t want him to think about having to go all the way to the top, but just focus on something I knew he could make it to. Eventually we stopped to take a break about three fourths of the way to the ridge. I was not hungry at all, but I forced down a Carrot Cake Clif bar and some crackers and Brandon had a granola bar and some trail mix.
After our break Brandon seemed to get his second wind and we made much better time and it seemed like we were on the ridge in no time and we could finally see the summit. It looked further than I thought it would be, but I knew we would summit for sure, because the weather still looked good and I knew the ridge looked much easier than the face we had just climbed. We stopped to snap a few pictures and at this point the hike took a turn for the worse for me. I started to feel extremely nauseous and I had a slight headache brewing. I have had many issues with the altitude at this elevation and I knew it would be a struggle to make it to the top.
On the ridge we passed a couple wearing Highpointers shirts and we said our hellos and then we passed the goats on their way down. They told us we were almost there and gave us some encouragement. Brandon told me I looked like shit and I felt much worse, but there was no way I was going to turn around now. The last few hundred feet were like hiking with a terrible hangover and I just tried to block it out and focus on getting to the top. When we finally crested the final boulders guarding the summit, I felt a huge sense of relief, but at the same time I knew I was going to throw up and sure enough promptly discharged my clif bar and crackers, as Brandon seemed somewhat horrified. Now how many people can say they threw up on the highest peak in Nevada? After Brandon realized I was going to be alright he burst into laughter and seemed to be taking some delight in my misfortune, noting that this was not the first time he had seen me in this position, although it was usually on the bathroom floor after a long night of festive social carousing.
We signed the register and both noticed that there was a storm moving in from the west and it looked like it was moving our way, so we did not stay long on top. It was also getting colder and I wanted to get moving again, so we packed up and headed down. I was feeling a little better after my spontaneous discharge and I seemed to have a boost of energy, so I quickly descended with Brandon close behind. After about 20 minutes Brandon said he was exhausted and had a headache and I was getting weak, because I lost my lunch, so we decided to keep up the quick pace and get down fast.
When we made it back to the saddle we decided to go back down the face again, although we knew it was going to be a rough slide and it definitely was. On the way down I picked up a few annoying rocks in my boots, but I did not want to stop, so we kept pushing on and we made great time getting down. Once we were off of the slope, we quickly hiked back to the trail and we were both relieved to see the cars come into view. We changed our clothes and I had a snack on the drive back to the pond which made me feel much better. It started to rain and by time we made it back to the pond it was really coming down. The goats were waiting for us and after a few war stories we were off. Boundary had been a perfect choice for a Sierra Appetizer and now we were headed to Bishop and then to Lone Pine for the main course, Mount Whitney
When we made it off of the dirt road, we stopped to look back at Boundary, where a storm was now raging and we were happy to be off of the summit, but thankful we were able to grace her crest and return safely.